Why can my breathing make me sick?


Modern society with all its new drugs, fresh foods, and clean water, has more health problems than that of our predecessors. Conditions such as asthma, migraines, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and panic attacks were virtually unknown a generation ago. Today, everyone knows somebody with one of these conditions.

In under developed countries where life is hard, diet is poor and medical facilities are inadequate, there are virtually none of these conditions. Because of this, we have a habit of blaming the products of our current lifestyle, such as stress, pollution and junk food for causing them.

To see if this is true we must look at the basic human body and see what it was designed for. It is believed that man has been around for about 50,000 years. Early man was physically active for most of the daylight hours. He ate a variety of foods that were in season and at times went hungry. In those days most stress required a physical reaction, such as running from a wild animal.

Compare this to modern day man, who eats up to six times a day, does virtually no physical exercise and surrounds himself with stress he cannot physically react to. If you had a dog which you fed six times a day, but never exercised, you would not expect it to last very long. We do not treat our pets like this, yet we do it to ourselves.

Because no one knows what actually causes these conditions, we learn to live with them. Foods are removed from our diet, medications and mineral supplements are added. Behaviour is restricted by the avoidance of situations which trigger symptoms. We try to control our home environment by making it dust and chemical free. This is like trying to live in a bubble and is extremely difficult to maintain. Not only is it difficult to maintain but the condition does not go away. Even though you cut all these things from your lifestyle and you take the medications, the problem still remains.


A small group of people called 'Buteyko Practitioners' believe that they have the answer to the problem. It is a simple one called breathing.

People can go without food for a month, without water for a few days but only minutes without breathing. It is the most important function for all humans. Breathing is an automatic function and most people do not think about it unless they put their face in water or when they have trouble with it.

It is generally believed that the more you breathe, or the deeper you breathe, the better it is for you. This is physiologically incorrect and can be easily proven. Remember how bad you felt when you tried to blow up an air bed without a pump?

Our breathing pattern changes to suit the situation. When exercising hard we breathe more than when we sit down. Breathing more than you need to perform a given task is called 'hyperventilation'. Most people assume that by breathing more, they will increase the oxygen levels in their tissues. In actual fact it decreases oxygen levels there. Hyperventilation increases blood alkalinity and oxygen molecules are not released by haemoglobin easily so tissues actually begin to starve of oxygen.

By following the Buteyko programme breathing patterns begin to normalise and oxygen become available more easily. The breathlessness associated with breathing problems and panic starts to disappear.