Record of interview with Professor K. P. Buteyko in 1982
Source: website of the Buteyko Centre in Voronezh, Russia
Question: Konstantin Pavlovich, how did you become a doctor? Please speak about yourself.
Answer: I was born on January 27, 1923 in the village of Ivanitsa, which is 150 km away from Kiev (Ukraine). I come from a farmer-s family. My father was quite fond of mechanics, and I inherited his passion. So, after finishing school I successfully passed exams to Kiev Polytechnic, but then World War II began and I had to go to a frontline-supplying motorcade. To tell you the truth, I got really sick and tired of mechanics during the war years, and when the War ended, I decided to start researching the most complex machine, the human being. I thought if I learnt about him, I’d be able to diagnose his diseases as easily as I had diagnosed machine disorders, but the reality proved to be more complicated.
In 1946 I enrolled at the First Moscow Institute of Medicine. In my third year there I became a member of the students- scientific society at the Department of Therapeutics headed by Academician Evgeny Mikhaylovich Tareyev. In 1952 I graduated with Honours and became a resident at the same Department. Later I was offered a position of Director of the Functional Diagnostics Research Laboratory. Regrettably, I was never able to make it work: there was no money, no personnel or equipment whatsoever.
An attempt to start a similar laboratory at the Health Ministry Hospital in Moscow (on Odinnatsataya Parkovaya Street) was also unsuccessful: we had the necessary equipment, but no staff. In 1958 Professor Meshalkin, the head of the Institute of Experimental Biology and Medicine in Novosibirsk (the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Medical Science), asked me to organize a functional diagnostics research laboratory in the Institute, and it was actually done by 1960. However, my life went in a very different direction as early as on the second month of my work as a doctor.
Question: That’s exactly what I was going to ask you about, your first steps.
Answer: I guess, I became a real doctor when I was a third-year student and spent long hours in front of patients- beds trying to unravel the great mystery of death. It was then that I noticed that breathing became deeper as death approached: I could tell the day or even hour of the patient’s death by how deeply they breathed.
Question: And what did your further observations come to?
Answer: At that time I already had a patient to learn how to auscultate the lungs. I got him to breathe deeply, and he fainted (an assistant explained it was because of brain over oxygenation). This accident determined the future field of my research. After having worked independently for almost two months, it dawned at me that some diseases (in particular, high blood pressure that I have) developed due to deep breathing. I immediately checked that: I breathed shallower, and some high blood pressure symptoms (headache and palpitation) reduced. On breathing deeper they returned. I understood I revealed the cause. I was also struck by the thought that hyperventilation was present in many people. Therefore, it was easy to deduce that hypertensive vasospasm could appear in other diseases, for example, stenocardia (angina pectoris) with an infarct outcome, endarteritis of legs or stomach ulcer.
Question: Can you say you were on the verge of discovery?
Answer: Oh yes, that was a discovery. I could already support my idea theoretically. We knew that deep breathing removed carbon dioxide from the organism which, in its turn, caused vasospasm resulting in hypoxia. I didn’t sleep at that memorable night of my duty in the clinic near Petrovskiye Gates. I was busy testing my ideas on patients. I asked asthmatics with stenocardia (angina pectoris) and other ailments to breathe less. The symptoms were gone at once. When I asked them to breathe deeper, the symptoms resumed. By the next morning I was pretty much sure that was a discovery, a global breakthrough for our topsy-turvy medicine.
Question: So what did you do? Speak about your further work to provide the theoretical, scientific and practical bases for your innovation.
Answer: A month of hard work in Lenin and the Central Medicine Libraries was dedicated to finding an answer to the question that really bothered me: has such a simple idea never occurred to anyone in the whole history of medicine? I searched all in vain: it took humanity ages to learn how to breathe deeply without even trying to breathe less for an instant. Even in the yoga there were no gradual breath reduction principles. However, I was lucky to stumble across the information about a few similar experiments that proved my idea was correct. Then I decided to share it with my teachers but found no sympathy.
