The diagnosis of "asthma" or "asthmatic bronchitis" in our days is becoming more and more common. There are many sick children and asthmatics in Russia as well as in other countries located above the 58th parallel of the northern hemisphere of our planet. Asthma is the fruit of urbanization and the age of antibiotics.
The widely accepted opinion that asthma is incurable, and that only prolonged remissions are possible, is increasingly called into question by reports of complete recovery in adolescence or at puberty and evidence of prolonged activity of the endocrine glands.
Asthma does not generally occur by itself. Usually asthma is preceded by a period of frequent respiratory illnesses and bronchitises, which gradually develop into asthmatic bronchitis, and only then receive a definitive diagnosis. Chronic illnesses of the respiratory system leading to asthma have various causes. These include genetically caused weakness of host defenses, and the impact of environmental factors, including local geophysical characteristics and the damaging effects of cosmic radiation, especially solar radiation.
Acute respiratory disease (ARD) – what does it mean? As a rule, laboratory studies do not reveal any viral or bacterial infection, and therefore we can speak only about a functional disorder of the respiratory system. Ordinary ARD is a result of the interaction of a complex set of compensatory systems and forces of the body itself.
In the mid-80's a team of Leningrad scientists completed a long series of investigations that resulted in the emergence of a new approach to functional disorders of the respiratory system in humans. This made it possible to create a coherent system of non-pharmacological rehabilitation for patients with respiratory diseases of non-viral etiology.
The fundamental characteristics of this approach are the following: First of all we have to disrupt the endless circle of treatments targeted at fighting manifestations of the body’s natural defense reactions rather than the true cause of the disease.
Having broken this vicious circle, we can recognize a certain sequence. For simplicity, we will represent it in the form of a straight line. At one end of the line we put a point with the label "asthma", and at the other end- a point labeled "health." But between these two extremes we have to put a few more points marking transitional states: Asthmatic Bronchitis – Bronchitis – Acute Respiratory Disease.
Our rehabilitation system allows us to proceed from the “asthma” point back to the “health” point by moving through each of the intermediate stages in turn. With this system of rehabilitation, one can move through the whole sequence in 3 to 4 months. Of course, when starting at the "ARD" (ie frequent colds) point the rehabilitation period can be shorted to 2 months.
You may think that the above scenario is too optimistic. But in fact, there is a large body of research and clinical results that support this optimism. It must be admitted, however, that all efforts will be in vain if one does not succeed in changing not only the physical condition of the patient but also his attitude toward the disease and without anchoring the results in the central nervous system. In other words, rehabilitation should become a way of life for the patient, especially during the short period of supervised rehabilitation.. Only then will it be possible to achieve a real and sustained recovery.
Bronchial Asthma: Rehabilitation
All patients with acute bronchial asthma have some common characteristics:
- Barrel-shaped, stiff, inelastic chest (a result of alveolar embolization)
- Respiration performed only at the apex of the lungs- without participation of the diaphragm.
- Expiratory dyspnea.
There are three main methods for relieving bronchospasms:
1. A chemical method that destroys the embolus lipoprotein envelope;
2. A method that directly affects receptors in the bronchi causing relaxation of their smooth muscles. (inhalation of Berotek, Astmopent, Intalum, etc.)
3. Mechanical disruption of the embolus (drainable massage, static exercises).
Unfortunately, none of these methods alone is able to restore the adaptive capacities of the organism. The most promising results are seen with a combination of rehabilitation measures, including drainable massage, reflexotherapy, breathing exercises, special systems of remedial gymnastics, and medications.
In our Rehabilitation Center the first stage of rehabilitation for patients with bronchial asthma includes drainable massage to remove phlegm, as well stimulation of the respiratory center to provoke the laryngeal reflex.
After removing as much sputum as possible, the second stage is reached. This is the stage at which the breathing exercises are begun. They contribute to the removal of nitrogen from the body’s tissues. Simultaneously, static physical exercises are practiced, developing diaphragmatic breathing. Rehabilitation is continued until free diaphragmatic breathing is achieved, stiffness in the chest is relieved and there is a significant decrease of phlegm in the lungs.
The third stage of rehabilitation involves a set of static exercises that stress the body, promoting an increase in its efficiency and key functional systems, as well as an increase in adaptive capacity.
The fourth stage uses reflexotherapy (acupuncture), to increase host defenses and the adaptive forces of the organism, using athletic endurance training complexes, as well as the set of dynamic exercises that are directly related to respiratory gymnastics.
It should be specifically stipulated that many parameters must be strictly taken into account at each of the four stages. The chief parameters are as follows: parameters of Geophysics and chronobiology such as the 27-day lunar cycle, the 27-day solar cycle, seasonal cycles, directions of power lines of a magnetic zero of the Earth, the occurrence of geomagnetic storms and associated changes in weather conditions, seasonal wind directions, and circadian biorhythms. It is desirable to choose a diet for the patient in accordance with the seasons of year.
