New Study to Help Reduce Asthma Burden in New Zealand
Asthma Facts – from the Asthma Foundation
One in six New Zealand adults and one in four of our children experience asthma symptoms. This adds up to more than
600,000 New Zealanders.
Asthma is the most common cause of admission to hospital for children.
Hospitalisation rates for asthma have more than doubled in the past 30 years.
A report entitled “Health: New Zealand’s Untreated Addiction” warns that the growing expenditure in health care will
rise from $12 billion per year to $45 billion per year by 2026. This expenditure is likely to cripple the economy and in
the process of doing so our taxes will rise, the government will need to borrow from off shore, and other crucial
departments for example the Education sector, will ultimately have spending slashed.
The question that is asked time and time again is “how can we stop New Zealand from sliding down this steep slope?”
Instead of focussing on the outcome [asthma], let’s focus on the cause.
There is hope...
New Study to Help Reduce the Asthma Burden in New Zealand
Doctors from Gisborne have announced a large Buteyko asthma study that will be conducted in the wider Gisborne and
Auckland areas in 2012.
All published studies of the Buteyko Breathing technique, including two published in the New Zealand Medical Journal,
have shown positive resultsi. Some of the findings included:
Reductions in reliever medication averaged 80 to 90 per cent
Reductions in preventer medication 40 to 50 per cent
Lung function is maintained despite the large reductions in medication
Fewer symptoms of asthma
Improved quality of life
Seven small studies now point to the effectiveness of the Buteyko breathing technique. So much so that serious attention
and further studies are both wanted and essential.
With the rise in awareness and use of Buteyko the authors of these studies say there is a need for a large community
based research project to explore the effectiveness of teaching Buteyko in a general medical practice setting. There are
many anecdotal reports about life changing improvements with Buteyko as well as a number of randomised controlled trials
showing improvements in asthma.
In light of the social and economic burden of asthma, and the potential that the Buteyko breathing technique can offer
in improving this, it is clear that advocacy groups such as the Asthma Foundation contributing to research is extremely
What is Buteyko?
Buteyko is a strategy to retrain dysfunctional breathing. It is based on the postulation that asthma, along with several
other disorders, is the result of a dysfunctional breathing pattern.
Dr Konstantin Buteyko, a Russian physician, developed the method in the 1940’s to treat conditions including asthma,
allergies, sleeping disorders and hypertension. He found that hyperventilation (over-breathing) was a primary cause of
these conditions and thus his programme is based on slowing down breathing rates to within normal parameters. The
programme includes guidelines for correct diaphragmatic breathing and most importantly, learning to breathing through
The theory of Buteyko is based on the fact that over-breathing disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our
bodies. In the 19th century it was found that carbon dioxide is responsible for the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin
(the red blood cells). If the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is lower than normal this leads to difficulties in
releasing the oxygen from the haemoglobin [known as the Bohr Effect]. This ultimately leads to oxygen deprivation in the
tissues throughout the body. It also leads to the smooth muscle’s around the airways and blood vessels constricting. Dr
Buteyko maintained that this is what causes chest tightness and is the main factor in blocked noses. Asthma is the
body’s way of attempting to reduce the airflow passing through the lungs in order to reduce the loss of carbon dioxide.
When breathing is brought back into normal parameters, which can be done simply by decreasing the volume we’re
breathing, the carbon dioxide can reach the desired level of 6.5% and asthma symptoms can be relieved. Though most
people may think of it as a poison, carbon dioxide may in fact be responsible for the “breath of life”.