Assess your breathing fitness!
Download The Self-Evaluation of Breathing Questionnaire and Key.
Review 25 symptoms and behaviors associated with problematic breathing.

Breathing Retraining For Allergies

March 30, 2016

Up until a few years ago, lifelong allergies kept me from hanging out at the homes of friends with pets. I missed scores of parties, and I envied people who could couch-surf or stay in someone's spare bedroom on trips, while I had to stay at hotels whenever I traveled to feel comfortable.

Have you ever experienced a feeling of separation from others -- wishing you could join the fun activities everyone else seems to be doing -- because of health symptoms? If so, read on.

My Story

It started early for me. As an only child, I would have loved a pet or just to play with other people's animals, but I couldn't go anywhere near them. As an adult, allergies continued to influence many choices.

When I stumbled onto The Buteyko Breathing Technique in my mid 40s, I was delighted that my asthma symptoms improved almost immediately as I practiced the breathing activities. But for several years afterward, my nose still got stuffed and my eyes would water when I pet a dog or cat, and my face often puffed up from an allergic reaction when I went hiking.

I kept at it, and gradually, most of that stopped. The transformation was subtle. Over time, I noticed I was able to nuzzle the stray cat I had taken in, with my full face in her fur, without thinking about it. Originally, I had showered and put on a fresh set of clothes practically every time I touched her. Then last December, my family adopted two rescue dogs!

When I talk to breathing-retraining clients I don't mention much about overcoming allergies because I was taught that it takes years to become non-reactive for these particular symptoms, and most people don't have the patience for that. But I am so satisfied now with the changes in my life that I'm coming out and want to encourage others who are interested to just start and not be discouraged because it takes time.

Also, I've noticed many people sniffling at dog parks, my new hangout. It turns out a lot of people with allergies get pets anyway, often for the sake of their kids or a partner, and just suffer through it! This information needs to get more exposure!

How Poor Breathing Habits Contribute To Allergies

An allergy is generally defined as an adverse reaction of the immune system to a substance most people would find harmless, whether it's pollen, animal dander or food.

The late Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, who synthesized the breathing-normalization regimen known as The Buteyko Breathing Technique, attributed the abnormal immune reaction to a rogue release of histamine that can occur when someone is hyperventilating. Histamine is a chemical neurotransmitter released to protect the body against a foreign invader.

The release of histamine can be caused by almost any allergen. Examples include inhalant allergens (ragweed pollen, dust mites, cat dander), drugs (penicillin, sulfa, aspirin), stinging insect venom, and foods (egg, wheat, milk, fish, etc.)

Allergens stimulate antibodies as a preventive force, causing one or more of the following symptoms while increasing inflammation that helps deliver white blood cells to the site and stimulating fluid secretion to wash the invader out:

  • Eyes itch, burn, or become watery 
  • Nose itches, sneezes, and produces more mucus 
  • Skin itches, develops rashes or hives 
  • Sinuses become congested and cause headaches 
  • Lungs wheeze or have spasms 
  • Stomach experiences cramps and diarrhea 

Dr. Buteyko attributed the release of histamine to hyperventilation interfering with normal metabolism.

Hyperventilation, which can also be called over-breathing, often occurs when someone is habitually mouth-breathing. Our nostrils are small, but they are the perfect size to inhale just the amount of air we need to function well. The problem with habitual over-breathing is not that too much Oxygen is inhaled, but that excessive Carbon-Dioxide produced in the body is exhaled and lost in the large out-breaths. Over-breathing sets up an adverse health situation as clear as over-eating.

Because Dr. Buteyko considered the cause of allergies to be over-breathing and the subsequent Oxygen-Carbon Dioxide imbalance, he advised patients to stop paying so much attention to avoiding triggers and concentrate on normalizing their breathing pattern instead.

To recap, according to Buteyko, allergies occur when:

  1. You are breathing too much, particularly exhaling too much Carbon Dioxide, leading to low CO2 levels in the blood.
  2. Your body produces too much histamine as a reaction to the low CO2 levels.
  3. Over-breathing also leads to erratic activity of enzymes, causing less effective breakdown of histamine and histamine-promoting substances in foods or pollen. 
  4. Higher overall histamine levels and less effective breakdown of histamine leads to occasional excessive histamine levels and allergic reactions. 

