Life breathed into asthma control technique as alternative to Ventolin By Julie Robotham, Medical Reporter October 23, 2003 Sydney Morning Herald
Take a shallow breath. A controversial alternative technique to control the symptoms of asthma by restricting air intake may be rehabilitated courtesy of the medical establishment that previously condemned it.
Sydney doctors are investigating whether the debilitating lung constrictions of asthma can be controlled by breathing differently - the cornerstone of the Buteyko method that had been written off as a dangerous fad.
In early results, patients in Australia's first mainstream investigation of controlled breathing in asthma are decreasing their reliance on reliever medicines such as Ventolin, said the study leader, Christine Jenkins.
"Patients are loving the study because they're feeling better," Dr Jenkins said. She is head of the Targeting Treatment project at the Co-operative Research Centre for Asthma.
Participants are being trained to practise nasal or mouth breathing, different depths and frequencies of breathing and altered muscle use. Dr Jenkins, who wants to recruit more people to the six-month trial, said the doctors who examined them did not know which method an individual patient had been taught.
But it was clear that a high proportion of the 40 who had already graduated were healthier than when they started.
"A lot of our subjects are doing very well. They're reducing their Ventolin use," Dr Jenkins said. She said the results were unexpected.
Dr Jenkins said there had been acrimony between respiratory physicians and teachers of the yoga-like Buteyko.
But "a lot of that belongs to five or 10 years ago . . . there has been increasing awareness that breathing techniques may indeed have something to offer."
The Buteyko cause had been undermined by its proponents' "zealotry" and early claims that converts would be able to dispense with their medication, Dr Jenkins said.
But she added that some asthma doctors had been prejudiced against the techniques.
"It's been difficult to persuade everyone [the study] needed to be done," she said.
And pharmaceutical industry agendas, which emphasised drug approaches over natural techniques, had been factors in researchers' neglect of breathing methods, she said.
Sydney Buteyko practitioner Roger Price said Dr Jenkins's study was, "good news, I applaud it".