How we breathe affects so many aspects of our everyday health, says local expert as World Asthma Day approaches

A Galway based bestselling author claims that the secret to weight loss, fitness, and wellness lies in the most basic and most overlooked function of our bodies - how we breathe.

Patrick McKeown, who teaches the Buteyko Breathing Method and is the author of eight books, including three bestsellers, Asthma Free Naturally, Close Your Mouth and Anxiety Free, received a six figure publishing deal last year from HarperCollins in the United States for his forthcoming book.

Entitled The Oxygen Advantage, it proposes a simple yet revolutionary approach to improving your body’s oxygen use, improving your health, increasing weight loss, and sports performance.

He says his system can work for anyone, whether you are a recovering couch potato or an Ironman triathlon champion.

“One of the biggest obstacles to better health and fitness is a rarely identified problem: chronic over-breathing,” claims Mr McKeown, who had extensive health problems, including asthma until he discovered the Buteyko Breathing System.

“We often take many more breaths than we need - without realising it - contributing to poor health and fitness, including a host of disorders, from anxiety and asthma to insomnia and heart problems.”

In the forthcoming book, which is due for release in September and which took him four years to research and write, he outlines how oxygen is released throughout the body and states that by improving everyday breathing habits, body oxygenation becomes more efficient. The publication also offers specially-designed breath holding exercises which provide the same benefits as high altitude training.

“My mission is to empower people to take control of their own health, wellbeing and fitness using simple breathing exercises proven to improve body oxygenation,” he says.

Patrick McKeown was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and later studied under the auspices of the Russian founder of the Buteyko Method; the late Dr Konstantin Buteyko. He is one of the few people in the western world accredited by the late Professor Buteyko to teach his system.

From a very young age, he suffered from asthma and relied on a selection of medicines and inhalers until he discovered this breathing method at the age of 26.

By applying the principals from Dr Buteyko, he said he experienced immediate relief from his asthmatic symptoms - “a feat that over 20 years of medication had failed to accomplish”. Learning to breathe through his nose and reducing his breathing volume positively changed his life in many ways. For the first time, his asthma was under control. This life-changing discovery motivated him to switch career in order to help children and adults who suffered from similar breathing problems.

On his return from Russia in 2002, he began teaching the Buteyko Method in Australia, the USA and throughout Europe. He has also addressed a number of dental and respiratory conferences throughout the world.

The Buteyko breathing method has recently been endorsed by the Global Initiative for Asthma, one of the world’s leading expert bodies on the condition. Mr McKeown claims the system has no side effects and gives children and adults the tools they need to “significantly improve their asthma control and reduce their need for medication”.

World Asthma Day takes place on May 5. The condition affects 500,000 people in Ireland (the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world ) and accounts for up to one quarter of emergency department admissions.

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