Yes, there is almost an epidemic problem affecting up to 90% of the population in the modern western world that is silently damaging the health of millions. It has been called”chronic hidden hyperventilation” and the chances are that you are one of the innocent sufferers.
Why chronic hidden hyperventilation? First and foremost the condition is hidden, in so far as it is not easily observed by others, not even by doctors who routinely fail to diagnose this problem. Secondly it describes chronic habitual over-breathing, not the acute frightening hyperventilation seen in people having panic attacks. Thirdly, “epidemic” because today less than 10% of the population in the west breathe normally.
Normal breathing when at rest., according to medical literature, is breathing through the nose, about 5-6 litres of air per minute with 8 to 12 breaths per minute mainly using the diaphragm.
Dysfunctional breathing can include any or all of the following: mouth breathing, breathing over 12 breaths per minute, breathing more than 6 litres of air per minute, upper chest breathing at rest, irregular breathing rhythm, excessive coughing, sighing, sneezing or wheezing, snoring, sleep apnoea etc.
Does it really matter how we breathe so long as we do?
Hyperventilation is a component of most diseases, it may be the major cause of asthma in those genetically predisposed, it may be a major factor underlying hypertension, it is certainly invariably associated with sleep apnoea, and a sound scientific case can be made for hyperventilation being a significant aggravating or causative factor in over one hundred diseases.
The failure to diagnose this problem is a serious omission in modern medicine but even worse is that often when diagnosed little help is offered patients to correct the problem. All this has been known since Dr Claud Lum, a respiratory specialist at Papworth Hospital wrote his findings in the to the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1975 HERE
The unfortunate outcome of this serious omission is that people are being given drugs to ameliorate or suppress symptoms that are largely due to their dysfunctional breathing, this is the first and often only treatment option offered to us by most doctors. It may well be the case that drug therapy is essential in some people and that improvements to their breathing might only have a limited effect on their condition but it would seen reasonable to first screen patients for hyperventilation and then offer those needing help some form of advice or breath training to reduce the need for medication.
Many asthma trials have shown reliever medication is reduced by up to 90% and preventer medication by up to 50% when patients have been taught the Buteyko Method of breath retraining. Besides reducing the risk of adverse side effects and improving asthma management this could save billions of pounds on drugs and medical interventions at doctors surgeries or hospitals.
A free app has been launched that will help anyone with an iPhone, Android or PC to start to train themselves in the Buteyko Method. This app also gives contact details of every Buteyko Educator throughout the world. Visit HERE to keep informed about this important launch and how you can get professional training over Skype using this app. Visit HERE to start improving your health with MyButeyko Breath Training with Skype for only £75 to get started.
Michael Lingard BSc DO BBEC