I remembered that was the case of Semelweiss, a Hungarian doctor, obstetrician and surgeon who discovered sepsis in 1846. His friend injured a finger while performing an autopsy on a woman who had died from sepsis (or puerperal fever, as it was then called). Within three days he got puerperal fever himself. Semelweiss suspected the disease was caused by something that penetrated into the wound from the dead body. He assumed that there was some kind of ptomaine that infected people (he had no knowledge of microbes which were discovered by Pasteur only twenty-five years later).
Trying to verify his supposition, Semelweiss decided to wash hands before operations and disinfect them with chloride lime. He asked his assistants to do that too. At that time about one-third of all parturient women and operated patients died from sepsis. The three months of experiments confirmed: lethal cases were no more. He reported that to the surgery society and suggested the others should do the same in their clinics. He was proclaimed crazy.
The fate of an English Professor Lister, who ten years later also called out for washing hands before surgery, was quite akin. Only when the discovery became common knowledge and relatives of patients came to clinics to see if surgeons did wash their hands, they had to comply. This happened fifty years after Ignacio Semmelweis’s discovery!
I realized that unsubstantiated declarations would lead me nowhere and took to organizing an experimental research laboratory. I needed to get data, I needed to handle them, I needed to find interrelations, formulate them, and only then come forward with grounds for my idea.
Question: Please speak more about your further research and experiments.
Answer: It was when the functional diagnostics research laboratory in Professor Meshalkin’s Institute was being created. In 1958-1959 we examined about 200 sick and healthy people. The earliest interconnections, mechanisms and correlations that we obtained at the earliest stages confirmed my finding was correct. On January 11, 1960 I summed my ideas up in a report to the Institute’s academic council. I told them about our experiments that confirmed an objective interdependence between deep breathing (hyperventilation), carbon dioxide content, vasospasm and conditions of patients.
Question: And how did the members feel after hearing your report?
Answer: Stunned. Surgeons thought it was a catch as I proposed a lancet free treatment of such ailments as asthma, high blood pressure or stenocardia (angina pectoris). As is well known, surgery did not cure those illnesses; the death rate was still high. My method, based on hypoventilation, guaranteed almost 100% of recoveries. Quite naturally, I expected surgeons would be glad. Alas, their reaction was totally the reverse.
Question: Luckily, it did not stop your research. What were the specific practical results of the laboratory’s work?
Answer: Ten years of lab work and the use of state-of-the-art technologies gave us vast knowledge of the main functions of human organism, sick or healthy. We also managed to handle that data on computers and provide mathematical formulae of physiological mechanisms. About 200 doctors, ill doctors, at that, were trained in our laboratory. The official statistics says, more than 1,000 patients with asthma, high blood pressure and stenocardia (angina pectoris)were totally cured as of January 1, 1967.
Question: What’s the quintessence of your method?
Answer: Our method is the antipode of the conventional one. They say “breathe deeply”, we say breathe less, and not so deeply.
Question: Does they means Western European medicine?
Answer: Before getting to the core of the method, I’d like to mention that I think of two trends in medicine: the so-called official Western medicine, and the oriental, particularly Tibetan medicine. The truth turned out to be on the Tibetan side: they have always reckoned all illnesses were caused by respiratory disorders. The nucleus of the method is reduction of breathing depth. How? Best of all, via relaxation of respiratory muscles. What happens then? Feel of lack of air, if breathing reduces. These are basically all the instructions for the method in a nut-shell.
Question: Back to your report to the council in January 1960, how was it taken?
Answer: As I have said, the majority of surgeons cold-shouldered me. Nevertheless, the chairman, Professor Meshalkin, approved of it. He said it was promising and ordered to continue experiments. Sometime later he came down to the laboratory and asked “Is it really the way you say it is?”He had severe stenocardia (angina pectoris) attacks that occurred almost on a daily basis, and no one dared to treat him. Instruments in our laboratory showed he was on the verge of a severe infarction. I created a high-class lab: we had about 30-40 instruments that registered almost all primary functions of the human body and gave out about 100,000 informational units per hour. The data was handled on the computer, which I called complexator. That was a unique machine, still unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
Question: Was it patented?
Answer: Only some parts. Patenting the whole of it would have required a lot of work, and that was not my principal objective.
Question: Was your method scientifically approved?
Answer: I suggested to Professor Meshalkin that we should approve it in the institute’s clinic. He refused flatly, though after having tested the method on himself (by the way, this helped him get rid of his illnesses in literally a few days) he was convinced we were right. Anyway, he prohibited any further research.
