Buteko for Asthma

Buteyko for Asthma

An asthmatic child or adult breathes more air than a person without asthma. Typical traits of overbreathing include mouth breathing, upper chest breathing, audible breathing and noticeable breathing at rest. This habit of overbreathing causes cooling and dehydration of the airways resulting in symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. Teaching an asthmatic child or adult to bring their breathing volume towards normal results in a reduction to their symptoms.

Healthy volume of normal breathing as described in any university textbook of 5 to 6 litres per minute. A number of trials found that the average minute volume for asthmatics between 10 to 15 litres. This heavy breathing does not just happen during a symptomatic period. It is chronic meaning that it takes place every minute, every hour, every day.

Buteyko breathing exercises aimed at normalising breathing volume have been attracting recent attention. The 2012 British Thoracic Society asthma guidelines state that the "Buteyko breathing technique may be considered to help patients to control the symptoms of asthma."

Studies investigating the Buteyko Method for asthma showed improved asthma control with an 80% to 90% reduction in the need for bronchodilator medication, 50% less need for corticosteroids with no decrease to lung function. In another trial, pulmonologist Professor Robert Cowie from the University of Calgary, Canada acted as independent investigator. Following the improvement to asthma control in the Buteyko group, he commented that "75% control is about as good as anyone has got in any study of asthma. The neat thing about it is that it has no side effects. It's very safe. The Buteyko technique certainly has been shown to be an important adjunct to treatment.”

The only real key to effectiveness of the therapy is that individuals are prepared to set aside the necessary time to learn and practise the exercises.


  1. www.buteykoclinic.com
  2. Bowler SD, Green A, Mitchell CA. Buteyko breathing techniques in asthma: a blinded randomised controlled trial. Medical Journal Australia .1998 Dec 7-21;(169(11-12)):575-8
  3. McHugh P, Aitcheson F, Duncan B, Houghton F.. Buteyko Breathing Technique for asthma: an effective intervention. The New Zealand Medical Journal.2003 Dec 12;():116(1187):U710
  4. BIBH. BIBH 2007 conference . www.BIBH.org (accessed 27 December 2012)


Trails Results (from www.asthmacare.ie)

  1. Austin G, Brown C, Watson T,  Chakravorty I, PULMONARY REHABILITATION. Buteyko Breathing Technique Reduces Hyperventilation−Induced Hypocaponea and Dyspnoea after Exercise in Asthma.

             Physiotherapy School, U Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Herts, United Kingdom.


“Our study demonstrated the hypothesised physiology of BBT, improving hyperventilation induced hypocapnoea and breathlessness, following maximal exercise. By teaching patients to reduce hypernoea of breathing (the rate &depth), BBT may reduce asthma symptoms and improve exercise tolerance and control.”

Read the paper


  1. Burgess J, Ekanayake B, Lowe A, Dunt D, Thien F C Dharmage S. Systematic review of the effectiveness of breathing retraining in asthma management. Expert Review Respiratory Medicine.2011;5(6)



The BBT has been the most widely publicized among the CAM techniques used

in asthma management. Individual studies using BBT consistently demonstrated a reduction in asthma medication use, and together with respiratory physiotherapy studies, often showed an improvement in AQOL and the subjective experience of asthma symptoms. However, there was no significant improvement in lung function in any of the BBT studies to account for the positive results. This was supported by the results of meta-analyses, which failed to show an effect of these techniques using pooled estimates. While it is possible that the deep inspiration required for lung function testing might induce bronchoconstriction [56] and override any beneficial effect from BBT, it is also possible that the studies were inadequately powered to detect changes in

lung function parameters. Larger studies might reveal an effect. A meta-analysis of the studies that explored the postulated underlying mechanism proposed in BBT showed a significant increase in end-tidal CO2 in the active intervention arm.

Critics of BBT argue that medication reduction could be due to the therapist’s

influence and it is difficult to evaluate that possibility. On the other hand, there was no evidence of a detrimental effect on asthma control with reduction in medication usage and to some extent, there might have been an improvement in symptoms. Longer follow-up is needed to show that improvement in asthma control as measured by medication usage is sustained for a duration that is

clinically meaningful, and that BBT has no adverse effects. Despite the lack of evidence for physiological change to account for the observed benefits, a decrease in medication use could be useful considering the possible systemic effects of ICS use [57,58].

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