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My work is about helping people to take control of their asthma  safely and without the need for medication.  In this blog entry you will read about how I transformed myself from an acute asthmatic  with a permanent illness requiring daily drug intake, and hospitalisation from time to time, to a virtual non-asthmatic who is totally free from asthma symptoms, attacks … and medication.

You may not  believe that  this  scenario  is real. It is. I achieved it and any asthmatic  can achieve it too. This non- medical  treatment is based  on  the  life’s work of  Russian respiratory  physiologist, Professor Konstantin Buteyko, who developed a programme of exercises to foster correct breathing. The Buteyko Method  is based on bodily processes, not on a placebo or any other effect. All persons with asthma can learn  it and  use  it; the  method  is very simple,  will entail minimum disruption  to  your  life, and  you will notice  an improvement in as little as seven days. Like I said, you still may not believe this scenario is real. Believe it now.

Asthma was diagnosed  when I was very young. Initially my condition was mild and consisted of just occasional wheezing  and  breathlessness. The  treatment consisted  of using an Intal inhaler.  I only had an attack occasionally, so my asthma didn’t really disrupt my life. When I reached the age of ten, my asthma deteriorated a little so I was prescribed a Ventolin inhaler which guaranteed me immediate  relief from the symptoms. I had to take a Uniphyiulum  tablet each night as well. At the time, just one puff of Ventolin dealt with any breathing  difficulty I experienced. My asthma was under control.

With the best of intentions,  our doctor told my mother that children  with asthma  very often ‘grow out of it’ during their teenage  years. Time and time again, I was assured that this should happen, and it offered a ray of hope for me, but this hope was never realised. As I grew into adulthood,  the dose  needed  to maintain  control  of my asthma  increased. One puff of Ventolin per day was no longer enough.  Soon I was taking  two, five, eight  and  even  ten  puffs a day. My lifestyle during my school and college years didn’t help, but I had my Ventolin inhaler to help me overcome any problems so I wasn’t too concerned about it.

One  weekend, when  I was in my early twenties, I was brought   to  James  Connolly  Memorial   Hospital   with  an asthma  attack, and  I was told that  I was being  treated  for acute asthma. Two weeks of large doses of oral steroids later, I returned  home.

As the years passed, the amount  of medication  I needed continued  to increase. There was no great discussion  about this with my doctor, nor any indication  that the amount  of drugs I needed  would ever decline. It seemed  to me that I was going  steadily downhill, and  I became  gradually more concerned  about the effect that the increasing levels of medication  might be having on my general health and well- being. Many people with asthma can relate to this summary of the  steady progression  of the  condition.  What starts  off as an occasional wheeze soon develops into continuous  symptoms;  while one  puff of medication  deals  with  symptoms in the early stages, dependency  on medication  increases remorselessly.

Over time, my asthma developed into a seriously debilitating condition that prevented  me from taking part in sport and outdoor activities. I always avoided opportunities to play a match  or work out in the  gym. The  physical limitations were one thing, but the stigma attached to me because of my asthma  was another.  I had  ‘weak lungs’, and  I was not  as physically strong as lads of my age. Initially, when I was very young, I thought  it was cool to carry an inhaler – it was a neat gadget that made me different – but as I got older it labelled me in a way I didn’t like. When I realised this, in the succeeding years I always tried to take my inhaler  when there  was no-one else around, for all the world like a secret drinker.

While  I  grappled  with  the  daily  realities  of  having asthma, there were two unanswered  questions  at the back of my mind. When is this ever going to stop? Why am I so inadequate  that  I have to take daily doses  of drugs  merely  to function  normally? I was turning  myself into  a victim, but these  are common  questions  that  will be familiar to many asthma  sufferers. The questions  may not  be voiced openly because complaining  will do little to change what may seem like  an unalterable reality,  but they are still very real concerns.

The first indication I had that there was a viable alternative to taking a Ventolin inhaler in secret arrived in my early twenties, when I happened  upon an article in the Irish Independent newspaper about a breathing  therapy developed by a Russian professor  which seemed  to be effective in helping people with asthma. Over the years, I had already tried acupuncture,  Chinese  herbs,  deep-breathing exercises  and indeed   any  other   therapy  that  I  felt  might   help.  When Buteyko Breathing was featured in a magazine article shortly afterwards, I decided to find out more.

I  started   my   search   for   knowledge   by  contacting Buteyko practitioners  from around  the world via the Inter- net. I learned  as much  as possible about the application  of the  therapy  and  I purchased  the  limited  publications  and videos available at the time. I taught  myself the technique, used it intensively, and I was pleasantly surprised at the rapid effect it had  on my asthma.  Intuitively, I felt that  I understood  the  significance  of Professor Buteyko’s work … even before I began applying it.

In a matter of months, my asthma improved so dramatically that I could reduce my medication  intake significantly. As my condition  continued  to improve and my medication intake continued  to decrease, I felt that for the first time in my life my asthma was under control. The bonus for me was that I had achieved this myself. My days of secretly puffing Ventolin were behind me.