Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How the Buteyko Method Is Said to Work

The Buteyko Hypoventilation Technique was designed for people with asthma but it can work for Parkinson's too.
Breathing Basics
The trigger for breathing is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood. No, not the oxygen level, the CO2 level. Under normal circumstances when the carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream rise, you exhale to make room to replace some of that carbon dioxide with oxygen and bring the CO2 levels back to normal.

If you were having an asthma attack and in panic mode, you would probably be breathing too quickly. In this over-breathing state your would be taking in a much larger volume of air (oxygen) than normally. Too much oxygen causes the CO2 levels to drop - not rise as you might think. So the reaction of the body is to restrict the airways into the lungs to reduce the amount of air inhaled...and this creates more panic and more over-breathing.

Based upon the principle that the symptom of asthma breathing is having too much oxygen and having too little carbon dioxide in the blood, the Butyeko technique was designed to break the negative feedback cycle of panic-overbreathing-panic-overbreathing. It teaches the body to breathe more shallowly: decreasing the volume of air reaching the lungs on each inhalation. The method is to train the body to tolerate a higher concentration of CO2 in the bloodstream as well.

What about PD?
Okay, you have Parkinson's disease or any neuromuscular disease and not asthma. What does this mean to you? Muscle stiffness, loss of elasticity and weakness in the respiratory muscles may already restrict your airways and cause the swallowing, choking and breathing issues symptomatic in PD. You may already be doing shallow breathing and retaining too much CO2. You may be over-breathing without realizing it.

Now this raises some questions/issues
Is there a danger of an excessive amount of CO2 in the bloodstream?

CO2 levels in the bloodstream reflect the acid status of your blood. Low levels can be due to increased acidity from diabetes, kidney disease, metabolic disorders or chronic hyperventilation. Most of the CO2 in the body is in the form of bicarbonate or hydrogen carbonate (HCO3-) The bicarbonate function is to maintain the pH balance from being neither too acidic nor too basic. The usual result of an increased amount of dissolved CO2 is acidosis or respiratory acidosis if the lung function is diminished.

Carbon dioxide retention can result in hypercapnia when too little CO2 is removed from the blood by the lungs. The early symptoms of hypercapnia include flush, muscle twitches, "hand flaps" (similar to autistic hand flapping,) reduced neural activity and possibly elevated blood pressure.

Diaphragmatic fatigue can also lead to hypoventilation. Ventilation is not adequate to conduct the gas exchange. This can occur when carbon dioxide retention impairs the ability of the diaphragm to properly contract...and expand...which impairs the ability of the body to exhale and inhale.

The Butekyo method seeks to get the patient used to higher carbon dioxide levels to address breathing issues; to train the body not to respond to these levels. The concept is to break into the "negative feedback cycle" by teaching shallower breathing. In addition, the theory is that asthma preventers and inhalers mask the natural self defensive behaviour of the body. Moreover the meds may actually make it harder for the body to react naturally (shallow breathing) during the next attack...

How does this technique apply to sleep disorders?
Since poor breathing patterns can lead to poor sleep, let's take a minute to touch on sleep apnea or sleep aponea depending upon your country of origin. Many people suffer from sleep apnea for years without even being aware. Because the Butekyo Method might assist in eliminating this aspect of sleeping disorder, here are some signs of the problem: Snoring, restlessness or excessive movement such as kicking while asleep, mouth breathing rather than nose breathing, thirst during the night or upon waking, dry mouth, waking but still tired - feeling unrefreshed, being breathless when exercising, falling asleep while watching TV or in meetings or social occasions. And of course the apneas themselves when you literally cease breathing.

Normal sleep would transition through five stages with the final being REM sleep. If you are not breathing properly, if you are hyperventilating - over-breathing - you will remain in the light sleep of stages 1 and 2 while never reaching the most restful 3 and 4 stages and certainly not REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

You can be aided by any of the breathing methods discussed in previous articles, if you are exhibiting any over-breathing symptoms above, take some time to review Breathing Exercises for PD parts I-III again as well as the Yoga exercises/poses to aid relaxation


  1. There is a limited but convincing evidence that, apart from better quality of sleep, breathing retaining and the Buteyko method can stop progression of Rarkinson's disease. To learn more about Buteyko lifestyle factors and breathing exercises, visit

  2. We seldom post comments with links but our thanks to Dr Rakhimov for this link - to follow it just cut and paste it into your browser.


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