I’m writing today to share my take on Buteyko breathing and all alternative treatments for asthma. Short answer? Buteyko is worth a try.
In recent years I have cut my reliance on ventolin, and I want to spread the message that being proactive and seeking out alternative treatments is really important for maintaining a high quality of life with asthma.
Asthma rates are on the rise globally, and more and more people are going trying to improve their breathing. Obviously, unquestionably, without a doubt, I am not anti-ventolin or anti-medication. I literally wouldn’t be alive today without it.
But I also believe that simple yet profound changes to your lifestyle can drastically alter how much you need your puffer. In fact, find the 5 simple strategies I followed to get off albuterol here.
Buteyko breathing changed my life – please keep reading to see how it can change yours.
About Buteyko Breathing
Buteyko breathing is a system of breathing exercises, developed by a Dr. Buteyko in the 20th century, that is gaining increasing popularity in the West (it originates from the former U.S.S.R., where patients had less access to medicine and therefore needed alternative treatments).
The goal is to teach people with asthma how to reduce the amount of air they actually breathe, which Buteyko practitioners find helps treat asthma symptoms.
My Journey With Buteyko
I credit stumbling upon the Buteyko Method as the beginning of an asthma journey that led to me to cutting out my preventative inhaler completely, and only needing my rescue inhaler in extreme cases (usually when I’m sick).
Buteyko breathing didn’t ‘cure’ my asthma, but it very quickly made my symptoms better, and it showed me that I have some control over my breathing.
That is really powerful, and armed with some asthma self-efficacy, I am so much happier and healthier.
Again, I don’t believe alternative medical treatments are a substitute for medical interventions. But while Western medicine can tell us all about what asthma is and what’s happening when I’m tight-chested, and while there are drugs that can help prevent and ease symptoms, there’s no cure.
I could puff away all I wanted, but when I was only listening to my doctor’s advice (and I’m lucky to have been treated by Harvard-educated doctors), my asthma got worse over the years, not better.
(Sound familiar? Find my Ventolin Abuse Guide, plus some easy steps to get relief, here).
In Defense of Buteyko
Clearly I love Buteyko (find 5 reasons to try it here!), but it has its detractors.
And yes, some Buteyko practitioners make wild claims that probably aren’t true. But I liken Buteyko to the early days of yoga. Before it was taken seriously by researchers, we didn’t know about yoga’s many health benefits – but thousands of people knew how good it makes them feel.
We’re still in the early stages of learning about Buteyko – 20 years ago, no one in the West had heard of it. Now, anecdotally, thousands of people swear by it.
But there’s only been a handful of studies – not enough to build a true picture of its efficacy. For some people, that means it’s not worth trying.
Either way I’m happy with the result.
Buteyko exercises are harmless and calming, and they force me to sit and concentrate on my breathing for awhile each day (sounds a lot like meditation, a recognized treatment for a host of mental and physical issues, doesn’t it?).
And placebo or not, the effect is the same – no more tight chest, no more asthma attacks. And if I’m being honest, I don’t even practice Buteyko that rigorously, and it’s still had a profound impact on my breathing.
One ‘scientific’ ‘take-down’ of Buteyko I read says it ONLY provides relief of mild symptoms and that it can ONLY “alter a patient’s perception of their symptoms, and perhaps prevent overuse of asthma medications.” But since it doesn’t cure asthma, they call the whole thing a sham.
Clearly, the person who wrote this doesn’t have asthma.
Because anyone with asthma would be thrilled to have relief of mild symptoms (let’s be clear – ‘mild’ symptoms of asthma still aren’t fun).
Overusing asthma medication is a serious problem, and a better perception of our symptoms is a great thing. So if that’s the current scientific criticism of Buteyko, I’ll take it any day of the week.
If I sound defensive, it’s because I am. It’s not just Buteyko. There are lots and lots of ways to deal with asthma naturally that don’t involve drugs.
They don’t work for everyone, true. But they work for some people. And they’re harmless to try. But people with asthma are rarely encouraged to try them or seek them out – I know I never was.
Maybe Buteyko breathing doesn’t work for everyone. But I bet there’s another home remedy for asthma that will. And when you find it, you’ll start to feel in control of your health and your breathing in a way you never thought possible.
And that’s a journey I strongly suggest you take.
If you’d like to learn more, we highly recommend the following books and DVDs: