It was encouraging to read Heart’s Gas Boost by Lucie van den Berg in the Herald Sun October 16, 2017. Survivors of cardiac arrest are to take part in a ‘world -first’ trial where they will have their blood levels of carbon dioxide increased in an attempt to lessen damage to the brain. The increased levels of the gas achieved by the use of a ventilator will result in greater perfusion of the brain minimising the risk of neurological damage after the cardiac event. This occurs because a higher level of CO2 contributes to a greater unloading of oxygen in the form of oxyhaemoglobin to the tissues. This mode of action is known as the Bohr effect referring to the observation that increases in the carbon dioxide partial pressure of blood or decreases in blood pH result in a lower affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen. Thus more oxygen is made available to body organs and tissues, in this instance, the brain.
An understanding of this process forms the very basis of the Buteyko Breathing Method developed by Professor Konstantin Buteyko in Russia back in 1952. In his chapter on Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, in everything you need to know to take control of your asthma: asthma-free naturally author Patrick McKeown describes the doctor as a ‘simple yet extraordinary man (who) devoted his life to studying the human organism and made one of the most profound discoveries in the history of medicine.’ Buteyko was suffering from hypertension and wondered if his habit of over breathing might be the cause of his intractable condition. He began experimenting on himself, reducing his inhalations and found that his headaches and the pain in his kidney ceased. A research of the available studies at the time confirmed his discovery that deep breathing and the exhalation of too much carbon dioxide decreased the amount of oxygen going to vital organs.
The Buteyko Institute Method is scientifically based on the standard medical principles of respiration, the normalisation of breathing, and the Bohr Effect. The Buteyko exercises train people to breathe through their noses, reduce their breathing to normal levels, keep their mouths closed and thus retain a higher proportion of the CO2 produced by the body. This results in immediate improvement in asthma, sleep apnoea, snoring, emphysema, COAD, COPD, sinusitis, hay fever, rhinitis, blocked nose, allergies, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, panic and anxiety conditions, and many other respiratory problems.
The news of this world-first trial to reduce brain damage after cardiac arrest is heartening. It can also be seen as an endorsement of the Buteyko method of breathing and its ability to improve the health of sufferers of many common conditions.
I have been learning the Buteyko method of breathing for the last three months and would attest to its value in increasing my quality of life. After five years of insomnia and plenty of money spent on the latest sleep cure including around $2000 for a mandibular splint I finally sleep through the night. A sleep study had revealed that I had sleep apnoea, only mild, but my lived experience was awful all the same. Each night as bedtime neared I would switch off the wi-fi, turn off the TV, read a book and later dim the lights hoping that such sleep hygiene measures would result in the release of melatonin and ensure a good night’s rest. To no avail, I could not stop the cycle of poor sleep accompanied by frequent, sudden snorting and the sleep anxiety and daily tiredness that followed.