Medics Still out on Buteyko


by Mark Ragg, The Bulletin (Australia); 8 October 1996; p 27.

The medical establishment is not too sure about Buteyko. Apart from its usual scepticism about any alternative to drug treatments, the wariness has not been helped by the initial promotion. When Buteyko first hit Australia less than a decade ago, its promoters, were, to say the least, colourful characters with good marketing know-how and thick hides. They used anti doctor rhetoric setting up a "natural method" versus "big business" dichotomy and claimed Buteyko could treat high blood pressure, heart-failure, and cancer. They were rewarded with extensive media coverage and their courses were well attended.

The original promoters have moved on to Europe, and the franchisees are playing it much straighter. But the concerns of the medical profession and state-based asthma foundations had been aroused, so a study was mounted to measure the effectiveness of Buteyko. The contradictory findings of this research hardly clarified the situation. The study showed that many of the people who completed the course and continued with the training to learn the method - which requires determination - feel better. It also showed that those using Buteyko significantly reduced their use of Ventolin and other forms of asthma medication.

But the theoretical basis of Buteyko - that an increase in Carbon dioxide relieves asthma didn't stand up so well in the research. Those who felt better didn't necessarfly have any change in their carbon dioxide levels. And, measured objectively, their lungs' did not function any better with the new method of breathing.

So, does Buteyko work? Subjectively for those few who maintain the daily practice, undoubtedly yes. Objectively, the scientific evidence is not yet there and many questions remain unanswered. Further research is needed although it is hard to see that happening. The government isn't interested as the Buteyko method costs Medicare nothing. The asthma foundations have had their go and the Buteyko franchisees are already convinced that it works.

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