Asthmatic? Forget the Champagne and Chocolates…

Most people who have breathing issues are usually inclined to reconsider their diet. Many foods are considered to be “allergenic”, and some directly trigger attacks of coughing or wheezing that are easy to connect with the substance that caused the symptom. But some foods are “hidden triggers” and may not be considered as a suspect for increasing breathing difficulties.

Professor Buteyko was a Russian Doctor and Medical Researcher who considered aberrant breathing patterns to be the root cause of all dysfunction in the human body. His pioneering work paved the way for us to understand how breathing can directly affect our stress levels and how overbreathing is a negative behaviour which can destroy functioning over time. To assist in his research, he created an amazing computer which he called the “Complexator”. This machine was destroyed when his lab was burned down in an arson attack, and was never restored.

The Complexator measured every response in the human organism, and it was through this medium that Professor Buteyko discovered that some foods increase breathing more than others. He suggested that these foods should be avoided while breathing is disordered.  The foods that he discovered to cause more harm than good were varied and extremely specific and formed a strange “list” that has often been wondered about by practitioners and clients alike. Yet, modern research now supports many of Buteyko’s claims – even thought the food industry and the media that sell their products tell us otherwise. It is not surprising that several substances that we have been allowed to think are “good for us in moderation” are at the top of the list:


Despite media claims that a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away, this was the first item to exclude if you have trouble with your breathing. Professor Buteyko’s research showed that alcohol was one of the biggest “Hidden” triggers for breathing disorders.


Much modern research seems to support this. For instance, alcohol is now known to be linked with lung cancer. It has been previously theorized that this is because alcoholics are also likely to be smokers, but even those alcoholics without a history of smoking are still at risk. We now know that alcohol destroys lung tissue by reducing lung nutrition and drying out the small airways.  Anyone who has used rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits will know how drying alcohol can be on the skin. Inside the lungs is a perfectly hydrated environment, but alcohol fumes dehydrate this delicate moisture balance and cause the lungs to become frail.   Lungs that are metabolizing alcohol also have less space to process oxygen and CO2, and thus, breathing becomes elevated to cope. Elevated breathing leads to breathing symptoms because the perfect balance of breathing gases is upset, and so less oxygen reaches the tissues.   While the traffic authorities know that alcohol is metabolized through the lungs – and this is how they can measure the exact amount of alcohol you have consumed by testing your exhaled breath – most of us regular folk never gave it much thought….



Another food that was high up on this list was Chocolate. Sadly, this also includes hot chocolate, raw chocolate and dark chocolate. Despite the (dubious) claims of chocolate manufacturers, all cocoa contains Theobromine.  This is a substance with many health benefits – if you don’t already have breathing difficulties, blood pressure problems, heart issues and problems with processing caffeine. Theobromine is lethal to dogs – and as we are also mammals, this suggests that this substance will also illicit an immune response in humans.

New types of “Super Foods” are ensuring that high quality Raw Cocoa is reaching the average consumer. And while unprocessed is always generally better than processed, Raw chocolate is higher in Theobromine than the average slab on the shelf. In making the “healthier switch”, some people may have inadvertently consumed way more Theobromine that they are accustomed to, leading to overdose.

While Theobromine is processed slightly differently in humans, it is still a substance that is creating a stress response.  Some of these responses include elevated breathing, elevated heart rate and changes in blood pressure.  Healthy people seem to be able to manage these responses without noticing any changes, because they do not have a breathing disorder. But in people who have a dysfunctional breathing pattern, this may trigger symptoms, as elevated breathing is a stress response that also creates stress. In people with breathing pattern disorders, this stress reaction can quickly escalate into anxiety brought on by even slight hyperventilation.

In people who have a breathing pattern disorder, consuming foods that act as triggers means they are more likely to struggle with symptoms like frequent urination, anxiety, panic, asthma, wheezing, reduced energy, insomnia, sleep apnoea and so on. While many people are aware of their food triggers, many people do not notice how their breathing changes  – because it’s always disordered – and so they haven’t been able to easily distinguish one trigger from the next.

Learning how your breathing is affected by each new stimulus is vital for overcoming a lifelong breathing disorder. Buteyko practitioner guided techniques are an invaluable way to regain your health and restore Normal Breathing.

©Buteyko South Africa





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