Later more rigorous procedures ensued, including confiscation of instruments. Publications were forbidden, reports on the subject were reprimanded. Not only did Meshalkin have such an attitude, but some of his surgeon-disciples too. In 1963 similar measures were applied to other ideas that cast any kind of shadow on surgery. Such faulty directorship ruined the institute, but that saved my laboratory. I was able to rescue about a third of all instruments, personnel and premises.
In 1963-1968 our research laboratory functioned as a part of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk (the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Medical Science). Meshalkin’s clinic was subordinated to the RSFSR Ministry of Health. I repeatedly tried and persistently asked to experiment with our method, but was never taken seriously. Only as late as in January 1968, after some supporting materials appeared in Soviet and foreign press, the method was approved in Leningrad, in the Institute of Pulmonology headed by Academician Uglov. Not long before that we had an unexpected visit from Academician Petrovsky who assured us he would immediately recommend putting our method in use once he had at least 80% of recoveries. He also said he would give us a 50 bed hospital for clinical trials. Our condition was that we should have the most complex cases, uncured by traditional methods.
We began by banning all drugs and soon healed them completely. Officially acknowledged was the 95% positive effect. Only in two out of 46 patients was success not fully achieved. At that, we had patients with up to 20 ailments! For instance, having diagnosed the precancerous condition, doctors insisted on amputation of breast with one of our female patients, which she rejected. We had her because of asthma. We cured asthma and the rest as well.
By the way, those two patients with no success finished treatment later, of which they wrote a letter to the Minister. Therefore, the method could have been seen as 100% effective. The conclusion was delivered to the Minister of Health, Academician Petrovsky, but neither I nor the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Medical Science had ever seen it. Academician Lavrentiev (the Chairman of the Siberian Branch) had a phone call from the Ministry. They told him we had failed in Leningrad, and only two out of 46 patients were cured. That falsification was a good excuse to close the laboratory. It was done on August 14, 1968. The staff was fired without any job offers, and equipment was taken to pieces. (Note: In April 1980 the USSR Cabinet of Ministers Committee for Science and Technology ordered to administer the second official trial at the Department of Children Diseases of the First Moscow Medical Institute, and it validated the results of the approbation in Leningrad).
Question: However, the method didn’t die?
Answer: No, it didn’t because the doctors we had cured continued to practice it nationwide. Although here in Moscow there are quite a few doctors that had been cured by us, none of the medical institutions here use it. Our method works in Kharkov, Chernigov, Kakhovka, Leningrad, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, and Sverdlovsk. We are now trying to convince the doctors they should draw on our theory, learn the method and employ it in order to cure 50,000,000 hyperventilation patients in the USSR.
Question: What scientific laws support your discovery and the method based on it?
Answer: Our theory is a developed hyperventilation syndrome theory. Hyperventilation syndrome is the initial stage of the deep breathing disease. The theory is based on up-to-date concepts of the grandiose biological role of CO2 in providing health of humanity and fauna, as well as on physiological mechanisms of CO2 effects on the organism, all its systems, flora and fauna. Carbon dioxide is the staple for all the living matter on the Earth (plants take it from the air). Animals eat plants, and people eat both. Huge percentages of CO2 in the air of ancient times have come down to our minuscule 0.03%. Absorption of this residue by plants may inevitably lead to end of life on Earth. I reported that at the World Geochemistry Congress in Moscow in 1972.
Metabolism in human and animal cells developed in ancient geological epochs when concentration of carbon dioxide in air and water was dozens of per cent. Therefore, a specific cellular concentration of CO2 is part and parcel of normal biochemical processes. In the course of evolution the human organism and the highest animals have developed a self-governing aerial system in the form of pulmonary alveolar air which contains about 6.5% of CO2 and 7% less oxygen than in the ambient air. This is apparently the minimum level of CO2 that provides normal metabolic activities in cells. For example, reduction of CO2 in the lungs due to hyperventilation offsets рН to the alkaline medium which alters vitamin and ferment activity.
