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.