Tips for better asthma control

Improve your asthma control with these three easy steps:


  1. Only use short-acting bronchodilators, such as Ventolin or Bricanyl to treat actual symptoms.
  2. If you need to use your short-acting bronchodilator more than three times a week, then take an inhaled steroid
  3. Pace yourself so that you can maintain nasal-breathing almost all of the time

These three points are taught in every Buteyko class to people with asthma, and clinical trials of the Buteyko method show a huge reduction in the use of medications and a vast improvement in asthma control.

Instead of taking your short-acting bronchodilator regularly, carry it with you and use it only when you start to experience asthma symptoms.
It has been almost twenty years since I started teaching the Buteyko Breathing Techniques (BBT), and if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I always get asthma when I play sport/go for a walk/fall asleep/etc. so I take my spray beforehand." I would have accumulated a lot of dollars by now. My reply is always the same: 'Now that you are using the Buteyko method, you might not get as many symptoms of asthma, so keep your inhaler with you, use it if you need it, but don't use it unless you need it."
The reason behind this advice is because it is a basic Buteyko premise to use short-acting bronchodilators in this way that is completely backed up by hundreds of studies that have been conducted by doctors around the world show that the over-use of bronchodilators worsens asthma control. Worsening asthma control is when asthma becomes dangerous. People with well-controlled asthma do not usually have troublesome asthma, but instead those who are using more and more short-acting bronchodilators frequently find themselves in hospital.

If you need to use your short-acting bronchodilator more than three times in a week, then take your inhaled steroid.
There are numerous studies that show the regular use of inhaled steroids improve asthma control, and therefore reduce the need for short-acting bronchodilators. This is why international asthma management advice recommends that when bronchodilators are regularly used more than three times a week, that inhaled steroids are also used.
Many people do not like the side-effects of inhaled steroid, that include oral thrush, a change to voice tone, thinning of the vocal folds and easy bruising, and so they use their short-acting bronchodilator more frequently than is good for them. By using a spacer to deliver the inhaled steroid and gargling and spitting out after taking it help to diminish some of the side effects, and remember that the alternative (loss of asthma control) is by far a worse option.
However, there is one safe way to avoid using inhaled steroids, and this is to cut the need for taking bronchodilators several times a week by improving your over-all asthma control. The Buteyko method has been shown in every clinical trial to be able to reduce symptoms and improve control so that the need for these types of drugs drops by about 90%!

Pace yourself so that you can maintain nasal-breathing almost all the time
Professional boxers need to be extremely fit because they not only are constantly on the move during a fight, but they are using lots of energy to punch or receive punches. If you watch a fight you will notice that boxers breathe through their nose for virtually the whole fight. If they start breathing through their mouth the commentator will say that fighter X is getting tired and things are not going well for him or her.
Most of us do not fight in a ring for a living, but when you breathe badly – especially through your mouth - lots of things are harder to do than when you breathe correctly. For instance, breathing through your mouth means that your airways cool down and dry out so much that they can ache or sting when you exercise in cold weather.
Breathing through your mouth doesn't drive as much oxygen into the air sacs as nasal-breathing, which results in less of it delivered to your muscles, brain and all other tissue cells. This creates lack of stamina and increased fatigue.
Chronic mouth-breathing children do not learn to leave their tongue on the roof of their mouth and so the upper palate doesn't develop the correct width that allows plenty of room for teeth and the potential for normal facial development.
Saliva helps to protect teeth and gums against disease. Mouth-breathing dries out saliva, putting you at greater risk from expensive health problems.
It is important therefore for all people to concentrate on breathing through their nose, just like they did when they were babies. The more you breathe through your nose, the more you are able to breathe through it. The more you breathe through your mouth, the less possible nasal-breathing becomes.
To get your nose clear, try the following exercise:

  • Sit down
  • Exhale gently – i.e. do not try to empty your lungs, but just exhale in a normal fashion
  • Before you inhale again, shut your mouth if it is open and close your nostrils by pinching them together so that you cannot inhale or exhale.
  • Being careful that you do not hurt your neck, nod your head until you need to breathe.
  • Continue to keep your mouth closed, stop pinching your nostrils closed and try to breathe softly and gently through your nose.
  • If possible, keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose, but if it feels too difficult to do this, then repeat the exercise.

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