When the activity of metabolic regulators changes, normal metabolism shutters and this leads to loss of cells. If CO2 comes down to 3% and рН offsets to 8%, the organism dies. Destructive effects of hyperventilation via creating CO2 deficiency in the organism have been verified by numerous experiments, first started by the famous physiologist D. Henderson in 1909. Henderson connected animals to a hyperventilation machine and they died. Evolution has worked out the following protective mechanisms to stabilize CO2 in the lungs: а) bronchospasm and vasospasm; b) increased production of cholesterol by the liver: it works as a biological insulation that consolidates cell membranes in the lungs and vessels; and c) lower blood pressure (hypotension), which reduces loss of CO2. However, bronchospasm and vasospasm constrict oxygenation of the brain, kidney and cells of other organs.
Diminution of CO2 in the blood enhances reactogenicity of oxygen and hemoglobin to downgrade oxygenation of cells (the Verigo-Bohr effect). Reduced oxygenation of tissues results in hypoxia. On reaching hazardous levels, hypoxia may cause higher blood pressure (hypertension) in some individuals. High blood pressure increases the bloodstream through constricted vessels to enhance oxygenation of the vitally important cells. Tissue hypoxia shrinks the level of oxygen in the venous blood which then brings about varicose veins in legs and develops varix, or, alternately, varicose haemorrhoidal veins with consequent haemorrhoids. Gradual subtraction of CO2 from the blood boosts blood coagulation, and combined with deceleration of bloodstream in the veins it may cause thrombophlebitis.
Acute hypoxia of the vital organs irritates the respiratory centre creating the dominant activation there. This deepens breath, produces the feel of dyspnoea (or air shortage for deep breathers) and locks the vicious circle (the positive feedback that persistently intensifies or deepens breath, stimulating the above disorders/illnesses). Removal of CO2 from the nervous cells decreases their excitability threshold, which activates all parts of the nervous system, augments the excitement generalization, and leads to irritability, insomnia, extreme nervous tension, unfounded suspiciousness, fear, or even fainting and epileptic seizure.
Simultaneously, the respiratory centre grows more and more agitated. That is how the second vicious circle of nervous excitement circulation locks. If metabolism is disturbed and the nervous cells suffer from hypoxia, the nervous system becomes exceptionally sensitive to external stimuli and stresses. This is why CO2 deficiency caused, namely, by hyperventilation affects the nervous system firsthand. Symptoms of various disorder combinations in deep breathers are incredibly versatile. The traditional disease analysis has brought us to giving various deep breathing disease symptoms (such as bronchospasm, cardiac vasospasm, high or low blood pressure, or syncope with spasms) names of totally different diseases: bronchial asthma, stenocardia, high blood pressure, and epilepsy. The latter cause side-effects: pneumoscelorsis, vasosclerosis, cardiac infarction, and stroke. All of these are the main elements of early senility, decrepitude, disablement and, finally, death.
The above physiological laws explain the malignant (venomous) effects of deep breathing and give grounds for the only scientific principle of eliminating disorders (called diseases), i.e. by increasing the level of CO2 in the body. This is the principle we have based our method of the voluntary hyperventilation elimination (VHE), or voluntary breath normalization (VBN) on. If the breathing depth drops below normal and the level of CO2 in the organism grows 0.5% above, there will be no negative symptoms. Quite on the contrary, ex-patients with deep breathing (i.e. bronchial asthma, stenocardia, or high blood pressure) develop symptoms of unendurance, which has been consistently observed for almost two decades.
We found out that extreme de-deepening of breath does not end in harmful after effects. This is how we have actually discovered the main law of death: the deeper you breathe, the stronger the illness is, and the closer death draws. Reversely, the shallower the breath, the healthier, tougher and more durable the organism. The deep breathing disease theory is given out in my lecture, “The Discovery of Deep Breath Being the Main Cause of Allergy, Sclerosis, Psychosis, Tuberculosis, Pre-cancer and Other Western Civilization Degeneration, Degradation, and Ailment Symptoms and Death”.
Question: You said it in the lecture that your innovation is rather not curing illnesses, but mostly finding out their causes. Could you provide more details on that?
