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HyperventilationSyndrome

Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome

Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome is the habit of breathing in excess of normal metabolic requirements.

Symptoms may include:

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Runny nose
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Post nasal drip
  • Hay fever
  • Rhinitis
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Cough
  • Wheeze
  • Colds, flu or chest infections
  • Increased mucus in airways
  • Throat clearing repeatedly
  • Yawning or sighing
  • Chest tightness or constriction
  • Short of breath, breathless
  • Shallow upper chest breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Difficulty in taking a deep breath
  • Dry lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Dental cavities
  • Children develop crooked teeth
  • Snoring
  • Holding your breath during sleep (sleep apnoea)
  • Waking up tired, feeling chronically tired or physically exhausted
  • Bed wetting for children (Nocturnal enuresis)
  • tired after a long sleep, snoring, waking frequently, grinding teeth or still feeling
  • Sleeping badly e.g. insomnia, vivid dreams, nightmares, shuddering
  • reason e.g. fear of stuffy rooms
  • regular yawning
  • Itching, dry skin, eczema or rashes
  • Psoriasis
  • Poor fitness
  • Breathlessness
  • Muscle weakness, ‘jelly’ legs
  • Muscle tightness or cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Increased stress
  • Racing mind
  • Excessive thought activity
  • Depression Mild depression
  • Poor concentration, mental fatigue, confusion, forgetful, ‘spaced out’
  • Short temper, irritable
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Aerophagia (bloated stomach from swallowing air)
  • Constipation with intermittent diarrhoea
  • Bloated abdomen, flatulence or belching
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pains that are not heart-related
  • Pounding, rapid or erratic heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Light-headed or feeling dizzy
  • vertigo

The Buteyko Method is more popularly known in the Western world as a proven method to help with asthma, but its roots actually stem from normalising high blood pressure. In his early twenties, Dr Buteyko was diagnosed with high blood pressure, which propelled him to extensively research the condition during his time at the 1st Moscow Medical Institute. On October 7th 1952, Dr Buteyko was on routine duty at his clinic when he made the connection between his worsening high blood pressure and his poor breathing habits, hypothesising that ‘big breathing’ might be the cause of the disease. In an interview on Russian television Dr Buteyko explained: “I decided to check right away whether that was the case. How? By reducing and slowing down my breathing. I already had a headache, my heart and right kidney were in pain, so I began cutting down on my breathing. My headache disappeared, pain in my right kidney ceased, and heart ache discontinued within less than a minute after I reduced my breathing. To prove it was a true discovery, I inhaled deeply five times and pain pierced my head, heart and kidney. I tried my method again and everything returned to normal.”

Dr Buteyko’s findings have since been confirmed by a growing weight of documented evidence gathered by eminent doctors and scientists supporting the relationship between breathing patterns and a number of health problems.

During the 1960s, chest physician Dr Claude Lum from Papworth hospital in Cambridge wrote extensively to raise awareness of hyperventilation syndrome. In his articles, he discusses how patients suffering from a variety of symptoms caused by over-breathing are often shunted from one medical specialist to another in a bid to get a diagnosis. As doctors try to eliminate potential causes, the patient’s medical file grows thicker but ever more inconclusive as each test comes back negative. While it is obviously good news to find out that there’s nothing seriously wrong with the patient, it can also be very disconcerting not to have a clear diagnosis. I have worked with several clients who have been led to believe that they have a condition unknown to medical science, when the cause of all their symptoms could be explained by their habit of hyperventilation.

Hyperventilation syndrome is usually fairly straightforward to rectify by making a few changes to your breathing habits, but too often the condition goes undiagnosed and uncorrected. Despite poor breathing habits having such a massive effect on the body, doctors still rarely diagnose the condition of hyperventilation syndrome, and this failure to recognise and diagnose poor breathing habits is costing millions of people worldwide a decent quality of life. For society at large, the cost is in the billions, as money is needlessly spent on extra healthcare for conditions that could be avoided through the simple improvement of breathing habits.

Not only does reduced breathing help to prevent and lower high blood pressure, it also offers a wide variety of other health benefits, including improved sleep, increased energy, reduced stress, and an overall improvement to quality of life. In our modern world, it may seem impossible to exist in a stress-free environment, but the worries and pressures of daily life can be made manageable by simply breathing correctly, enabling you to cope with whatever the world throws at you.

Considering the importance of our breathing habits in regulating the amount of oxygen delivered throughout the body, it is surprising to find that very few people know about these basic physiological rules. In sports, yoga, relaxation and general life, we are often told to ‘take deep breaths’ in order to oxygenate the body and calm ourselves down, but this advice inevitably results in a higher breathing volume and poor body oxygenation. So why is it that the benefits of light, undetectable, reduced breathing so unknown? It is difficult to know the exact answer, although a number of points are worth bearing in mind. The first is that air is weightless and therefore difficult to measure, and breathing can change quickly and effortlessly during the measuring process.

According to medical doctors Beverly Timmons and Ronald Ley, the reason why the effects of hyperventilation syndrome have not been fully recognised is that most people who visit healthcare professionals are not taught how to change their poor breathing habits. To demonstrate conclusively that hyperventilation syndrome is the cause of a client’s symptoms, effective breathing re-education is required. Only then, when the link between over-breathing and poor health is recognised, will a monumental shift take place. Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, most doctors are not in a position to teach patients how to reverse chronic over-breathing.

Hyperventilation Syndrome can affect any organ or system to different degrees, resulting in difficulty in diagnosing the problem:

  • Cardiovascular: racing heartbeat, palpitations, pain in the chest region, cold hands and feet, Raynaud’s disease
  • Neurological: vertigo, headache, dizziness, faint feelings, paraesthesiae
  • Respiratory: regular sighing, yawning, shortness of breath, air hunger, frequent cough, tightness of chest, inability to take a deep breath, sniffing, allergies
  • Muscular: cramps, muscle pains, stiffness
  • Psychic: tension, phobias, anxiety, panic, agoraphobia
  • Gastrointestinal: difficulty in swallowing, dry mouth and throat, acid regurgitation, globus (having a lump in one’s throat), heart burn, flatulence, belching, air swallowing, abdominal discomfort
  • General: weakness, exhaustion, impaired memory, poor concentration, disturbed sleep, nightmares, sweating