Function Of Breathing
The function of breathing is to:
1. Provide oxygen for the production of energy.
2. To maintain balanced Ph levels.
3. To maintain balanced CO2 / O2 for normal body functioning.
4. Good breathing according to the standards of medical texts is about 4 to 6 litres of air per minute.
Healthy breathing is breathing that meets the body's needs and provides optimal conditions for good health. We know that one of the best ways for good health is by fasting or restricting diet. Our family dogs and cats go off their food when feeling unwell. Clinical observations by Professor Buteyko showed that by reducing breathing it allowed the body to return to good health.
The common thought is that the more we breathe the healthier we will be. But Professor Buteyko, over many years of research, showed that the sicker we became the larger the volume of air we needed. Physiological norms apply to pulse, blood pressure, sugar levels, temperature and to breathing.
The function of breathing is to maintain a very specific ratio of O2 to CO2. Ideally, at rest, an adult should breathe lightly and only through the nose. A healthy person can perform exercise and continue to breathe through the nose, whilst a sick person requires larger breaths almost all of the time. Therefore healthy breathing is;
The ability to breathe comfortably
The body feels invigorated
The body and mind are calm
The body is able to adapt the breathing to accommodate the various degrees of physical activity and stress with ease
The ability to nose breathe most of the time
Good use of the diaphragm allowing slower, more satisfying breaths
Restful, satisfying sleep
Breathing can be disturbed by stress, exercise, poor posture, infection, some medications, diet, poor instruction, weather and chemicals. This is noticeable when a person is not able to breathe comfortably through their nose and needs to breathe through their mouth.
Mouth breathing leads to hyperventilation. The body's response to this is to restrict breathing even more by making more mucus, creating swelling in the nasal passages and spasm of the smooth muscle rings of the bronchi. Professor Buteyko lists sinusitis, rhinitis, nasal polyps, asthma and chronic bronchitis as a result.
People who hyperventilate are very quick to respond to any decrease in levels of CO2 with increased respiration thereby overbreathing and further depleting their levels of CO2.
Disturbed breathing is often in the upper chest only using the secondary muscles of respiration. Rapid upper chest breathing is the classic sign of hyperventilation. People who regularly suffer with asthma breathe approximately 15 times per minute and during the attacks can increase this to over 20 breaths per minute.
Exertion of exercise in people who overbreathe can lead to palpitations, tightness of the chest and many other symptoms. There is excess production of lactic acid and their fitness level, for they too will hyperventilate. Low levels of CO2 makes our nervous system more excitable. Brain wave patterns change reflecting low uptake of O2 as a result of the low CO2 levels.
What is Professor Buteyko's Breathing Method?
This method corrects the surprisingly common condition of hyperventilation / overbreathing which is not always obvious. Professor Buteyko developed the concept: the more you breathe the more disease the body will have, the less you breathe the healthier the body.
The Buteyko Method teaches a series of breathing exercises which allows us to breathe comfortably through the nose, giving us symptomatic relief of our symptoms through an increase in carbon dioxide. The degree to which improvement occurs depends on motivation and diligence. The Buteyko Method can easily be incorporated into the daily activities of our lives.
Healthy Breathing work develops awareness and understanding of your own breathing. The breathing exercises we have developed help to relax and co-ordinate the diaphragm with the upper chest, upper back, neck and core muscles into normal movements. The exercises work by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system so the heart rate and your breathing slow down, enabling carbon dioxide levels to increase.
How does the Buteyko Method work?
Hyperventilation is an increase in the amount of air we breathe above the normal volume we require. The normal volume of air required per minute at rest is 4 to 5 litres, approximately 8 to 12 breaths per minute.
Breathing is through the nose, the diaphragm performing 80% of the work of breathing. An "in" breath is 2-3 seconds and an "out" breath is 3-4 seconds with a natural pause after each "out" breath.
When we overbreathe / hyperventilate the major systems of the body including the respiratory, circulatory, nervous and energy systems are effected. Our programme teaches "normal" breathing through a range of exercises designed to reduce the volume of air breathed per minute through the nose with correct use of the diaphragm. The breathing centre and the nervous system are trained to accept more normal levels of CO2. Teaching how the diaphragm works and its relationship to the working of the heart and lungs.