Answer: This is a very important question. Western medicine has slipped to blind empiricism. This may have happened because they were unable to detect causes of asthma, stenocardia (angina), high blood pressure, and cancer. Therefore, they neglect the main principle on which, by the way, Tibetan medicine is based – the doctor may not treat until he knows the reason. Only when you know it you can guarantee treatment. Western doctors have now either stopped looking for the sources of asthma, stenocardia (angina) and high blood pressure, or have faulty ideas about them. That is why these illnesses are still incurable. Deep breathing turned out to be the root of about 150 ailments, including cancer, as is seen now.
Out of 30,000 human disorders 150 develop due to hyperventilation. We have administered a grandiose synthesis of ailments to prove that asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, stenocardia (angina), infarction, stroke and haemorrhoidal eczema are the symptoms of the deep breathing disease. If patients have these illnesses, they get cured of them, as was proven by the Leningrad and Moscow approbations. Some patients who were diagnosed with asthma had all in all up to twenty-thirty diseases. Our method healed them all, having made them 100% healthy people.
Question: We’ve touched upon the specifically medical problems. However, I have another Question: if the reason for the above illnesses (allergic, sclerotic, cancerous, nervous and psychiatric) is hyperventilation, then where does it come from? What-s the cause of the cause? What produces hyperventilation?
Answer: You mean, what’s the reason(s) for hyperventilation? The primary breath intensifying factors have already been found. I think the main of them is propaganda of deep breathing. Modern people are trained to breathe deeply even before they are born, when our mothers attend deep breathing exercise courses. Even newborn infants are trained to breathe deeply via lifting and putting down their hands. This goes on forever, in the nursery school, college, army, physical exercises. There are also other factors. Overeating, especially on the animal proteins (fish, chicken, eggs, milk, and, naturally, meat), intensifies breathing drastically. It’s worth noticing that animal products intensify breathing more, vegetable food less; cooked food more, raw less. Another breath deepening element is the lack of motion, absence of physical work, idleness. Physical loads stimulate production of carbon dioxide and raise its level in the organism. That is why the people who work physically live longer and are healthier.
Breathing deepens through hypodynamia, rest cure, horizontality (lying, especially on your back), and longer sleep. Recommendations to sleep more or even the carotic therapy have cured no one. Moreover, about the end of sleep, about 5 a.m., there may be attacks of epilepsy, asthma, stenocardia (angina), infarction, stroke, palsy and death. In other words, this is the death zone. Breathing intensifies due to various emotions, positive or negative, overheating, and stuffy rooms. Reversely, rest, tempering, and cold relaxed breathing. Breathing deepens through sexual promiscuity and perversions, while continence decreases the breathing depth. So, it turned out that the key bases of traditional medicine, such as deep breath, much rest, or lying and sleeping intensify breathing.
Hyperventilation also develops from smoking or drinking alcohol. Hence, the reverse idea: less breath, less rest, less sleep, less fun, less promiscuity, but more physical work, work until you sweat since sweat removes many toxics from the organism. This is how the ascetic principles are proven to be right. Our civilization becomes more humanized and globalized, and the moment of possible universal destruction approaches. It can result from the nuclear weapons or gradual pollution of the environment, and that’s what we have now. Mind it, the deep breathing diseases and nervous system intoxication (i.e. the greed factors) deteriorate human thinking by affecting the nervous system and the brain cortex first of all. So, the faster the process, the less understanding humans have they destroy themselves. In other words, the man is like a lunatic who is climbing up a rotten bow to unavoidably fall down. That is why we believe our discoveries may deliver us from the coming catastrophe, the end of earthly civilization.
Question: What leading doctors and researchers share your ideas?
Answer: I can give you names of a few leading researchers who understand and support my findings, though they may not always correctly evaluate their general importance. For instance, the well-known surgeon Academician Amossov does not stand up for surgery that can cure nothing, but supports restorative methods. He also proclaims fasting, vegetarianism, physical loads. That’s why he understands what I propose. In his article ‘Thinking over Health- in volume 11, 1977 of Nauka’ Zhizn- Amossov writes he can’t but reiterate my recommendations to breathe less and check breath-holding. He agrees that humanity has turned into deep-breathers, while the deficiency of carbon dioxide results in spasm of coronary and intestinal vessels. It is also clear and familiar to Academician Guly from the Ukrainain Academy of Science, ex-director of the Institute of Biochemistry. In his books Carbon Dioxide and Life’ and ‘The Principal Metabolic Cycles’, Guly emphasizes his agreement with my scientific method and its usefulness. Academician Guly has proved that simple rise of CO2 level in the organism doubles the milk yield in cows and weight increment in pigs and chickens, though feeding does not change. In other words, carbon dioxide is the syrup for protein, fat and carbohydrate synthesis. This means we could enhance meat, milk, egg and other food production without additional investments. Guly understands the core of my discovery and says it has grounds.
