How Breathing Retraining Can Reduce Symptoms of Asthma and Allergies

Breathing retraining, and particularly the Buteyko Breathing Technique, are popular for working with asthma in Russia, Australia and the United Kingdom.  Six clinical trials around the world have shown it's not guaranteed but it's possible to achieve a 90% reduction of reliever use and a 50% reduction in steroid use following Buteyko Breathing education. 

The United States is catching up.  In 2012, a US Government agency endorsed Buteyko Breathing as achieving “medium to large improvements in asthma symptoms and reductions in reliever medications” Read the details from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


What's the Problem?

Many people with respiratory conditions have been shown to be breathing more air than their body needs to function well.  In fact, many are over-breathing, research shows.

Many of us learned in school that we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.  What we didn't learn is that carbon dioxide, which is produced by the body, is extremely important as a regulator of many systems and if we exhale too much we're in trouble. 

For the respiratory system, carbon dioxide is a bronchodilator (it expands the size of the bronchial airways, making it easier to breathe) and also is a factor in maintaining low levels of histamine, which causes allergic reactions.

Scientists have found that when carbon dioxide drops, inflammation in the airway increases.

Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, a Ukrainian doctor and physiologist who led a breathing research lab from the 1950s to the 1990s and died in 2003, claimed the symptoms of asthma and allergies were actually the body's defense mechanism -- narrowing the airways to signal breathing was too heavy. 


What's Your Program?

We teach students to identify signs of poor breathing habits and healthy breathing habits, and how to start breathing more efficiently. 


How To Address Chronic Over-Breathing

At Breathing Retraining Center we advise the following strategy:

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.


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 Published Scientific Studies

Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a controlled trial. Bowler SD, Green A, Mitchell CA. MJA.1988; 169: 575–578.

Buteyko breathing technique reduces hyperventilation-induced hypocapnia and dyspnoea. Austinet al. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2009; 179: A3409

The Buteyko method increases end-tidal CO2 and decreases ventilatory responsiveness in asthma. Borg B, Doran C, Giorlando F, Hartley MF, Jack S, Johns DP, Wolfe R, Cohen M, Abramson MJ. The Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science Inc. Annual Scientific Meeting. 2004, 

A controlled study of a breathing therapy for treatment of hyperventilation syndrome. Grossman P, De Swart JC and Defares PB. J Psychosom Res. 1985; 29: 49–58.

Buteyko breathing technique for asthma: an effective intervention. McHugh P, Aitcheson F, Duncan B, Houghton F. NZ Med J. 2003, 116: (1187). 

The effect of physiotherapy-based breathing retraining on asthma control. Grammatopoulou EP, Skordilis EK, Stavoli N, Myriantheps P, Karteroliotis K, Baltopoulos G and Koutsouki D. Journal of Asthma 2011; 48: 593–601.

Role of Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthmatics with nasal symptoms.   Adelola O.A., Oosthuiven J.C., Fenton J.E. Clinical Otolaryngology.2013, April;38(2):190-191.

Breathing Exercises and/or Retraining Techniques in the Treatment of Asthma: Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 71 Investigators: Elizabeth O’Connor, PhD, Carrie D Patnode, PhD, MPH, Brittany U Burda, MPH, David I Buckley, MD, MPH, and Evelyn P Whitlock, MD, MPH. Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US): September 2012  Report No.: 12-EHC092-EF

plus more on the References page