Each morning, Nicole’s alarm clock starts to beep. With as little movement as possible, she turns it off before it wakes up our super-sensitive son in the next room. Remaining in the same position, she inhales and exhales softly through her nose. Then she plugs her nose and starts a stopwatch.
1 second. 2 seconds. 3 seconds…. 9 seconds.
For the longest time that’s how long she could hold her breath without discomfort. When she’d reach nine seconds she’d feel the need to breathe. As mentioned in a previous post, this is a simple test developed by the the Russian scientist, Dr. Konstantin Buteyko. He called it the morning control pause (MCP). The test measures how sensitive your brain is to carbon dioxide. The more CO2 in your blood, the the better your blood circulates and the more oxygen your hemoglobin releases into your body cells. From an English translation of the 1994 edition of the Small Buteyko Manual:
Other organs, of course, includes the pancreas. Part of Nicole’s daily protocols for managing type-1 diabetes, eliminating its complications and healing the beta cells, has been to retrain her body to breathe slower and less. The slower and less she breathes, the higher her CO2. The higher her CO2 the better her body will heal and repair. The goal is to reach a morning control pause of at least 35 seconds. According to Dr. Artour Rakhimov, medical professionals in Russia found that diabetes did not exist if one scored 35-40 seconds.
So I thought I’d share with you a chart showing Nicole’s progress with breathing retraining. Nearly every morning for the last eight months we’ve been recording her morning control pause. The main column to pay attention to is the “mean” — the average MCP score for each week.
You’ll notice it starts off higher and then gets lower. Nicole attributes this to becoming more proficient at doing the test. It’s easy, at the beginning, to misjudge when the body feels the urge to breathe. I’ve seen many people hold their breath for 25 seconds, release their nose, and gasp for air. That is not a control pause — more like a maximum pause.
Below is a copy of Nicoel’s chart. No, it’s not a Suduko puzzle…
You’ll notice that Nicole’s MCP got stuck at 8-9s from March until May. In May she finally broke through to 10s and then kept on going up one second a week. What changed? Up until May she had been using a breathing retraining device which is based on the Buteyko Method. Despite using it 90-120 minutes a day, she was making no progress. In May she switched to 60 minutes a day of the “classic” Buteyko Reduced Breathing Method. This approach involves no devices. Instead, it’s a breathing exercise done in rounds of 4-minutes of each, two to six rounds per session. It teaches the brain to become accustomed to higher and higher levels of CO2. This naturally and gradually appears to reduce the rate at which we breathe.
Clearly, the classic method worked much better for Nicole. It allowed her to pass the 9s mark. According to the Buteyko Table of Health Zones a MCP below 10s indicates a terminally ill state. Nicole has now been promoted to merely “chronically sick.” Her next target is to achieve a 20s CP in the morning, graduating to “moderate symptoms and low energy.” She is already reaching 20s during the day. So give her another two to three months.
Thinking outside the type-1 matrix,
–John C. A. Manley
P.S. In future posts, I plan to write about what improvements Nicole has seen as her MCP increases. . Until then, you can get more detailed instructions on how to test your MCP by reading DIY Body Oxygenation Test: Instructions for People with Type-1 Diabetes.
P.P.S. For detailed studies, theory and information about breathing retraining I highly recommend Breathing Slower and Less by Dr. Artour Rakhimov. Available from amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk.