Asthma: a breath of fresh air

Research at Johns Hopkins Medical Center casts serious doubt on the prevailing medical opinion about the cause of asthma and suggests a whole new way of thinking about a disease that affects growing numbers of people today, especially children.

Until now, doctors assumed that asthmatics were hypersensitive to irritants such as dust, pollen, or pollutants. This hypersensitivity was thought to cause the airways in the lungs to constrict, blocking airflow and leaving patients out of breath. This process of constriction of the pulmonary airways was assumed to be absent in non-asthma patients.

But the new study strongly suggests that everyone is susceptible to asthma attacks, and that the crucial difference between asthmatics and non-asthmatics lies in how well they can breathe after the initial assault on their system, specifically how efficiently they can breathe. deep to reinflate. your lungs and clear blocked airways.

The researchers used the inhalant drug methachlor to deliberately constrict the airways of non-asthmatics. Subjects were then told NOT to take deep breaths. “Non-asthmatics suddenly began to have breathing difficulties very similar to those of asthmatics,” said Dr. Alkis Tongias, leader of the group conducting the study. “This is exactly the reaction we would expect if asthma is caused by impaired muscle relaxation (in the lungs) triggered by deep breathing.”

Dr. Marshall Plaut, chief of the allergic mechanisms section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commented: “These are somewhat unpredictable findings … if deep breathing has a critical effect on how the body relaxes. lung, it is a mechanism that is not well understood and needs more study “.

F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique, knew from his own experience a thing or two about shortness of breath and how to overcome this problem. As early as 1903, he wrote: “Imagine the folly of narrowing an air tube when you want to force a larger volume of air through it: and yet this is exactly what happens in ordinary breathing.” When Alexander began teaching his method, he was known as the “breathing man” because he was able to help many of his students regain full use of their breathing mechanisms.

Could it be that asthmatics are particularly prone to constricting their nostrils and throat when they try to take a deep breath? And could it be that this is caused by bad breathing habits, habits that may well have been learned in early childhood? If so, a re-education like the one provided by the Alexander Technique could make a big difference in their lives.

Written by Robert Rickover

September 6, 2020
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