I have been a medical practitioner for twenty-one years, with both city and country practices, and in that time I have treated thousands of asthma patients. Like every conscientious medical doctor I have kept up-to-date with the latest research, and with advances in techniques and medication, in order to help my patients to the best of my ability. This has been especially important to me, as I take a keen interest in respiratory diseases. In addition, my work has been in Australia, where a major respiratory disease has a strong hold: Australia and New Zealand have more asthma sufferers per capita than any other country in the world. More than one million people have asthma in Australia (some estimate nearly two million)—that is, 25% of children, 15% of teenagers and 10% of adults have asthma.
Asthma is on the increase in the industrialized countries of the world. In the USA, 16 million people suffer from it, and three million in the United Kingdom. Boys have asthma more commonly than girls in childhood and about one child in four has asthma at some stage of development. About half of the children with mild asthma will improve and “grow out of” the condition through their teenage years. The others have to continue with a disease that can interfere with their pleasure in life, their education, their sporting interests, their well-being and even their relationships with family and friends. Adult or “late onset” asthma also occurs, more frequently in women than in men. These unlucky people not only suffer acute discomfort, disruption of every aspect of their lives and often sheer misery from their condition, but they may also be facing a threat to their life. Not only asthma itself, but deaths from asthma attacks are on the increase. In Australia in 1996, for instance, it is a frightening fact that asthma attacks caused more than 800 deaths.
Medicine in the twentieth century has not coped well with asthma. The number and availability of drugs to treat the disease have been sharply increasing since the beginning of the century—but so has the incidence of asthma. The Asthma Foundation of Australia reported that the incidence of asthma in children in Australia actually doubled between 1982 and 1992. As a doctor I could not help wishing that there was another way of helping a child control his or her asthma, instead of having to fall back on an increase of the drugs I prescribed.
Then, more than six years ago, I first became aware of the work and methods of a certain Professor Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, a diagnostic physician whose techniques were considered a breakthrough in Russia, after a life time of research and treatment of asthma patients. It was two of my patients who told me about it—a mother and daughter who had attended a clinic in Sydney and had both derived extraordinary benefit from the simple breathing technique that they were taught by the Buteyko practitioner.
I became interested, and I observed the technique over a long period. Doctors are always cautious about any new research or treatments they observe, and I was no exception. But there is nothing more convincing to a scientist mind than genuine, sustained and verifiable results and I eventually became convinced, from the objective evidence, that I was looking at a dramatically effective treatment for asthma. I began referring patients to the clinic and became supervising medical officer, which enabled me to monitor and help my patients and others even more effectively. Consequently, I have also been able to make a study of the 8,000 patients treated so far in Australia, and when invited I have spoken on radio and television about the far-reaching beneficial effects of this natural benign method. My book is the result of six years of research into the method and the results it has achieved for asthma sufferers.
The results are astonishing and suggest a direct link between our breathing patterns and our level of health. The Buteyko theory is that the basic cause of asthma is habitual, hidden over-breathing (literally taking in too much air when we breathe). The treatment is based on bringing the breathing to normal levels and thus eradicating over-breathing (hyperventilation), and reserving the need for the body’s defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms, according to theory, include: spasm of the airways; mucus production (chest, nose, throat, and ears); inflammation (swelling) of the bronchial walls. These defense mechanisms are fully explained in the chapter “How Does the Buteyko Method Work?”
The message of the Buteyko method is that when asthma sufferers learn to alter the volume of air they habitually inhale, their asthma attacks can be significantly reduced and the use of asthma drugs and apparatus can be reduced or entirely eliminated.
It is possible that the economies of the industrialized countries worldwide could save billions of dollars spent annually on asthma drug subsidies and hospitalization, if their health administrators took notice of the advances in asthma treatment pioneered by Professor Buteyko. It is on record as having benefitted 100,000 patients in Russia, and is officially recognized by the Russian government. Professor Buteyko’s experimentation and clinical trials on documented patients in Russia indicate the great majority of asthma sufferers over four years old can be significantly relieved by the method, and any individual on asthma drug treatment can reduce that drug intake by 90% or more in a majority of cases.
Outside Russia, the first Buteyko clinical trials on asthma sufferers were completed in 1995 in Australia by Associate Professor Charles Mitchell of the Queensland University Medical School, Dr. Simon Bowler of the Mater Hospital and Ms. Tess Graham of the Buteyko Group.
The results of the first half of the trial, which were presented to a conference of the Thoracic Society of Hobart on March 30, 1995, supported the findings of Professor Buteyko, and a press release at the time made the general findings public. The Buteyko method is available in all capital cities in Australia and has spread to workshops in country areas. The statistics of more than 8,000 cases so far (1997) in Australia show that the success rate continues to be very high. Asthma sufferers attending the clinics have found that after learning and practicing the method they can reduce the use of their relievers and preventers to varying significant degrees. As I write this Introduction, the positive results of the clinical analysis of the method carried out in Queensland are due for publication.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the Buteyko method for asthma sufferers and their families. I believe it is the great medical breakthrough of the twentieth century, and I am proud to be able to offer the first ever book on this subject outside Russia. This book is the result of my own investigation of the theory and practice of the method, and relies on my close experience of the clinics and the patients who have benefitted from them, over the last six years. I have the sanction of Professor Buteyko and of the Buteyko clinics to reveal the method, its scientific bases and its results.
This book is not a self-teach manual, since a practitioner and a doctor are necessary to monitor each person’s progress and give advice as to whether their medication can be safely reduced or stopped. One chapter of this book is devoted to a step-by-step description of the breathing technique itself: the chapter is not an instruction manual, as the method must be taught by a trained teacher.
Thus, through this book, asthma sufferers and the millions of others who may suffer the hidden effects of over-breathing have an opportunity to assess all the aspects of the method and all the relevant medical background, and to decide whether they would like to eventually learn the technique for their own benefit, or share the discovery with others.
I have great pleasure and confidence in recommending this technique to all asthma sufferers and all practitioners—medical, paramedical, orthodox and complementary.
I am delighted to offer this book to the public, because it is the first time all the facts about the method have been available to everyone, as I believe they should be.
Paul J. Ameisen
MBBS, ND, Dip Ac, FACNEM