Breathing is such an automatic process that we’re not usually aware of it unless there is a problem. It comes as a shock when you notice that you’re having difficulty breathing. And it’s easy for panic to set in.
I’ve been an occasional asthmatic for over 20 years.
Initially diagnosed after the birth of my daughter – for two or three years I had quite bad episodes but since that time I’ve been affected less often.
My airways tend to react in late spring / early summer, after a cold or virus and after any kind of exercise. Especially if moving from a cold environment into a heated one.
I guess I would classify myself as having mild symptoms. While I always have puffers with me I only use them when I need them.
The last time I needed to use them I had a virus – my asthma kicked in quite quickly and I started taking my puffers. But instead of relieving the symtoms I felt very shaky, anxious and had slight palpitations.
This was almost more frightening than the tightness, wheezing and breathing difficulty I was experiencing! Although I don’t use them regularly they were my security blanket.
So when I came across the book “Dynamic Breathing – how to manage your asthma” in my local library I borrowed it. I’ve renewed the book thrice now and have reread it as many times.
It appealed to me because it seemed to offer some practical help for asthmatic sufferers.
In all the 20 years that I’ve had asthma I’ve attended asthma clinics and been shown how to use inhalers but I’ve not been given any practical ideas for self help or management of symptoms. So I was hoping to find some helpful information but not really expecting too much.
What a pleasant surprise! Although it is only a slim volume it packs a great deal of information both scientific and practical into it’s 100 pages ( including appendixes and references).
Just to whet your appetite I’ve jotted down just a few of the topics covered in the book. I’ve selected items which I found interested me and which I would like to draw your attention to.
The list could easily have contained another half dozen topics from the book.
There are equally important chapters on the diaphragm and the surrounding muscles, exercises, posture and body mechanics, stretching and movement and of course information on medication and various other aspects.
The main reason I picked these topics from Dynamic Breathing is that I was amazed by what I read. That bad breathing habits could be contributing to the unpleasant symptoms of an asthmatic episode was a complete surprise to me. Also all three topics illustrate different aspects of the book, both the explanations of why your breathing is important and also the practical techniques which are found throughout the book.
Take the first item on my list Why Nose-Belly breathing is best.
- Over the years I’ve been aware that how we breathe is important – I’ve gone to Yoga classes, read books and such but I didn’t know that some of the unpleasant panicky feelings I was experiencing during asthmatic episodes could have been made worse by my breathing patterns.
- Dynamic Breathing explains in great detail just what happens in both good “nose-belly” and bad ‘mouth-chest” breathing patterns. The book explains how bad breathing patterns can disturb your body chemistry. One of the reasons for this is that during mouth-chest breathing carbon dioxide levels can drop too low causing a variety of symptoms which can aggravate the original asthma symptoms.
symptoms caused by a sudden drop in carbon dioxide levels – racing heart or feeling faint, for instance – understandably lead to tension, anxiety or panicky feelings. Page 10 – Dynamic Breathing
mouth breathing flushes out too much carbon dioxide….. mast cells in the tissues…give warning signals to the airways… activating higher histamine levels in the blood and triggering bronchoconstriction…..blood flow to the brain may be reduced….. leads to feelings of suffocation and panic. Page 11 – Dynamic Breathing
- Not only does the book explain why these effects happen it explains why good “nose-belly” breathing helps and how to exercise to make nose-belly breathing a habit.
Next on my list is Why nasal and sinus health is important
- Think of your nasal passages and sinuses as the bouncers at the club doorway – they are there to stop the harmful substances getting through to your delicate lungs. They’re protecting you 24 hrs a day if you’re a nose breather. Of course if you’re a mouth breather then you’ve no protection at all – the troublemakers just breeze straight in.
- Because the nasal passages and sinuses filter the air they are often the first to be affected by any irritants. Dynamic Breathing explains why it’s so important to look after your nasal passages and sinuses. There are also recipes for a nasal wash and instruction traction for sinus congestion relief.
When the nose is affected by an allergen or congestion this can also trigger bronchoconstriction.
With nose-breathing, air enters the body in a more controlled flow; making acute hyperventilation virtually impossible. Page 15 – Dynamic Breathing
Last on my list is How to cough easily and without straining
- Although this sounds gross – Dynamic Breathing explains a technique which will enable you to clear your airways without straining or making your symptoms worse.
- The ACBT technique is explained in detail. It makes use of the nose-belly breathing learned in the earlier part of the book and alternates with mouth breathing to help clear the airways.
- There are also tips and hints to try to overcome the dry irritating cough which can be so exhausting.
This is a book which bears reading and re-reading.
The authors, Dinah Bradley and Tania Clifton-Smith have produced a book which I am certain will be a great help to asthma sufferers and their families.
Further reading: Asthma Statistics in UK