Thursday, May 31, 2007

Taping it is a good wheeze

Learning to cope with asthma symptoms was easier once Kate Whyman shut her mouth

I regularly sleep with my mouth taped shut. I’m not being held hostage. Nor does my husband have odd tendencies in that direction. It isn’t even to stop me snoring, though apparently it has that welcome side effect. The nightly ritual of sticking micropore tape over my lips is part of my latest attempt to put an end to asthma.
I’ve never had a full-blown asthma attack, but I’ve been wheezy for the past ten years. I’ve blamed the cats, exhaust fumes and house dust, but fastidious vacuuming, living by the sea and banishing cats from the bedroom have made no difference. When I consulted my GP, I was surprised to hear her call it asthma and prescribe me a Ventolin inhaler. Then that was upgraded to a steroid inhaler. Suddenly I was on serious medication, just to cope with my wheezes.
I still couldn’t pinpoint what was triggering my episodes, although they did get slightly worse when I was stressed, and I became increasingly alarmed at how frequently I needed to use my inhaler, sometimes more than twice a day. It was at this point, last July, that I decided to search for alternative solutions.
That’s how I found the Buteyko method, devised in the 1950s by the Russian medical scientist Dr Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko. He had noticed that sick people tend to breathe more often and more deeply, especially as they became more ill. Could overbreathing be contributing to their problems? He felt that it was and compiled a list of 150 conditions, including asthma, that could be reversed by breathing less.
The Buteyko theory rests on the assumption that overbreathing increases the amount of oxygen and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the body, and this can trigger an asthma attack (see below). In our respiratory cycle we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of metabolic reactions. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the blood stimulate breathing.
Hence, the Buteyko theory sounded counter-intuitive, as we normally associate high oxygen levels and low carbon dioxide levels with good health. But a scientific trial published last year in the journal Thorax showed that asthma sufferers using the Buteyko technique were able to reduce their need for inhalers significantly. I decided to give it a try.

Source - Times

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