By learning to improve lip tone - poor lip tone is associated with poor posture which in turn may lead to poor breathing habits. How to clear the nose and breathe through the nose comfortably with the mouth closed.
Learning awareness of how posture in whatever activity effects our ability to breathe comfortably. Efficient posture allows ease of movement which in turn allows comfortable breathing.
Different types of physical exercise can be used to retrain the body's response to increased CO2 as long as breathing continues through the nose. The level of exertion is built up in relation to the ease of nose breathing to prevent hyperventilation. Excessive exercise is a major cause of hyperventilation. Motivation and compliance is important in achieving healthy breathing.
The Healthy Breathing work has been developed over the last 10 years after many hours of research and practice into how muscles co-ordinate and interact when breathing.
The Healthy Breathing work develops awareness and understanding of your own breathing. The Healthy Breathing exercises help to relax and co-ordinate the diaphragm, upper chest and back muscles, the neck and core muscles into normal movement by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing reduces and softens, carbon dioxide levels increase and symptoms are relieved.
A Short History of Buteyko (1923 - 2003)
Professor Konstantine Buteyko was born in 1923 near Kiev, Ukraine. After World War 2 he began his medical studies.
During his 3rd year of medicine Buteyko was given a practical assignment which involved monitoring dying patients. He noticed that the closer to death they came the deeper and heavier the breathing.
After graduating with honours Buteyko continued his studies with breathing. Healthy subjects were asked to deep breathe for a period of time - as they did so they became dizzy and nauseated, continuing to deep breathe wheezing and coughing developed and eventually they fainted. The medical interpretation was because the brain was saturated with O2.
This made Buteyko ponder upon the relationship of disease and deep breathing. He looked at CO2 as well as O2. Buteyko suffered with hypertension - high blood pressure - and when he measured his own CO2 level he discovered that it was below the recommended norm. It was known that overbreathing lowered CO2. Buteyko began to experiment on himself by reducing the size of each breath. By doing this his constant headache and rapid heart rate began to reduce. When he increased the size of his breath the symptoms returned. From this he set out to devise a programme to measure a persons breathing and if needed, be retrained in healthy breathing.
Buteyko studied the breathing patterns of people with asthma, angina and other diseases and discovered that many were hyperventilating and by retraining their breathing their health began to improve.
His hypothesis was that hyperventilation caused a lowering of CO2 and that low levels of CO2 caused blood vessels to spasm and O2 starvation of tissues. Thoughout the West most people are taught deep breathing exercises which encourages overbreathing during exertion. It seemed that no one had thought to reduce the size of breathing.
Some research had been carried out - Vertigo, Bohr, Priestly, Henderson and De Kosta - which supported his theory.
In 1871 the Dutch doctor De Kosta discovered the "Hyperventilation Syndrome" where deep breathing in a relaxed state causes dizziness and if continued, fainting. At the end of the 1800's Russian physiologist Vertigo and Dutch Scientist Bohr independently discovered that it is the ratio of CO2 to O2 which permits the release or retention of O2 from the blood. Low CO2 leads to O2 deficiency in the tissues of the body and a raising of blood pressure, called the Bohr effect.
Buteyko shared his ideas with his medical teachers but did not have their support. Buteyko remembered the work of Zemelweisse in 1846 and Lister in 1856 who both disinfected their hands with chloride of lime solution before operating and the number of deaths fell dramatically. Other doctors did not follow until forced to wash their hands by the general public.
In 1958/59 Buteyko conducted clinical trials on nearly 200 people, both healthy and sick, and his original hypothesis of the relationship between low CO2 and sickness was confirmed. In 1960 he presented his work to the Scientific Forum - doctors thought they were being made to look foolish.
At the Institute of Experimental Biology and Medicine in Siberia, Buteyko continued for another 10 years obtaining extensive information about the human being in relation to breathing - healthy and diseased. Many of the researchers who worked with Buteyko had become healthy by following his regime of reduced breathing.
In 1968 a trial was carried out in Leningrad using people with serious illnesses not treatable by conventional methods of medicine. Of the 46 patients, 44 were cured and the other 2 partially relieved. The results of the trial were sent to the Ministry of Health but the results were falsified and Buteyko's laboratory was closed. The originally trained team of medical practitioners continued to treat patients using the method. Although not any official medical establishment was using the Method, many places in the USSR were.
