Curing my Asthma in 7 days: The Missing 4HB Chapter

Asthma is something that many millions of people live with every day, and for some of us, it can make life difficult. Having had mild to moderate asthma for years, I always thought the correct action was to rely on my Ventolin puffer, and make sure that it was always close by. I lived through years of sucking down the shot of foul tasting spray, to feel a full breath in fill my lungs, and allow me to play the sports I enjoy, and not worry about getting wheezy or having an attack. Well, turns out there’s a drug free option that can work just as well for symptoms, and may be healthier in the long-term.

Firstly, I want to make sure that we’re both clear on this being an option for asthma suffers, and one that should be discussed with a doctor. Though this is a simple article that describes a technique used popularly, that doesn’t mean it’s not potentially dangerous for some people, or should be done without planning and forethought. The title refers to the fact that my symptoms were alleviated in a week.

The key to asthma is understanding what it is, and what it isn’t. You see, I grew up thinking it was a lack of oxygen. That made sense to me – being lightheaded, wanting more air in, etc. It made sense. And so then, having a couple of puffs from the inhaler soon released me from that tight grip around my lungs, and allowed more air to flow.

As it turns out, this might be staring at the band aid, without considering what caused the cut, and missing the whole point that in fact ‘next time’ doesn’t have to be inevitable.

You see, asthma isn’t about oxygen.

Asthma is about CO2.

I’ll say that again. Asthma is about Carbon Dioxide, not oxygen.

In actual fact, if you can take a moment with me to stretch our minds a little, Asthma is actually a symptom of an underlying chemical issue in the blood stream – one that could be caused by a few different causes.

The shortness of breath experienced from asthma tends to make us worried, which means we breath more. But I need to take a moment to look at where it starts. The initial response that we feel, on a conscious level – that is, the tightening of the lungs, is actually a reaction to something we don’t feel – low levels of CO2 in the bloodstream, lower than the average person.

A bit of background

The human body balances CO2 levels and oxygen levels in the blood. As we use us the oxygen we have breathed in, the CO2 levels rise, eventually leading to us breathing again, to reduce the CO2 level, and raise the oxygen level again. This is the process that happens with every breath we take.

So let’s think hypothetically for a minute. Let’s say that there’s a situation that is causing our CO2 levels to be lower than usual – that means we have extra oxygen in our blood. Will the body feel like taking another breath, or will it want to delay it? It wants to delay, for the fact that breathing again will only throw this balance further out of whack. What’s an alternative to breathing less frequently?

You guessed it. Tightening up the airways, so that less ‘air’ comes in. This also has the effect of limiting oxygen intake.

So, ironically, all these years I thought I didn’t have enough oxygen, I actually had too much.

Now let’s get real

Ventolin makes us more comfortable, in our conscious experience of being in our body, because we feel emotionally relaxed feeling like we can breathe more clearly again. But, under the surface, it’s letting in more oxygen than the body wants, and therefore leaving us with very low levels of CO2. That can’t be good. And like many modern medicines, I don’t believe it is. And here’s a nasty little fact: Asthma deaths have risen since the advent of modern Asthma medication.

Treating a symptom for the benefit of our cheery dispositions was all well and good in the golden age of advertising, but these days I like to think we’re all a little more sophisticated than just ‘taking the pill’ and not thinking about the underlying reasons for something.

Asthma is common enough that its worth considering the underlying biology in the body!

Over time, asthmatics tend to become accustomed to that Ventolin affect, and everything is business as usual. Except, it’s not really, because we carry around some weird little plastic thing full of chemicals with us wherever we go. That’s not something I’d prefer to be doing routinely.

So, enter, in the blue corner, the sensible theory behind the glitz of the pharmaceuticals. Dr Buteyko is a Russian doctor who developed a technique that not only helps us take in a bit less oxygen, but also tolerate higher levels of CO2 in the bloodstream (this will help if we’re having asthma symptoms due to a lower tolerance for CO2 levels in the bloodstream).

