Dr. Konstantin Butyeko observed patients and discovered that one of the common themes among ill patients was that they were breathing quickly and with their chest. They were hyperventilating. Hyperventilating creates many problems within the body in addition to reducing the oxygenation of the body. It reduces the amount of oxygen available for every cell and organ to function properly. The body goes into self-preservation mode and suddenly, it is only utilizing the vital organs.
Chronic hyperventilation can lead to issues and health conditions that reduce our quality of life. People who are prone to seizures will trigger a seizure through hyperventilation. Breathing is mainly controlled through carbon dioxide concentrations in the arterial blood as well as the brain. Many people mistakenly believe that CO2 is poisonous. However, this “poison” controls respiration, which is fundamental for the function of our human body.
Physiological Health Benefits of Buteyko Breathing
Training your body to breathe correctly with slower, nasal and diaphragmatic breaths can have many positive effects on the body. The Buteyko Breathing Method helps to balance the gas exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) in your body.
- Improved Vasodialtion. Physiological studies had demonstrated that hypocapnia (low CO2 concentration in the arterial blood) will constrict the blood vessels and eventually leads to reduced passage of blood through all vital organs. In turn, arterial hypcapnia leads to reduced oxygen release in tissue capillaries.
- Increased cell oxygen levels. The oxygen levels of the cell are controlled by the alveolar CO2 and breathing. Hyperventilation causes alveolar hypocapnia (CO2 deficiency). This leads to cell hypoxia, or low cell oxygen concentrations.
- Improved Oxygen Transport. The transport of oxygen depends on vasoconstriction and vasodialation.
- Generation of Free Radicals. Free radical generation takes place because of the anaerobic cell respiration that is created by cell hypoxia. Therefore, antioxidant defenses of the human body are regulated by CO2 and breathing.
- Reduced Inflammation. The inflammatory response as well as chronic inflammation, are regulated through our breathing. Hypoxia leads intensifies inflammation, therefore, hyperventilation naturally will increase inflammatory health problems and CO2 is a key anti-inflammatory agent.
- Nerve Stabilization. The calmative and sedative effects of the carbon dioxide on nerve cells lead to increased stabilization of the nervous system. A lack of CO2 in the brain will lead to spontaneous and asyncrhonous firing of neurons. We can see the impact of this in people who have seizures, sleeping problems, addictions, depression and schizophrenia.
- Blood pH Regulation – CO2 regulates the blood pH and other bodily fluids.
- Muscle relaxation – The relaxation of muscle cells is normal at high CO2 levels. Hypocapnia causes muscular tension, poor posture and can trigger aggression and violence.
- Bronchodilation. The dilation of airways, including the bronchi and broncioles are dilated by CO2. The constriction of the bronchi and bronchioles occur due to hypocapnia.
- Rate and Smoothness of Breathing. The smoothness of breathing is controlled by CO2. A lack of CO2 will lead to “hypocapnic central apnea.” This is a scientific term to describe the origins of sleep apnea.
Nasal Breathing Is Key for Good Health and Stress Management
Yoga and deep breathing has long been touted as good for stress management. However, many people tell you to take a deep breath to calm yourself down. If done incorrectly, this action can have the opposite effect.
When you are feeling stressed, your breath can become faster, deepen and become noisier. Stress can trigger you to breathe through your mouth and your upper chest rather than your diaphragm. During a stressful time, it doesn’t make sense to amplify your current inefficient breathing pattern if you want to bring yourself to a state of calmness. To induce calmness, you must breathe slowly, using the diaphragm. You will want to breathe through the nose.
Nasal breathing actually directs thirty different functions in your body. Nerves in your nasal passages, which connect to the hypothalamus, sense everything about your breathing and use that information to regulate your bodily functions.
The nose releases nitric oxide during breathing. This is carried from your nose into your lungs. Nitric oxide is a gas that plays a significant role in maintaining the homeostasis, or balance within your body. Nitric oxide also sterilizes the air carried into your lungs, opens up the airways and increases the amount of oxygen taken up in your blood.
Irregular breathing through the mouth often happens due to an illness and bad habits. Mouth breathing can result in other health problems, which include asthma. Asthmatics tend to feel as though they are not getting enough air and as a result, they tend to breathe heavier. This causes a loss of carbon dioxide.
The Importance of Carbon Dioxide Homeostasis
It is vitally important to maintain a certain amount of CO2 in your lungs. In order to do that, you must maintain a normal breathing volume. When too much CO2 is lost through heavy breathing, it triggers the smooth muscles in your airways to constrict. As this occurs, there is a feeling of not getting enough air. The natural reaction is to breathe more intensely.
Unfortunately, breathing more intensely will cause an even greater loss of CO2, which will constrict your airway even more. This is how asthma symptoms feed back to the condition. To remedy the situation, you must break this negative feedback loop by breathing less and through your nose.
Many people incorrectly assume that taking bigger breaths through your mouth will allow you to take more oxygen into your body. However, the opposite actually happens. Deep, big breaths taken with your mouth tend to make you feel a bit light-headed. This is due to eliminating too much CO2 from your lungs. It causes your blood vessels to constrict. The heavier you breathe, the less oxygen is actually delivered through your body.
Breathing too much and through your mouth tend to go hand in hand with snoring and sleep apnea. These conditions destroy the quality of your sleep. This contributes to the downward spiral of health that is triggered through improper breathing.