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June 2018

Buteyko Breathing for Asthma: Help or Hype?

The Buteyko breathing method is gaining traction as a natural treatment for asthma. Some fans of the method claim that it can reduce asthma symptoms by teaching people a more efficient pattern of breathing. But what does the scientific evidence show?

Woman outdoors, with her eyes closed

What’s the Buteyko method?

Although the Buteyko method has been around since the 1950s, it has become more popular in recent years. Some people with asthma have abnormal breathing patterns, such as:

  • Overly rapid breathing

  • A pattern in which old, stale air gets trapped inside the lungs, leaving less room for new, fresh air

The Buteyko method aims to combat these problems with breathing exercises.

Breathing lessons vs. asthma meds

One research review looked at studies on the Buteyko method and other breath-training approaches, such as the Papworth method and yoga breathing. The results suggested that breath training might be helpful for asthma. But the evidence wasn’t strong enough to draw any firm conclusions.

In contrast, a mountain of evidence shows that asthma medicines work. By using the right medicine in the right way, most people with asthma can keep their illness under control, often with few symptoms. They are able to lead full, active lives. And they can sleep without asthma symptoms disturbing them.

Tips on breathing easier

If you’re thinking about trying the Buteyko method, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Continue taking your asthma medicines as prescribed. Also talk with your doctor about ways to stay away from things that trigger your symptoms.

  • Discuss breath-training approaches with your healthcare team. They may be able to recommend specific breathing techniques to try.

  • Practice your breathing exercises for 5 to 10 minutes every day. Although such exercises may sound easy, they can take a while to master.


Try a new technique

Pulmonary rehab specialists often teach patients two breathing techniques called pursed-lip breathing and belly breathing. Watch short videos on these techniques.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gonnella, Joseph, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2018
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