Breath is Fuel For Your Body
Do You Breathe Too Much?
For 9 out of 10 modern humans, the answer will likely be “yes”. Hyperventilation is a natural response to stress. The prefix “hyper-” means “too much” and the word “ventilation” refers to breathing. When the shoulders are rising, chest is heaving and the breath is noisy, we can clearly see and hear that acute hyperventilation is occurring.
Over time, in a world of continued daily stresses, your breathing can adjust to a pattern of chronic hyperventilation which may be just a little bit faster or involve frequent yawning or sighing. We may try to take in more air as if there is a need to ramp up and flee from a tiger on our tail, yet it’s just another news headline or text message that has grabbed our attention and lengthened our To-Do list.
Chronic hyperventilation involves prolonged over-breathing in excess of metabolic requirements which leads to symptomatic loss of carbon dioxide and activates the body’s defense mechanisms.
Symptoms can include:
irritability, lack of concentration, frequent sighing or yawning, poor sleep, anxiety, panic attacks, breathlessness, indigestion, muscle aches, hands and feet that are either too cold or too hot, mouth breathing, excessive mucous production, repeated throat clearing, and many others too numerous to list.
To find out if you are breathing too much, test yourself:
- sit comfortably upright and relax
- take notice of how you breath in and out
- breath out as usual and pinch your nose shut to hold your breath (mouth is closed)
- count how many seconds you can hold your breath until the first strong desire to breathe in
The test is done correctly if you can take the next breath in as a normal breath, i.e. through the nose with lips closed, without gasping audibly. The time you obtained is called the Control Pause or “CP” and should normally be at least 60 seconds (!); if it is less – you hyperventilate, according to Dr. K. P. Buteyko. Most so-called healthy people will be between 20 and 40 seconds; asthmatics will be anywhere from 0 to 20 seconds. Practicing the Buteyko Breathing Method will increase the CP, and symptoms disappear when the daily CP can be sustained at 60 seconds.
What is the Buteyko Breathing Method?
Named after Dr. Konstantin Buteyko (1923-2003), a physician trained in Moscow, the Buteyko Breathing Method consists of a series of breathing exercises and guidelines specifically designed to reduce chronic hyperventilation.
Breathing too much alters the natural levels of gases in the blood, reduces oxygen delivery to tissues and organs, and causes constriction of the smooth muscles surrounding blood vessels and airways. This can lead to numerous health problems.
Training to reduce breath volume and make the switch from mouth to nose breathing even during exertion and sleep helps to alleviate such health problems. Key to successful breath retraining is to focus on maintaining relaxation to ensure the effectiveness of this method for improving health and resilience.
Breathe and relax. Isn’t that what we’re told to do to solve all our problems?
Since the 1950s, Dr. K. P. Buteyko’s work has been difficult for some to accept as it offers a way to successfully address common diseases of modern man without the use of drugs or surgery. Yet, reduced breathing through the nose for treating asthma and other ailments has many advocates around the world who have used these techniques successfully, and studies have been promising.
Read more about peer-reviewed research on the Buteyko method, including “A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Buteyko Technique as an Adjunct to Conventional Management of Asthma” which found at six months follow-up, the Buteyko group had:
- Improved asthma control from 40% to 75%
- 39% of patients decreased inhaled corticosteroids
- 21% eliminated inhaled corticosteroids
Both Ancient & Modern
Increasingly, modern medicine and scientific research are lining up with the intentional breathing techniques that practitioners of Yoga and Ayurveda have offered up for 1,000s of years to alleviate suffering. Yoga offers the breathing techniques of pranayama which translates as “vitality via breath control” while science tells us that reduced nasal breathing optimizes our blood chemistry.
In order to feel better, there’s no need for a magic bullet when you have a free tool at your command — your breath.
Breathe Better and Smile Bigger!
Schedule a FREE consult with Sarah to learn how to optimize your health through functional breathing.