Research and Clinical Trials
The link between dysfunctional breathing and asthma which was identified by Professor Buteyko in the 1950’s, is now appearing with increasing regularity in the western medical literature.
Publications, Studies and Clinical Trials on the Buteyko Method
Asthma – Publications
Villareal, M C et al. 2014. Effect of Buteyko Method on Asthma Control and Quality of Life of Filipino Adults with Bronchial Asthma. JMHM Vol 2 Issue 1. Full text
Conclusion: The Buteyko Method has a significant positive effect on asthma control and quality of life when used as adjunct treatment in adults with bronchial asthma.
Lina et al. 2014. Effectiveness of Buteyko Method in Asthma Control and Quality of Life of School-age Children. academia.edu Full text
Conclusion: The use of Buteyko Method within 3-4 weeks as an adjunct to conventional management of asthma helps in improving asthma control and quality of life of school-age children.
Adelola et al. 2013. Role of Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthmatics with nasal symptoms, Clinical Otolaryngology. 2013, April; 38(2):190-191 Full text
Ravinder et al. 2012. A Study of effects of Buteyko Breathing Technique on Asthmatic Patients. Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy – An International Journal 6(2), 224-228. Abstract
Showed improved FEV1 in Buteyko group:
Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) group-A showed significant improvement in the FEV1 and PEFR, and a significant decrease in the levels of dyspnea, where PLBE with DE Group – B showed no significant changes in any of the three measurements.
Hassan et al. 2012. Effect of Buteyko breathing technique on patients with bronchial asthma. Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis, 61, 235–241. Full text
Showed improved FEV1 in Buteyko group:
The results of this study revealed a significant decrease in asthma daily symptoms, a significant improvement in PEFR, and Control pause test in group (A), while there was insignificant change in group (B).
Austin et al. 2009. Buteyko Breathing Technique Reduces Hyperventilation Induced Hypocapnoea and Dyspnoea after Exercise in Asthma. Pulmonary Rehabilitation B58 A3409. Abstract
Showed improvement in ETCO2 in Buteyko group.
Cowie et al. 2008. A randomized controlled trial of the Buteyko technique as an adjunct to conventional management of asthma, Respiratory Medicine; May; 102(5):726-32. Full text
McHugh et al. 2006. Buteyko breathing technique and asthma in children: a case series, The New Zealand Medical Journal, May 19; 119(1234) Full text
Borg et al. 2004. The Buteyko Method increases end-tidal CO2 and decreases ventilatory responsiveness in Asthma. The Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science Inc 2004 Annual Scientific Meeting.
Showed improvement in ETCO2 in Buteyko group.
McHugh et al. 2003. Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) for asthma: an effective intervention, The New Zealand Medical Journal, Dec 12; 116(1187) Abstract
Cooper et al. 2003 Effect of two breathing exercises (Buteyko and pranayama) in asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax; 58:674—9. Abstract
McGowan, J. 2003. Health Education: Does the Buteyko Institute Method make a difference?
Thorax Vol 58, suppl III, page 28, December. Abstract
Opat et al. 2000. A clinical trial of the Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthma as taught by a video. Journal Asthma, 37(7):557-64. Abstract
Bowler et al. 1998. Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a blinded randomized controlled trial. MJA, Dec 7-21; 169 (11-12). Abstract
Showed improvement in Minute Volume in Buteyko group.
Asthma – Endorsements
GINA Online Report:
Global Initiatives for Asthma. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention 2014. Available from www.ginasthma.org
Breathing techniques may be a useful supplement to asthma pharmacotherapy Evidence A Report 2014 Page 40
British Thoracic Society
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network British guideline on the management of asthma
A national clinical guideline
Behavioural programmes centred on breathing exercises and hyperventilation reduction techniques (including physiotherapist-delivered breathing programmes such as the Papworth method, and the Buteyko method) can improve asthma symptoms, quality of life and reduce bronchodilator requirement in adults with asthma, although have little effect on lung function
Evidence level 1++
Breathing exercise programmes (including physiotherapist-taught methods) can be offered to people with asthma as an adjuvant to pharmacological treatment to improve quality of life and reduce symptoms. British Thoracic Society 2014 Page 56
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Publications
A 2010 survey of Buteyko Institute practitioners who had taught the method to over 11,000 people with sleep apnoea found that:
- Over 95 percent of clients with sleep apnoea had improved sleep.
