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One of the things that has been most beneficial in improving my health has been the Buteyko breathing method. I was seriously excited about this method and even wrote a book about how I addressed the causes of seizures naturally.

There are studies on a variety of medical conditions that demonstrate that poor health is correlated to a reduced parasympathetic tone. People who have epilepsy appear to have lower parasympathetic tone, with a larger decrease in those who have intractable seizures rather than well-controlled epilepsy. A slower, proper breathing technique has been shown to increase parasympathetic tone in healthy individuals. Proper breathing exercises have been shown to improve many areas of health including asthma, hypertension, anxiety, and even posttraumatic stress disorder. It can be a logical assumption then that slow breathing exercises in people with epilepsy lead to an increase in parasympathetic tone and therefore a reduction in seizure intensity and frequency.

One of the reasons that a slower breathing technique is effective at addressing the causes of seizures naturally is that the technique affects cortical activity and hence seizure threshold. Additionally, slow breathing exercises reduce anxiety, which often creates hyperventilation, a factor that is known to lower seizure threshold.  

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When I learned the Buteyko breathing technique, I discovered a way to measure my progress and determine if I was achieving optimal health that would enable me to eliminate my epilepsy. It wasn’t just a matter of mindfully breathe slower and through my nose. I could hold my breath and determine approximately how much oxygenation my body had. That correlated to how likely I would have a seizure. I could work towards having a larger control pause and therefore, better seizure control. Instead of feeling like epilepsy was controlling me, I was controlling epilepsy. It was amazing.

I will warn you though, proper breathing technique exercises can get really boring and you need to be consistent with them to make progress. It is just like working out. They will start out as challenging, get easier, get boring. If you are anything like me, you will make some progress and then get bored with it and focus on something else. The good news is that they are simple enough that you can do them while you watch television or take a walk.

First and foremost, start being mindful of how you are breathing. Shut your mouth when you aren’t talking or eating. Imagine your jaw being glued together. It is that important to breath through your nose. This will naturally eliminate congestion. It will not build up while there is constant air flow through the nasal passages. Additionally, your nasal passages will be generating nitric oxide while you are using your nose which gives you the benefit of killing off harmful bacteria.

Second step is to slow down your breathing. The proper breathing technique is a slow, diaphragmatic breath. You can easily accomplish this with a breathing device. There are a few of them on the market. I started using the BreathSlim device to lengthen my breaths and extract as much oxygen from my breath. The BreathSlim device does require that you use your mouth, but it is not to be used for the whole day. In fact, fifteen minute sessions multiple times per day will get you in the habit of breathing slower.  

The third step was the most difficult for me. It was to exercise with nasal breathing. I would start to run and get out of breath quickly. Then I would feel panic because my nasal cavity didn’t take in as much air as my mouth and I would think that I needed to open my mouth. Focus on keeping that mouth shut. Slow down the exercise to start. Take frequent breaks if you need to catch your breath while you exercise. Once you have mastered exercising and breathing through the nose, you will discover that you are sleeping better and not getting nearly as many colds as you used to get.

There are a plethora of different exercises that Buteyko teaches. These are the easiest ones to start with. As you get more accustomed to breathing through your nose, you can move on to the more advanced exercises. There are coaches that you can hire if you have a particular disease that you want help addressing.

 

 


Epilepsy Behav. 2010 Aug;18(4):331-4. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2010.05.019. Epub 2010 Jul 13.

Can slow breathing exercises improve seizure control in people with refractory epilepsy? A hypothesis.