Question: Apart from the deep breathing disease theory, you are known for developing a series of other fundamental theories. Please speak more about those.
Answer: In this respect I have to develop the theory of my discovery, the theory of my method, and the medical theory in general, as Western medicine is theoretically unsubstantiated. This is a blindly empiric medicine that is trying to feel its way in search for fortuitous means to help the ill. Today doctors do not look for the cause of the illness to remove it and cure their patients. They want a pill or herb to mysteriously help them out. Oriental medicine, starts from the life theory instead of illnesses. They draw the tree of life, and then the tree of the disease (which looks like the tree of life but is disfigured). Western medicine does not provide any foundation for the theory of life whatsoever. There is simply no such theory. What is there is the theory of life evolution which may be put in the basement of the life theory. That’s why I have to work on the evolutionary aspect of the life theory. From the works by Academicians Oparin and Vinogradov it is known that life on Earth appeared when its atmosphere consisted of only carbon dioxide with no oxygen. From that atmosphere the living substance and humanity itself have emerged. And only much later, when the plants had eaten carbon dioxide and produced oxygen, the atmosphere changed spectacularly.
Carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere being replaced by large quantities of oxygen. Our cells need about 7% of carbon dioxide and 2-3% of oxygen. The air around us contains about 0.03% of CO2, which is 200 times below normal, and 20% of oxygen, which is 10 times above. This means the air has become poisonous for us. We may say evolution has saved the living being, namely the man, by creating an atmosphere in our the lungs. It has 6% of carbon dioxide and by 5% less oxygen. This keeps us alive. The animals that breathed with the skin have lost CO2 and become extinct. Such has been the animal world evolution. In fact, each of us repeats it in the mother’s womb. The human (and animal) foetus in the womb has twice more carbon dioxide and five times less oxygen than the newborn infant or adult. That’s why we don-t get ill there. Coming into the world, breathing deeply several times and changing their environment, children get sick. So, our individual development replicates the general development on the earth. To tell you the truth, the substantiation of the life theory, my discovery and method could begin from the Genesis theory.
The summary of the life theory is: carbon dioxide is the staple for the living matter on earth; if it disappears from the air, all will die. It is the principal regulator of all functions in the organism, its main ambience, the vitamin of all vitamins. It controls the activity of all vitamins and ferments. If it is deficient, say, due to hyperventilation, all vitamins and ferments work badly, abnormally, and defectively. This results in metabolic disorders and finally in allergy, cancer, and tophus. Since western medicine still doesn’t have a general disease theory, no doctor or researcher can say what the disease is, though this problem has been expanded on by our physiologist Academician Anokhin. Disease is the condition where the vital constants go above or below normal.
In actual fact, diagnostics subconsciously stands on the same principle: doctors measure the vital constants (temperature, blood pressure). To heal the patient, you have to bring them back to the norm. More than that, my method is fully and absolutely well substantiated since I do not propose anything new or unknown. I suggest we should measure breathing of people with the named ailments to prove they have deep breathing, hyperventilation, and CO2 deficiency (that’s what we and our ideological counterparts have done in the works). That is why I suggest we reduce breathing, particularly its depth, to raise the CO2 level back to normal. I’d like to repeat it: to normal, that is to international standards that you can find in all clinics and functional diagnostics research laboratories. That’s, basically, why my method is logical, scientifically proven, well-supported and harmless. Man can’t die from reducing deep breathing to the norm. If we don’t die from deep breathing, we can’t die from putting it down to normal, which is clear to all.
The above record of the interview with Professor Buteyko in 1982 was sourced from the website of the Buteyko Centre in Voronezh, Russia on 26 November 2018. I extend my thanks to Professor Vladimir Buteyko and Dr. Marina Mihaylovna for the availability of this record.