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Before you commence breathing  retraining,  it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the roles played by the respiratory system and carbon dioxide in your body. Your respiratory system consists of the parts of your body used for the delivery of oxygen from the atmosphere to your cells and tissues, and for transporting the carbon dioxide produced  in your tissues back into the atmosphere.  If cells and tissues are to function properly – if you are to live – your body needs the atmosphere’s oxygen. Your nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea,  bronchi  and  lungs  are all part  of your respiratory system.

Part of your airways is your nose and mouth.  Through them,  air enters  your body and  flows down  a flexible tube called the trachea. This tube eventually divides into two branches called bronchi: one branch enters the left lung and the  other  branch  enters  the  right.  Within  your  lungs,  the bronchi   further   subdivide  into  an  estimated   twenty-five smaller  branches  called  bronchioles.  The  bronchioles  run into  alveolar ducts and at the  end  are small air sacs called alveoli.

Look at it another  way. Imagine  an upside-down  tree. The trachea is the trunk; at the top of the trunk are the two large branches of the bronchi. From each of these large branches  grow the  smaller  branches  of the  bronchioles.  At the  end  of each smaller  branch  are the  ‘leaves’, the  round balloon-shaped sacs called alveoli.

When  you breathe  in, air enters  through  your nose  or mouth  and flows into the trachea, the bronchi, bronchioles and  eventually alveoli. The grape-like  alveoli – after which they  are  named  – are  surrounded by tiny  blood  channels called  capillaries.  Oxygen  enters   the   blood   by  passing through  a very thin  barrier  between  the  capillaries and  air sacs. It is then carried by what is called haemoglobin within the blood to tissues and cells. There are approximately three hundred  million alveoli in the lungs, each of which is surrounded by tiny blood vessels.

To put this huge  number  in context, think  of Wimbledon and imagine a tennis court. The area of contact between your alveoli and blood capillaries is equivalent to the size of a tennis  court; as you can imagine, this massive area provides scope for an efficient transfer of oxygen from the air to your blood. Carbon dioxide is produced  as an end product of the process  of breaking  down  the  fats and  carbohydrates  that you eat, and this gas is brought by your venous blood vessels to your lungs where the excess is exhaled. Crucially, part of your body’s quotient  of carbon dioxide is retained  when you exhale, and correct breathing  results in the required  amount of carbon dioxide being retained in your lungs.

There are two main aspects to the way you breathe. Your rate is the number of breaths you take in one minute and your volume is the amount of air drawn into your lungs. Although the two are separate, one generally influences the other. The volume of air we inhale and exhale is measured  in litres, and measurements are usually taken over one minute. In conventional  medicine, the accepted number  of breaths a healthy  person  takes in one  minute  is ten  to twelve, with each breath  drawing in a volume of 500 millilitres. In a full minute, this provides the body with a total volume of five to six litres. If a person  is breathing  at a higher  rate of twenty breaths,  for example, then  the  volume  will also be higher, and vice-versa. To visualise this amount  of air, imagine  how much air would be contained  in a two-litre soft drink bottle.

So, now you know how the respiratory system works, and you or someone  close to you has been  diagnosed  with asthma. Where  to  now? A  lifetime  of drug  therapy?  Or  a proven, natural,  physiology-based  way of reversing  what  can  be  a debilitating condition? A   new  beginning   is  emerging  in  the  treatment  of asthma, aimed at getting to the root cause of the problem. By addressing  the cause rather than the symptoms  that are the effect, sufferers  finally have  the  ability to  be  able  to  take control  of their  own condition,  naturally and  permanently. This new beginning  is based  on the  life’s work of Russian scientist, Professor Konstantin Buteyko.

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