This is a very readable book. It aims to introduce the reader to Professor Buteyko's work on the treatment of respiratory disease, particularly asthma. A foreword by Buteyko endorses Stalmatski's authority to present the material. He starts by asserting that this method 'is an effective and drug free treatment for asthma and some 150 other disorders.' He explains that Buteyko believes that asthma is the result of overbreathing and consequent deficit of carbon dioxide in the blood and body tissues, which results in less oxygen being available for cellular respiration. To most of us this is a revolutionary idea and Stalmatski's cavalier approach could well be toned down to help communicate these ideas.
In Chapter 2 the contributions of two physiotherapists and several patients lend credence to Stalmatski's claims and he goes on to focus on the rise in the incidence of asthma, the pathology of the disease, trigger factors and explains why, in his view, modern orthodox treatments are unsatisfactory. He states that whilst every week 40 people die from asthma in this country, reminding the reader of the seriousness of the condition, the use of bronchodilators is making respiratory conditions worse in most cases. According to Buteyko the development of powerful bronchodilators has made asthma a fatal illness in some individuals, a view that was expressed in the British Medical Journal in 1968. He explains that because of the 'Verigo-Bohr' effect, as carbon dioxide levels fall in the body the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin gets stronger and adequate oxygenation of the body is not achieved. Asthma, he claims, is the message that the body expresses to stop overbreathing and conventional treatments help you to override the message. Stalmatski claims that retraining breath control will reset the respiratory centre in the medulla to tolerate higher levels of carbon dioxide in the blood with 'tremendous positive implications for our health'.
His message is somewhat repetitive as he discusses sport, nasal disorders, allergies and asthma in children. But included in the text are some interesting views on the use of steroids and other drugs, the idea that hyperventilation in pregnancy can affect the foetus and the role food plays in worsening hyperventilation.
The content of this book is highly controversial when one considers the difference between the Buteyko approach to the treatment of respiratory disease and other approaches. The actual technique is not fully described and it is made clear that to learn the Buteyko method attending a workshop is necessary. The appendices do provide more detailed physiological information and include records of two studies done to demonstrate the effectiveness of the method. I am sure anyone who reads this book will find it challenges what most of us have been taught about breath control and it may be a very important milestone in developing our understanding of human physiology.
Richard Farrer Richard Farrer first studied acupuncture at Leamington Spa in the UK, graduating in 1985. This was followed by a two year course in Chinese herbs at the School of Chinese Herbal Medicine. He qualified as a chartered physiotherapist in 1994 and now runs a practice in Leicester in the UK, combining oriental and western approaches.