Buteyko started his research in the 1950s, right before many of the health impacts of industrial globalization were known. Add the internet that emerged in the '80s, and it's clear that human lifestyle has radically shifted in a very short period of time. Allergies and asthma have skyrocketed worldwide. I've heard Dr. Rosalba Courtney, a breathing specialist in Australia, say that all the new cases cannot be attributed simply to poor breathing alone, and she mentioned a plethora of additional potential modern causes, including possibly genetically-modified food, pollution and current child-rearing practices.

Despite that, it's clear that however someone's allergies start, congestion more often than not initiates mouth-breathing and a cycle of over-breathing that can lead to a whole host of related symptoms that breathing retraining can help.

The Way Out: Healthy Breathing Habits Reduce Symptoms

Over-breathers are advised to go on an air diet, just like over-eaters start food diets.

The medical community has estimated the healthy breathing norm at approximately 5 liters of air per minute. Research has shown that people with chronic respiratory symptoms can be breathing two to three times that amount.

The fastest way to reduce breathing is to use the nose rather than the mouth for all activities, even and especially during exercise, and practice breathing slightly less for 10 minutes here and there during the day.

The idea behind breathing retraining is that since breathing is an autonomic activity -- done 20,000-30,000 times a day whether you're thinking about it or not -- if you introduce a change consciously you will eventually start breathing that way on autopilot.

Like many activities, the instructions are simple but doing it regularly is not easy. It's best to join with a partner or a coach who can observe you breathing and offer suggestions for correction. Check our website for information on classes and private coaching.

How Long Does It Take?

Breathing educators acknowledge the process of normalizing the breathing pattern seems to have a slower effect on relieving allergies than reducing asthma symptoms or anxiousness.

Breathing has biochemical, biomechanical and psychophysiological dimensions. The untimely release of histamine associated with allergy symptoms is surely biochemical -- and may requires a consistent, longer-term shift in behavior.

In addition to bringing in Oxygen, another function of breathing is to help maintain the correct pH levels in the body, for optimal acid/alkaline balance. A number of the chemical reactions that sustain the processes of life are dependent on there being adequate levels of C02. If an imbalance occurs between the levels of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide, much becomes disturbed.

While changing posture or emotional response can noticeably affect breathing pattern very fast, biochemical change requires systematic, day-by-day effort to re-pattern the metabolic set point in the respiratory center at the brain stem to increase CO2 tolerance.

When I took my breathing-educator training, I was told I might notice a gradual reduction of allergies over years. What happens is that as we build more resilience, relaxation and correct breathing habits, it takes more and more of a trigger to set off an allergic response.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique builds respiratory strength over days and weeks of progressively breathing more and more correctly. Resetting the respiratory set point doesn't happen overnight.


How to breathe when you're not sick, but you're not healthy either

February 25, 2016


It’s not uncommon for those of us with chronic respiratory, sleep or nervous conditions to have a hard time getting over a cold or flu.

When we first get it, we accept feeling miserable. Then, as the acute symptoms start to lift, we feel like ourselves again. Yay! But often, that exuberant feeling is only temporary as fatigue, a half-stuffy nose and a general sense of malaise become the new norm for a month or longer.

We’re more or less OK, but…


It can take weeks or months to get back ...

Continue reading...

World Breathing Day is today!

February 3, 2016
World Breathing Day – highlighting the importance of breathing well – is today, February 3rd. It joins International Breathe Through Your Nose Week in late September to make up the two "holidays" we commemorate over the year.
In the U.S., according to conservative statistics, more than 70 percent of us are struggling with conditions exacerbated by poor breathing habits -- including asthma, allergies, snoring, sleep apnea, migraines and anxiousness.
Unfortunately, most people haven't been ...

Continue reading...

Bodywork-Centered Breathing Coaching

October 8, 2015

We're offering a new way to learn healthy breathing habits for people who are close enough to visit our office.

If you have a hard time relaxing, settling down to do breathing exercises can be hard -- more of a "should" than a "want to". If this is true for you, this option is infused with an opportunity to exercise self-care and self-love.

Bodywork-centered breathing coaching is a great way to slide into a marvelous experience! Breathing educator Lisa Bowen is a California certified massage pr...

Continue reading...

Why things sometimes get worse before they get better: Cleansing Reactions

October 2, 2015

Sometimes just as you're making headway -- breathing better and feeling fewer health symptoms -- something suddenly happens that makes you question whether you're on the right path.

Here is a great explanation about what's going on, that I just came across reading a book called Movements That Heal by Dr. Harald Blomberg of Sweden. This is not a book about breathing, but it offers one of the best explanations of clearing reactions I've seen.

Here's what Dr. Blomberg says about reactions to the ...
Continue reading...