- Approximately 80 percent of clients had been able to cease use of their CPAP machine or oral appliances.
- Symptoms such as snoring, headaches, restless legs, low concentration levels and decreased energy levels also improved in the majority of clients.
To view the survey results and the full report please see:
Birch, M. 2012. Sleep apnoea and breathing retraining. To what extent is the Buteyko Institute Method of breathing retraining effective for sleep apnoea? A survey of Buteyko Institute practitioners’ experiences with clients suffering from sleep apnoea. Full text
Birch, M. 2012. Sleep Apnoea: a survey of breathing retraining, Australian Nursing Journal, October, 20(4):40-41.
Birch M. 2004. Clinical Update: Obstructive sleep apnoea and breathing retraining, Australian Nursing Journal, August.
Dysfunctional Breathing / Role of Buteyko
The British Medical Journal of 5 May 2001 stated that “If dysfunctional breathing is as common as our data show, facilities for breathing retraining need to be available as part of the overall management of asthmatic patients” .
Articles appearing in Australian Doctor and the Medical Observer magazines in May 2001 now seem to substantiate the fact that dysfunctional breathing is a recognised significant factor in asthma and that breathing retraining should be an integral part of asthma management. The Buteyko Institute Method is designed to correct dysfunctional breathing patterns.
Summary of Scientific Principles
The Buteyko Institute Method is scientifically based on the standard medical principles of respiration, the normalisation of breathing and the Bohr Effect.
- Ideal respiration is 4-6 litres of air per minute, equivalent to approximately 10 breaths per minute.
- People with respiratory disorders have been found to breathe from 2 to several times this amount, resulting well in excess of 20,000 breaths per 24 hour day.
- Under normal circumstances, the lungs expect measured volumes of air via the nasal passage, where it has been filtered, disinfected, warmed and moisturised.
- Large volumes of untreated air, via the mouth, cause drying of airways, irritation and greater exposure to allergens viruses and bacteria.
- Hyperventilation, over breathing and mouth breathing all contribute to the ‘dumping’ of CO2 from the body, upsetting the O2 – CO2 balance.
- CO2 is a natural bronchodilator and correct blood and alveolar levels prevent the smooth muscle in the bronchioles, and in other parts of the body from going into spasm.
- Sustained low levels of CO2 cause the breathing centre in the medulla of the brain to reset to a level which encourages hyperventilation or over-breathing. The average person with asthma breathes around 14 litres per minute, and has a CO2 level of 30 to 36mm Hg (40mm Hg is considered the normal healthy amount).
- Buteyko exercises train people to breathe through their noses, reduce their breathing to normal levels, keep their mouths closed and retain a higher proportion of the CO2 produced by the body.
- With practice, the Buteyko method allows the person to permanently elevate their levels of CO2 causing the breathing reflex to return to normal. The CO2 level rises to the normal level of 40mm Hg pa.
Symptoms of Dysfunctional Breathing or Hyperventilation
Many symptoms and conditions are reported in the medical literature as being either caused or exacerbated by hyperventilation. The Buteyko Institute Method therefore has significant potential to revolutionise health management in the future.
Respiratory: asthma ,cough, production of mucus, blocked or runny sinuses, chronic throat tickle, shortness of breath, tightness in or about chest, sighing respiration, excessive yawning.
Neurovascular: disturbances of consciousness, faintness, dizziness, unsteadiness, impairment of concentration and memory, feelings of unreality, “losing mind”, paresthesia, numbness, tingling and coldness of fingers, face and feet
Musculoskeletal: tremors and coarse twitching movements, diffuse or localised myalgia and arthralgia, carpopedal spasm and generalised tetany (infrequent).
Cardiovascular: palpitations, skipped beats, tachycardia, atypical chest pains, sharp precordial twinges, dull precordial or lower costal ache, variable features of vasomotor instability
Gastrointestinal: oral dryness, globus, dysphagia, left upper quadrant or epigastric distress, aerophagy, belching, bloating, flatulence.
Psychic: variable anxiety, tension and apprehension, inappropriate pseudocalmness (hysterical subjects)
General: sleep apnoea, snoring, easy fatigability, generalised weakness, irritability and chronic exhaustion, frightening dreams
Dental: narrowed upper jaw, overcrowding, tooth decay and gum disorders.