During 6 randomised controlled trials of the Buteyko method, in average, in 3-6 months, those asthmatics practicing the Buteyko method reduced their use of beta 2-agonists (relievers or bronchodilators) by 70-90% and steroid use by about 50% . Their symptoms' score was improved by over 50%. However, there were no changes in bronchial responsiveness or lung function results in these patients with asthma. There were certain important methodological details, which I am going to consider here.
Dr. K. Buteyko made the following claims:
1. Sick people, asthmatics asthmatics included, breathe more air than the tiny medical norm. Overbreathing reduces body oxygenation and intensity the drive to breathe even more.
2. If asthmatics and others normalize their breathing pattern (normal breathing 24/7), then they would not require medication and would not experience symptoms
3. The Buteyko Table of Health Zones links respiratory parameters of sick people (with any chronic disease) with their health state. This table suggests parameters that reflect normal breathing (8 breaths / min for breathing frequency at rest, 6.5% for alveolar CO2 content, 60 s for stress-free breath holding time after usual exhalation, etc.). These parameters, according to Dr. Buteyko, correspond to normal health and absence of asthma and many other diseases since normal breathing improves body oxygenation.
4. A person has learned the Buteyko method, if their breathing parameters are normal.
Dr. Buteyko never claimed that a certain practician could achieve this or this result in relation to a group of asthmatics in 3 or 6 months. Let us apply these Buteyko's claims to these randomized controlled trials and other medical research studies.
First of all, thousands of medical studies have proven that over-breathing or hyperventilation REDUCES oxygen content in body cells. Do asthmatics breathe much more air than the medical norm? A typical minute volume for an average asthmatic is about 12-15 L / min (5 studies are available on my website), while the norm is only 6 L / min. Here, asthmatics indeed breathe at rest about 2-2.5 times more air than the norm. Did asthmatics change or normalize their breathing during these randomized controlled trials of the Buteyko method? During the most successful trial (Bowler et al., 1998), in 3 months, use of relievers (bronchodilators) was reduced by 96% and preventers (inhaled steroids) by 49%. Respiratory minute volume decreased from 14 L / min to 9.6 L / min, but the medical norm is only 6 L / min, while Dr. Buteyko's norm is 4 L / min at rest for a 70-kg man. During their best shot, the participant asthmatics got only about a half way towards the norm. Here, there were a very few asthmatics, if any, who normalized their breath during these trials.
The assumption of medical doctors, who conducted these randomized controlled trials, was that a Buteyko practitioner taught the Buteyko method and a controlled group learned the method. This is easy to see from the titles which usually say about a “trial of the Buteyko method”. How could they test the method, if nobody learned it?
From a practical view, since I taught the Buteyko method to hundreds of people, the main difficulty during these randomized controlled trials was following. The participants were mainly limited to practicing breathing exercises (eg, 40-70 min per day). They could not use the powerful arsenal of lifestyle changing tools of the Buteyko method. Breathing normalization requires 24/7 control of breathing including:
– nasal breathing all the time (hence, it is necessary to tape one's mouth if it is usually dry in the morning; and one will never solve their problems with asthma, if mouth breathing takes place every night)
– prevention of sleeping on one's back (we breathe almost twice more air, when we sleep on our backs at night)
– physical exercise (at least 2 hours daily with strictly nasal breathing, in and out, otherwise it is almost useless)
– and many other lifestyle-related details so that to normalize one's unconscious breathing back to the medical norm.