Buteyko Breathing Theory

Buteyko Breathing works by improving carbon dioxide and oxygen levels of the blood, using breathing exercises and other supportive practices.

Main Idea

The main idea of Buteyko is that chronic diseases are caused by chronic overbreathing, and that by correcting the problem of overbreathing, chronic diseases revert and disappear. The Buteyko Breathing method can strongly improve bad breathing habits and revert over 200 chronic diseases.

Underlying Theory

The Buteyko method is founded on a number of physiological laws, explaining how the blood functions. Specifically the Bohr Law explains how carbon dioxide is an essential component of the blood, allowing the blood to distribute more oygen to cells. If the carbon-dioxide level of the blood is too low, the blood does not distribute oxygen in sufficient quantities, which causes chronic diseases to appear over time. According to Prof. Buteyko, the recommended level of carbon dioxide in the alvioli of the lungs is 6.5 percent. If CO2 drops to below 3.5%, there is a danger of immediate death due to lack of oxygen on the cellular level. If the level of carbon dioxide is between 4 to 5.5 percent, over time chronic diseases develop. Restoring the level of carbon dioxide to 6.5 percent can completely revert chronic diseases, or at least improve symptoms and lessen the amount of medication needed.

An example:

'Mike' suffers from allergies and asthma and is usually breathing about 12 liters of air per minute. Since the optimum breathing habit is 3 to 4 liters per minute, Mike is breathing for 3 or 4 people - simply way too much. Over time, this bad breathing habit affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of his blood and causes chronic diseases that he has a genetic disposition for: allergies and asthma.

Doing a Buteyko Breathing course to reverse his bad breathing habit, Mike improves his breathing first from 12 to 6 liters per minute, showing a great improvement in symptoms and allowing him to cut down on most medications. If Mike continues improving his breathing to the point where he breathes just 3 or 4 liters per minute, chronic disease symptoms will completely disappear and he will have succesfully reversed both his allergies and asthma completely.

How does overbreathing affect carbon dioxide levels?

Very simply: with every outbreath, we remove carbon dioxide from the blood and into the air around us. If we breathe out a lot, a lot of carbon dioxide will be removed, and the carbon dioxide level of the blood will lower. If we breathe out little, not much carbon dioxide will be removed, and the carbon dioxide level of the blood will increase, leading to better oxygen distribution by the blood.

An obvious paradox: Breathing more leads to worse oxygen distribution by the blood. Breathing less leads to better oxygen distribution by the blood.

According to Buteyko Breathing theory, what the blood actually does with a full load of oxygen is most essential: Does the blood distribute the oxygen to the cells, or does the oxygen just stay in the blood without being distributed to the cells very well?

Two examples of Buteyko theory in daily life:

  1. During an asthma attack, asthma patients are advised to breathe in a bag. The exhaled carbon-dioxide is then breathed in again so that the carbon-dioxide level of the blood increases and the asthma attack stops.
  2. Why is doing sports generally healthy? One important factor is that during workouts, the body generates a lot of carbon dioxide. This allows the body to become used to high levels of carbon dioxide improving fitness and strength.

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