CO2 to the Rescue: How Breathing Less Can Help Reverse Complications of Type-1 Diabetes

Last November, Nicole felt so weak and nauseated that she couldn’t walk without support. For several weeks, I would have to pushed her into the dialysis clinic in a wheelchair (with our blind son in tow). She started to suffer coughing attacks that led to vomiting. Convincing her to eat more than one meal a day was like convincing a maple tree to dance. Many days, she would sit for hours in a chair, not wanting to talk, read or even listen to music…

Up until this point, Nicole had been seen great improvements in her health. Her blood sugars were better controlled that most people who don’t suffer diabetes (see her 5.0% A1C). Her thyroid levels had fallen into normal range. Her creatinine levels had dropped, despite stage 5 kidney failure. And her latest blood test shows normal cortisol levels, which confirms the results of her last hair mineral analysis, indicating that she had recovered from adrenal insufficiency.

So with all these improvements, why could she barely walk, talk, sleep or eat?

Nicole has been using multiple healing protocols to reverse the nerve damage done to her body from 38 years of type-1 diabetes. With healing, comes healing reactions. Was this detox? I wasn’t totally convinced. It seemed so extreme. If it was a cleansing reaction, it seemed to be exceeding her body’s ability to cope.

And the coughing. The coughing! It would keep her up (and me) the whole night. Nicole has had a long history of chest infections since she was a little girl. Six years ago she spent three months in ICU with pneumonia. Many believe such infections linger in the body, causing chronic health problems. Now that Nicole’s thyroid and adrenal glands had improved, was her body renewing an old war?

If so, we were starting to question if she would survive the battle.

Fortunately, the coughing turned out to be a clue that led us down a new rabbit hole. Anxious to relieve the respiratory problem, I looked into the Buteyko Breathing Method. I had heard about it in passing. All I really knew was that it was a breathing retraining program created by a Russian doctor who worked for the Soviet space program. I also knew it taught that deep breathing (at rest) was dangerous. Strange, I had thought, since we did lots of deep breathing exercises to improve our health (or so we thought).

Feeling like Nicole’s train had ended up on a track leading for a cliff, I sought out more information. I read books by and spoke to practitioners  from Ireland, Thailand, Australia and, of course, Russia. I was seeking something to help Nicole’s coughing, I found something which may do far more. Soviet doctors claim that the Buteyko Method has successfully reversed most diabetic complications, and, in some cases, type-1 diabetes itself.

It seemed far-fetched at first. Change how you breathe and failed kidneys will heal, nerves regenerate and beta-cells return. But once I studied the science behind the method, my disbelief turned into hope.

Here’s the logic train: When your body uses oxygen (O2) it makes carbon-dioxide (CO2). The more air you breathe in and out, the less carbon-dioxide in your lungs and bloodstream. I think everybody is with me up to this point.

Now here’s where it gets life-changing: It’s a well documented medical fact that if CO2 levels drop below 5.5% bad things start happening. The condition is called hypocapnia (“low-smoke”). If you think hypoglycemia is bad, wait to your hear about hypocapnia.

Blood vessels, for example, begin constricting. Small vessels — like in the kidneys, eyes and nerves of the fingers and toes – may become so constricted no blood can get to them at all. Without blood, they’re caput. Sound familiar? Diabetic neuropathy. Maybe it’s not just about high blood sugars. Or, more to the point, high blood sugars may cause hypocapnia.

CO2 deficiency also causes hemoglobin to hold onto oxygen. You may have 98% oxygen saturation in your blood; yet if CO2 is low, most of that oxygen isn’t getting unloaded into the cells. So the more you breathe, the less oxygen your body cells get.

CO2 deficiency also causes problems with the immune system (which, should be protecting the beta cells). It affects the brain and emotions. In short, when you study the science, carbon-dioxide almost looks more important than oxygen. This is not new science. The Bohr Effect, for example, was discovered in 1904.

Not only does breathing more cause you to lose CO2; but exercising less causes you to make less CO2. Hence, from lack of exposure, your brain becomes too sensitive to CO2. Studies (such as Bottini et al, 2003, Tantucci et al, 1997 and Tantucci et al, 1996) show that people with diabetes are way too sensitive to CO2. If you have type-1 diabetes, you are probably breathing 3 or 4 times as much air as a healthy person.

And, yes, Nicole had reduced her exercise and physical workload significantly (and hence, her CO2 production). We had been convinced that in order for her to heal, she needed more rest. This may be true. But if you’re lying in bed, yet breathing like your walking to the store (maybe, with a tiger at your heels), blood vessels constrict and tissues are starved of oxygen. Not the ideal conditions for removing toxins from the body and healing systemic nerve damage.

The breathing exercises and lifestyle changes discovered by Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko are designed to retrain the brain to preserve CO2.  We began in earnest last November. Immediately Nicole started coming back to life:

  • Her sleep improved.
  • She could walk again without a wheelchair or support.
  • Her digestion, which had diminished to two half-meals a day, returned with vigor she’s never experienced.
  • Her gastroparesis – which she’s suffered from for the last ten years – has completely vanished (unless she misses a breathing session).
  • Surprisingly, too, blood tests showed that her hemoglobin had stabilized. She hasn’t needed her quarterly blood transfusion (a common problem with kidney failure patients).
  • Blood pressure going onto dialysis is already as low as when she normally would come off dialysis.

It’s rare we see something that produces such immediate and promising results. Not only Nicole, but several friends, two coaching clients and I have also been using these breathing retraining methods – to varying degrees – and reporting immediate benefits.

Five months into research and practice, I’m convinced this may be the root cause of diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, nerve damage and more.  This goes beyond diet, lifestyle, sleep and just about everything we are used to hearing. While nutrition and exercise are still important, as anyone with type-1 diabetes knows, it’s not enough. I always felt there was something more we should be doing.

Could fixing the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bloodstream be the greatest health discovery of the century? I think it’ll be an interesting year, 2016.

Thinking outside the type-1 matrix,

–John C. A. Manley

P.S. Stay tuned (or subscribe). I’ll be sharing how Nicole, and other type-1 diabetics, fare using the Buteyko Method to overcome kidney failure, nerve damage and, hopefully, type-1 diabetes. For more information on using CO2 to fight type-1 diabetes check out: Dr. Buteyko Says Type-1 Diabetes is Not a Disease

P.P.S. Of all the books I’ve studied, I highly recommend starting with Breathing Slower and Less by Dr. Artour Rakhimov. Available from amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk.

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