Asthma Triggers

It is obvious to anyone with asthma that breathing increases before you get the symptoms.

The word 'asthma' comes from the Greek word for "panting" and to most people, it means attacks of difficulty breathing. The usual symptoms include chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and feeling tired.

Another name for asthma is Reversible Obstructive Airway Disease (ROAD). This means that asthma is a condition where there are episodes of reversible narrowing of the tiny airways, making breathing difficult. In between these occasions, there are periods where breathing is relatively normal.

When asthma symptoms are present there is a basic inability to achieve normal rates of airflow, particularly when breathing out, which result in the person wanting to breathe in again before they have finished breathing out.

If you are asthma-prone then you are probably aware of your main 'triggers', which can be

  • Environmental, such as inhaling cold air or pollution
  • Physical, such as doing strenuous exercise
  • Illness-related, such as having a chest infection or a cold
  • Emotional, as when stressed or excited about something
  • Reactions to allergens, such as pollens or dust mite particles

Because most of us seldom pay attention to our breathing until it becomes difficult, we usually link asthma symptoms directly to asthma symptoms, yet according to the Buteyko theory, you are missing out one important link:

Triggers lead to an increase in breathing, and this causes the asthma symptoms.

Most people will recognize that once you have asthma symptoms you breathe harder and faster, which is a normal reaction. You cannot get enough air, so you breathe harder or faster to compensate.

But next time you get asthma, try to remember how you were breathing BEFORE you got the symptoms and you will notice that this harder and faster breathing actually started before the symptoms did. For instance, laughter is a common asthma trigger and so is running. Both of these activities increase the breathing pattern. Do you get asthma before you laugh or do you laugh your way into asthma symptoms?

Once you think about it, it becomes quite obvious to anyone with asthma that you have to breathe more than usual in order to give yourself the symptoms.

Buteyko theory teaches that triggers act like a stress on the body. A stress is anything that makes a change to our internal bodily system - something that keeps our heart beat high or makes us bite our lips. There are many types of stress, including physical, financial, environmental, illness, injury, family and work-related. For example, stress can be caused by exposure to extremes of cold or heat, running up a hill, worrying about the bank balance, being excited about a first date, having an allergy or an infection, as well as a myriad of other things. All stress-causing events increase the breathing pattern and this in turn can cause asthma symptoms in those people who are prone to asthma.

You may even notice that the more you breathe, the more symptoms you seem to have. While many of us spend years eliminating triggers in order to control asthma, it seldom really works because there always seems to be at least one more elusive trigger that you haven't figured out. Once you realise that it is an abnormal breathing pattern that allows triggers to set off symptoms, it makes a whole lot more sense to normalise your automatic breathing pattern. This will give you a much bigger buffer between your stress triggers and asthma symptoms.

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