According to the Buteyko Method, the key to Asthma and other diseases lies in the gas - carbon dioxide. Consider the following facts:
The basic reaction that produces the energy inside each of our body cells involves two main gases. Most energy comes from the breakdown [or burning] of sugars [carbohydrates] in the presence of oxygen [O2]. This produces a nice amount of energy that we use to run our bodies. It also produces water and very importantly carbon dioxide. So we have:
Carbohydrate + Oxygen
Are reacted in the cells to produce
ENERGY + Water + Carbon Dioxide
The amount of carbohydrate and oxygen used up and the amount of water and carbon dioxide produced depends on the energy need of the cell. For example running up a flight of stairs will use up more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide than sitting quietly in front of your computer.
To keep the levels of both oxygen and carbon dioxide within safe levels our body adjusts your level of breathing. You will breathe more deeply when you are more active and produce more carbon dioxide, and less deeply when you are quiet and produce less carbon dioxide. You will note that it is the levels of carbon dioxide that regulates your breathing, not oxygen. [The exception is when you are being strangled.]
So our breathing is how we release the carbon dioxide that we have produced [and also replenish our oxygen.]
A Little More About Carbon Dioxide
There is only 0.03% carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today. This is almost none at all.
If you are perfectly healthy you will have about 6.5% carbon dioxide in the alveoli of your lungs. This is more than 200 times more than is present in the air around us.
Therefore your lungs act to trap in some of the carbon dioxide produced by your body.
This carbon dioxide is critical for keeping the pH [A chemical measure of how much acid is in our body fluids] at a safe level. Our pH is the ratio of bicarbonate to carbonic acid, which are both forms of carbon dioxide. The level of your carbonic acid depends on the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the alveoli of your lungs. If the carbon dioxide level drops [or rises] too much it can make fatally large changes to your pH.
More simply, the amount of carbon dioxide you keep in your lungs is very important. It affects the chemistry all of fluids of your body.
If you adopt a breathing pattern which causes you to release more carbon dioxide than you produce, the level in your lungs will drop. If it drops too far, the level of carbonic acid will be altered, and so the pH will also change. Even a slight change in your pH is usually fatal.
Now stay with me, this is the interesting part!
To help prevent the loss of carbon dioxide to a fatally low level, the body has developed certain defensive mechanisms. These include spasms of the air pipes and blood pipes, and the increased production of mucus.
ASTHMA Is A Defense - Your Body Works Perfectly!
To use asthma as a simple example, let's think like a plumber in talk in terms of pipes.
Let's say that your breathing is too great. As you are breathing out air that is rich in carbon dioxide, and breathing in air that has almost no carbon dioxide, the more you breathe - the less you trap in. If the level of carbon dioxide in your lungs gets too low - you really will have a serious problem. As you continue to release more carbon dioxide than you produce, your level gets lower and lower. Now your body does not want you to die, so if it is [genetically] able it will act to restrict the airflow to trap in some carbon dioxide.
It will do this by either reducing the size of the opening in your air pipes, or by increasing the production of mucus in the pipes, clogging them up. The first defense will make you feel tight or wheezy the second will give you a cough. Both will cause more carbon dioxide to be trapped in - as you physically cannot get as much out of your body through a smaller or blocked air pipe. The harder you try to breathe deeply during an asthma attack, the more your air pipe will constrict.
If you can learn to reduce your breathing depth more than your asthma is making you, the attack will subside. That is what the Buteyko method gently and carefully teaches you to do.
Even more than that, the Buteyko method shows you how to gently condition the section of your brain that is sensitive to carbon dioxide to get used to higher levels of carbon dioxide in your lungs! This means that as you have started with a normal higher level in your lungs, you will have a "safety" or "buffer" zone between you and any asthma at all. You will then have fewer and less severe attacks.
This is how the extraordinary results of Buteyko and Asthma are achieved. I recently spent time with a Certified Buteyko Practitioner James Hooper and he showed me evidence that, people who have personal classes with him had maintained a full guarantee of significant improvement in just one week.
James went onto say, "The average decrease in symptoms and relief medication use in my clinic in 7 days is 92.5%."
My article written in conjunction with James has given you a very basic part of the theory of what causes asthma, and how the Buteyko Breathing Method training stops it. I should also note that the Buteyko Method is not one of those techniques that people have created to simply make money off people with Asthma. The Buteyko Breathing Method underwent clinical trials at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane in 1994 and Respirtory Physicians Prof C Mitchell and Dr S Bowler who ran the trials found that the trial patients had a 90% decrease in the their reliance on Asthmatic Reliever Medicine.