Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko
Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko was born in Ivanitsa (Ukraine) in 1923. He devoted his life to studying the human organism and made one of the most profound discoveries in the history of medicine.
Buteyko commenced medical training in Russia in 1946 at First Medical Institute of Moscow and one of his practical assignments was to monitor terminally ill patients breathing prior to death. After 100s of hours of observation and recording, he was able to predict the time of death of these patients due to their increase in breathing.
During his studies, Buteyko was diagnosed with malignant hypertension with a life expectancy of 12 months.
Under guidance, he researched his illness in-depth yet there was very little he could do to reverse it.
After majoring in clinical therapy in 1952 with his condition getting worse he wondered if deep breathing could be the cause. He tested it by reducing his breathing and within minutes his headache, the pain in his right kidney, and his heartache ceased. To confirm his discovery, he took five deep breaths and the pain returned. He again reversed his deep breathing and the pain disappeared. He did not realise at that time that this was one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. Later Buteyko established that breathing, so vital in sustaining life, can be not alone the cure but also, amazingly, the cause of so many diseases of civilisation.
As a clinician, Dr. Buteyko’s next step was to seek out the theory which would support his discovery. The data available in 1952 from authors like Bohr, Werigo, De Costa, Henderson, Holden, Priestly seemed to confirm his hypothesis. It was known at that time that exhaling carbon dioxide by deep breathing resulted in spasms which decreased the supply of oxygen to vital organs, including the brain thus making one breathe deeper again.
This completed a vicious circle.
Many years of research followed, working on the theoretical aspects of his discovery at the Central and Lenin Medical Libraries and later he devised a program to measure breathing and also a method of reconditioning patients’ breathing to normal levels. This involved changing from mouth breathing to nasal breathing. Relaxation of the diaphragm until an air shortage is felt and small lifestyle changes to fully recover.
The medical community was skeptical but Dr. Buteyko persisted by doing clinical research.
He started with a mixed group (healthy & sick) of 200 people in 1959. In 1960 he demonstrated to the Scientific Forum at the Institute the correlation between depth of breathing, carbon dioxide levels in the body, and state of health. Receiving some support only from Professor Meshalkin, the chairman of the Forum, the following years he continued his research with a team of 200 qualified medical personnel and using the most up-to-date technology. By 1967 over 1000 patients with asthma, and other illnesses had recovered from their conditions using his methods. After the closure of his laboratory and repression, in 1968 due to growing public support Health Minister Academician Petrovsky, promised that he would endorse acceptance of the Buteyko Method as an acceptable standard medical practice if Buteyko could demonstrate an 80% success rate with patients. This was to be based on scientific evaluation of severe cases which were not treatable by conventional health practices. 46 patients were taught his method and all of them were officially diagnosed as cured however, falsified results were forwarded to the Minister resulting in the closure of Buteyko’s laboratory.
In 1980, following trials in Leningrad and at the First Moscow Institute of Pediatric Diseases, the Buteyko Breathing Method was officially acknowledged as having a 100% success rate. This research was directed by the Soviet Ministry’s Committee for Science and Technology. The USSR Committee on Inventions and Discoveries formally acknowledged Buteyko’s discovery in 1983 and issued the patent entitled “The method of treatment of hypocapnia”, (Authors certificate No. 1067640 issued on Sept. 15th, 1983). Interestingly, the date of the discovery as listed in the document was backdated to Jan. 29th, 1962. His discovery was officially recognised 20 years after it had been made.
Over 200 medical professionals teach this therapy at present from centers located in major towns throughout Russia. Buteyko wrote over 50 scientific publications detailing the relationship between respiration and carbon dioxide and at least 5 Ph.D. dissertations were written by his colleagues. The basis of the BBM detailing the relationship between CO2 and breath holding-time forms part of the medical curriculum at Universities.
In 2003 Professor Buteyko parted from this world. He was buried in Feodosia, Crimea.
In 1990 the Buteyko Breathing Method was brought outside Russia to Australia by Sasha Stalmatski. In 1995 Stalmatski brought this method to the UK and, for a number of years, it has been practiced at the famous Hale Clinic.
It is estimated that over the past 5 decades more than 100,000 people have learned and applied this therapy in Russia, some 25,000 in Australia and New Zealand, and many 1000s in the UK.
Buteyko’s Method challenges the belief that overbreathing is beneficial and also uncovers many causes of illness unexplained by modern medicine. It seems extraordinary that modern medicine, with all its research and resources, human, technical and scientific, has continually failed to verify the link between overbreathing and various medical conditions, notably asthma. The medical community has a hard time accepting non-pharmacological discoveries.