The key here is that this program is simple, fast and can be very effective. Secondly, consider that common modern chemical asthma medicines could actually be making things worse, not better.

The Program

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the method. At first, I was expecting something complex, some combination of tricky exercises, or something and I was even a little disappointed when I found out how simple it is. However, simple things are easy to follow, and easy to replicate, time and time again, and persistence is key with this.

Choose a week where you have your average commitments, but nothing too out of the ordinary going on. I suggest this, because the program will take some time out of your day, and you don’t want to miss too many sessions.

We’re going to start with 7 days, as a test, and check the results after that. We’re going to use a log, so we can measure any progress. Before you tell me you don’t have a stopwatch, if you have a cellphone, you have a stopwatch. It might just take some finding.

The Technique

It is so simple, that I am surprised people charge money for this very same technique, however, that’s the way of the world I guess.

Step 1 is to do a simple breathing test – take 2 normal breaths, then breathe out and hold your breathe. Time this – you goal is 60 seconds – when I started I had trouble getting 5 seconds. So wherever you start is just fine. Record your time in your log in seconds.

Step 2: Breathe for 5 minutes using your nose only. Take shallow breaths, and keep your mouth closed. This is an important key. Now do the Step 1 breathing test again. See if it’s any better. Record your time in your log in seconds.

Step 3: Repeat the above routine 4 times.

That’s one session – it literally is that simple. You could do it watching TV, for example, or reading, or just relaxing on the sofa.

The important ingredient of this technique: Repetition.

The above session should be done 3 or 4 times a day. That means once in the morning, once when you get home from work, and once before bed, most likely. But choose times that work for you. Best not times when you’re heavily exerting yourself, or recovering from heavy exertion (like kettlebells).

Do this for 7 days, and most likely your symptoms will improve.

The exercises help your body in 2 ways, and from doing this, you will find that breathing feels a little different.

Interestingly, the ‘cat vomit’ exercise has an element of this in it, with the breath being held after an exhale, however, the rest of the breathing is deep, so it may counteract the benefits. It’s a good idea to do this above technique, even if you feel like you’re getting good breathing exercises some other way. This is very specific to trying to improve Asthma symptoms.

Of course, everyone is different, and not everyone will get results from this technique, however the majority will – and you’re likely to be in the majority. Before you change any medications, or even try this though, I want to recommend you speak with your doctor and discuss it. Better safe than sorry.

And that’s really it! Personally, I have experimented with this technique and have had good results. I no longer use an inhaler at sports events, and have also found that I instinctively control my breathing when under heavy exertion – I tend to breathe more slowly, and hold a breath, then breath out, and hold it again. I have also trained using the exhale-hold breath in between sprints and found it very useful in controlling symptoms even under heavy load.

I’m sure you can find the time to give this a try, and please, if you have friends who experience asthma, let them know about this technique too, by hitting the Share button in the orange bar at the bottom of the screen. It’s worth noting that the slow carb diet can also improve asthma symptoms, as it is anti inflammatory and avoids gluten and dairy, and these can be related for some asthma sufferers.

If you’d like to learn more, Amazon has an excellent selection of books and DVDs on the subject.

Here are some excellent options:

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6 Responses to Curing my Asthma in 7 days: The Missing 4HB Chapter

  • Thanks for this post. My wife’s asthma has been getting worse and worse (under heavy asthma medication). If this helps at all it will be wonderful. Thank you!

    • Luke says:

      All the best Bryan, I hope it helps her. Of course, nothing should be done without consultation of your doctor, especially considering she needs heavy medication at the moment.
      All the best,

  • When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thank you!

    • Luke says:

      Hi Fotele,

      It sounds like you’re getting a few too many emails! As you subscribed, I don’t have a control over those emails that are sent. I would suggest creating a filter in your inbox if they’re bothering you.


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