Just released! "Signs and Symptoms of Poor Breathing Habits -- a resource guide"

June 23, 2015

"Signs and Symptoms of Poor Breathing Habits" is a short but definitive resource guide designed to help you determine whether poor breathing habits may be contributing to your health problems and sapping your energy.

See what questions leading breathing experts would ask you. 
Review lists of breathing-related health symptoms and diseases that can be exacerbated by inefficient breathing. Discover the relationship between stress and poor breathing, and what you can do to maintain healthy breathi...

Continue reading...

How can you tell if you have dysfunctional breathing?

January 31, 2015

If you want to explore how you can improve your breathing pattern -- for wellness, sports performance, music or other reasons -- the first step is to figure out what you're doing poorly. That's not so easy without help since most of our breaths are taken without our conscious attention. 

When you visit a doctor, you will most likely be given one of the following questionnaires, and receive a manual exam.

Here is one of my favorite breathing self-tests, aptly named the Self-Evaluation of Br...

Continue reading...

How To Work With Snoring As A Breathing Issue

September 29, 2014
Snoring is a huge issue affecting many people.  

Despite the fact that snoring affects 30% of adults overall and 50% of people over 60, I've found that most people are completely unaware that snoring is a common outcome of dysfunctional breathing, which can be improved or reversed with breathing retraining.

It's true that many people who snore have complicated structural issues in their nose or throat that require medical treatment.  But just like you can't lose eating fresh fruit and vegetable...

Continue reading...

Healthy Breathing Habits For Children

June 7, 2014
Although breathing is one of the four pillars of health -- along with eating and drinking, exercise and sleep -- up to now our culture has not tended to pass down much  "common knowledge" about how to breathe well.
Nevertheless whether it happens consciously or not, kids develop a foundational breathing pattern that will become their baseline as they grow up.
Here are some ideas about healthy breathing habits to share with them.  And of course, as parents, teachers and mentors,  the most impo...

Continue reading...

Public Figures and Their Breathing:Would you rather breathe like Barak Obama or Joan Rivers?

April 13, 2014

Once you learn the principles of healthy breathing, there's no going back.

I know I'm steeped in this stuff, but I find I'm not looking at women's style and wardrobe, and checking out handsome guys, when I'm people-watching anymore.  I'm looking straight at their noses and mouths!

Come join my world. Watch these videos of famous nose- and mouth-breathers.  What do you think looks better?  Who do you think looks comfortable?  Uncomfortable?  Whom would you rather speak like?

Nose Breathers...

Continue reading...


 Discover whether you or a loved one have poor breathing habits.


About Me

Lisa Bowen I'm a breathing educator and I'm honored to help you breathe easier. Please send in your questions if you have any!


See more pages about breathing and...



I love it! I'd be honored to see your comments on my posts, and send any questions you have.




Lisa Bowen is not licensed as a healing-arts practitioner by the state of California.

Opinions, including blog posts, web content, breathing classes, coaching and other services from Breathing Retraining Center LLC are offered by teachers who are not licensed by the State of California as physicians or other healing arts practitioners, unless otherwise noted.  

We offer alternative, non-medical/non-psychological techniques, and our services are considered to be alternative or complementary to the healing arts that are licensed by the State of California.

For more information, see our disclaimer on this site.

Assess your breathing fitness!
Download The Self-Evaluation of Breathing Questionnaire and Key.
Review 25 symptoms and behaviors associated with problematic breathing.

(c) Breathing Retraining Center LLC 2011-2019

12 Mitchell Blvd., San Rafael, CA 94903

Breathing Retraining Center LLC’s educational products, courses and coaching are designed to improve breathing skills for people whose issues may be related to habits that have the potential to be improved, as a self-care/wellness activity. Breathing difficulty may be a warning sign of a life-threatening heart or lung condition, infection or other illness. Always check with your doctor about your own situation.

The Buteyko Breathing Technique and other breathing-retraining strategies we teach are an alternative approach and are not the practice of medicine, psychology or a form of psychotherapy, nor are they a substitute for seeking medical or psychological advice from an appropriate professional health-care provider. We want to make the important distinction between using the Buteyko Breathing Technique and other breathing-retraining strategies for health and well-being and the practice of medicine, psychology or any other licensed health-care profession.

Breathing classes, coaching and other services from Breathing Retraining Center LLC are offered by teachers who are not licensed by the State of California as physicians or other healing-arts practitioners unless so noted. We offer alternative non-medical/non-psychological techniques and our services are considered to be alternative or complementary to the healing arts that are licensed by the State of California.