Nasal Pulmonary Interactions
Nasal breathing improves arterial oxygen concentrations by up to 10% and also improves the efficiency of carbon dioxide excretion from the lungs.
The nose provides an inspiratory resistance (twice that of the open mouth) forcing the diaphragm to contract against a resistance.
People who are prone to anxiety attacks would appear to have lower arterial carbon dioxide levels. People who practice relaxed diaphragmatic breathing may be less likely to present complaining of nasal congestion unlike anxious people.
Nitric oxide is a gas produced by the nose and paranasal sinuses. Nitric oxide may have a role in the sterilization of incoming air and in improving the ventilation-perfusion in the lungs.
From a physiological perspective the nose has an important role in the preparation of inspired air before inhalation into the lungs. other physiological effects such as improvements in oxygen transfer and carbon dioxide excretion would also appear to occur
The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human
Although the effects of slow breathing in the healthy human have yet to be comprehensively reviewed the scientific studies discussed in this article show that the breathing pattern, as defined by respiratory rate, tidal volume, diaphragmatic activation, respiratory pauses and passive versus active expiration, has a profound effect not only on respiratory efficiency but also extending to cardiovascular function and autonomic function (i.e. the parasympathetic and sympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system), where the effects are bidirectional.
Although not specifically reviewed nasal breathing is considered an important component of optimised respiration.
Slow breathing is achieved by 6 breaths per minute. It generally coincides with increased tidal volume and may enhance use of the diaphragm resulting in enhanced ventilation efficiency and arterial oxygenation.
Historically, both yogic breathing (pranyama) and Buteyko breathing have claimed success in treating a range of medical conditions including respiratory and circulatory diseases (treated by Buteyko breathing retraining). It is important to appreciate that Buteyko breathing retraining involves more than merely slow breathing.
It is also important to appreciate that this article discusses the physiological benefits of slow breathing in healthy humans whereas Buteyko breathing retraining is taught to the unhealthy human whose breathing is dysfunctional.
Buteyko breathing method – an aid to improving gas transfer in Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a condition that mainly affects the respiratory and digestive systems in the human body. A consequence of CF is the creation of a mucus layer in the respiratory tract and the digestive system which results in blocking the movement of ions and water in the cells that line the lungs and pancreas of the digestive system.
One of the main complications involved in CF is the difficulty in breathing and general lung function due to the layer of mucus lining the airways. It is well known that mucus acts as a defence mechanism to protect the lungs from irritants. However in people with CF a healthy gas exchange between the lungs and blood is difficult to achieve.
Buteyko breathing alleviates symptoms of different respiratory conditions.This paper presents a case for employing the Buteyko breathing method to improve and manage lung function in people with CF.
Although CO² is traditionally known as a waste product, it also plays a vital role in regulating how our body functions. Good health and blood pH regulation requires a certain level of CO². If a person over breathes then (s)he will be used to a lower level than normal of CO². The Buteyko breathing method corrects “over breathing” so that the respiratory centre will be accustomed to a higher (or normal) level of CO².
The achievement of normal levels of CO² is vitally important for oxygenation of organs and muscles in the body. For people with CF the blood will better derive energy from food if it is sufficiently oxygenated.
The author concludes that the Buteyko breathing method shows a promising non-invasive, natural method of improving gas transfer in the alveoli of lungs in people with CF.
Buteyko Breathing Techniques in Asthma
There have been many clinical trials around the world which involved asthma sufferers who had been taught the Buteyko Breathing Method.
The first clinical trial in Australia was conducted in Brisbane, Queensland at the Mater Hospital from January to April 1995. There were 2 control groups aged from 12 to 70 years. The first group relied on their usual asthma medication and the other group was taught the Buteyko Breathing Method.
The results were published in the Medical Journal of Australia in December 1998.
Those results showed that after 12 weeks those in the control group taught the Buteyko Breathing Method experienced:
- average 96% reduction in their use of reliever (bronchodilator) medication
- average 49% reduction in their use of preventer (steroid) medication
- average 71% reduction in their asthma symptoms
There was no material change to the symptoms experienced by those in the asthma group.
It was concluded that those practising the Buteyko Breathing Method reduced hyperventilation and their use of reliever medication. Further there was a trend toward reduced inhaled steroid use and a better quality of life was observed in those practising the Buteyko Breathing Method.