With a high success rate, in 1980 another trial was carried out by the First Moscow Institute of Paediatric Diseases by the direction of the Ministry of Science. The results were the same as those of Leningrad. This time they were officially recognised. While the trials focused on asthma Buteyko's method worked well with other forms of breathing problems such as emphysema, rhinitis, bronchitis, snoring and chronic anxiety etc.
Buteyko's extensive studies and the research undertaken by the Queensland Asthma Foundation in 1994, in Brisbane, Australia, showed that, regardless of the type of asthma or the severity, all asthmatics had one thing in common - a dysfunctional breathing pattern. At the time of publishing the study in the Australian Medical Journal in December 1999, it was found that the participants use of bronchodilators was consistently down by 96% and the use of preventative medication had fallen by 45%.
Questionnaire - How Do I Breathe?
Many people think that they breathe in a shallow manner but in fact they are overbreathing. Many people suffer with asthma, allergies, bronchitis, emphysema and breathlessness say they cannot get enough air, when in fact they are breathing 3 or more times the normal volume of air.
When we overbreathe or hyperventilate we are losing valuable CO2. According to Professor Buteyko "hidden hyperventilation" often goes undiagnosed.
Ask yourself the following questions;
Can you hear yourself breathe ?
Do you breathe through your mouth ?
Is your nose continually blocking ?
Do you often sigh ?
Do you yawn excessively ?
Do you wheeze ?
Do you pant ?
Do you snore ?
Do you wake in the morning still feeling tired even though you have slept through the night ?
Do you have difficulty sleeping ?
Do you have an irritable cough ?
Do you blow your nose excessively ?
Do you clear your throat often ?
Do you get short of breath ?
Can you feel the upper chest move when you breathe ?
Do you get headaches or dizziness ?
Do you require medication to assist you to breathe comfortably ?
Are you anxious for no apparent reason ?
Do you have anxiety attacks ?
Do you breathe more than 14 times per minute when sitting quietly ?
Do you get asthma when sleeping ?
Do you get asthma when exercising ?
Do you get asthma following a chest infection ?
If you answer yes to 2 or more, you may be hyperventilating.
What are the Symptoms of Dysfunctional Breathing / Hyperventilation?
A drying out and irritation of the airways because of the increased volume of air breathed 'in'
Increased mucus production as a result of increased allergies and irritants and blocked nose due to venous congestion, inflammation and swelling
Chronic throat tickle
Tightness in the upper chest
Excessive yawning / sneezing
Excess loss of CO2 which effects the body's ability to use O2 - Bohr Effect
CO2 through its conversion to bicarbonates is the most important regulator of our acid / alkali balance
A lowering of CO2 results in a shift of the body's Ph towards alkaline and an alkaline system is more susceptible to viruses and allergies as it compromises the immune system, disturbs metabolism and energy production
Smooth muscle spasm due to the loss of the body's own smooth muscle dilator. Smooth muscle is found in the Respiratory System, Cardio-vascular System. Gastro-intestinal Tract - can lead to poor digestion and Urinary Tract
Increased excitability of the nervous system, making it extremely sensitive to outside stimuli. This leads to irritability, sleep disturbances, stress problems, unfounded anxiety and to being easily fatigued.
Poor circulation, dizziness, unsteadiness, headaches and palpitations
Tingling and coldness of fingers, face and feet
Impairment of concentration and memory
Diffuse or localised myalgia (muscle pain)
Oral dryness, belching, bloating, flatulence
Variable anxiety, tension and apprehension
Effects of Chronic Mouth Breathing on Oral Health
Mouth breathing may contribute to:
Forward head posture which can lead to neck muscle pain, stiffness and fatigue
V-shaped upper jaw and high palate
Malocclusion - anterior bite
TMJ dysfunction - complain of pain where the lower jaw hinges to the skull, may have trouble chewing, may have earache
Under developed nasal passages and / or underdeveloped jaw and cheekbones
Deviated nasal septum
Dry mouth and throat
Increased allergen / airborne infection entry to lungs
Chronic swelling of the tonsils
Enlarged adenoids, polyps
Noisy breathing / noisy eating
Excessive snoring at night
Greater potential for relapse of orthodontic correction
Increased mucus production
Hypocapnia - a low level of CO2
Reduced lip tone
Reduced tongue tone
Shallow upper chest breathing
Reduced strength in core muscles
More questions? Go the FAQ