Functional Disorders of the Body
We offer an approach to the problems of rehabilitation medicine that is based chiefly on ancient oriental techniques.
Chronic respiratory illnesses that can lead to bronchial asthma can be brought about by different factors. These include genetic weakness of body defenses, environmental influences, including the impact of local geophysical characteristics and the damaging effects of cosmic radiation (especially solar radiation).
The nutritional composition of food and different eating habits can have a significant impact on the functional state of the human body during different seasons of a year. Annual variations in temperature and changes in the qualitative and quantitative composition of the food participate in the formation of seasonal rhythms, activating mechanisms of individual adaptation following changes in both biotic and abiotic environmental factors. A major role in these changes is played by seasonal fluctuations of energy exchange, thermoregulatory responses, muscle bioenergetics and functional changes of the neuroendocrine system.
In addition, the human body is affected by the force of gravity that causes the regular tides of the seas and oceans- the very force that with enviable regularity raises the surface of the earth (for example, at the latitude of Moscow the land rises up to 40 centimeters). There is no doubt that such global natural phenomena can have a very serious impact on the human body and its fluid component.
From time to time explosions occur on the surface of the sun, resulting in the emission of charged particles, streaming from the solar atmosphere into interplanetary space. On reaching the earth, the stream of these particles perturbs the earth’s magnetic field, causing a geomagnetic storm.
We might expect that the potential damage from magnetic fields would depend on the extent to which the adaptive capacity of the body is impaired; and substantial individual differences in sensitivity to magnetic fields might also be expected, but there can be little doubt that the central nervous system is extremely sensitive to magnetic fields. Geomagnetic storms can occur at any period or season of the year, but the probability of their occurrence significantly increases from March to April and from August to September, in other words, when there is prolonged high atmospheric pressure over a wide area. The cumulative effect of these two factors can also result in an increase in the number of embolization cases. It is quite clear, that therapy of respiratory diseases with antibiotics under such conditions may be ineffective; moreover, it may exacerbate the pathology into a chronic form. Compensatory capacity of the organism will decrease, and the vulnerability of the human organism to the effect of these harmful factors will increase, eventually leading to the emergence of bronchial asthma.
Everyone knows that the composition of the human body is 98% fluid, the remainder consisting of a solid organic “residue”. It is also true that most of the fluid in our body is found in the intercellular spaces in the form of a solution with a surface tension ranging from 76 to 120 atmospheres. So to some extent biochemists are quite right when they claim that man is nothing, but a kind of "encapsulated colloidal solution", endowed with mechanisms of adaptation to the environment, auto-regulation and life support.
The lungs, what are they? The left and right lung cavities occupy the greater part of the thorax, although the lungs by themselves are not so large. This is due to the huge number of alveoli and the huge total respiratory surface: on average 82 square meters for an adult, and 45 square meters for a child. Let us imagine two rooms with a similar useful square area. Now, if we coat one-third of this surface with a colloidal solution film 2 to 3 microns thick, the total volume of the solution in such coating will be 2 to 3 liters. Drainage massage can produce up to 3 liters of phlegm from the lungs of a five-year-old child.
But with lungs, the question is less about the quantity of mucous than about the respiratory surface actively involved in the process of absorption of inhaled air and removal of carbon dioxide from the lungs. Reduction of respiratory surface, which can have various causes, can produce an asthma attack and strain in the remaining active portion of the lungs. The person feels very bad when his organism does not receive enough air. As the proverb runs, “a drowning man eagerly tries his best to catch at a straw;” likewise our organism has no other choice but to fall back on the upper lobes of the lungs. Please observe the typical body position of asthmatics during an attack:
As a rule, the person is sitting with highly raised shoulders and hunched back, his hands resting on his knees or against any other nearby support. In this position the work of lower portions lungs is blocked so that the lower portions of the lungs have almost no free respiratory surface. Thus this position facilitates the work of the upper portions of lungs.
We all breathe air. Air is a mixture of gases consisting of up to 78% of the neutral gas nitrogen, approximately 21 percent oxygen; and the remainder containing dust and various impurities. Our air is oxygen-poor, and what is much more important, very rich in nitrogen. Our tissues are thus prone to oversaturation with Nitrogen.
Nitrogen particles in the organism take the form of bubbles, the sizes of which can vary from a few angstroms to several millimeters. These kinds of neutral gas bubbles that are dissolved in the blood, lymph and other body fluids are called micro emboli.
The more that nitrogen micro embolisms penetrate the walls of the alveoli, the more will lung tissues produce special secretions - fatty acids that can dissolve an organic foreign body. But in this case, the organism is deceived: nitrogen micro embolisms are not dissolved, while fatty acids continue to be produced in an increasing volume. These are largely the same fatty acids that you see being produced by an intense cough. They typically consist of more than 3 percent dissolved proteins.
This data is nothing more than a translation of the oriental medicine concepts into modern language, since the ancient oriental medical terminology is rather difficult to understand. For example, in their discussions concerning asthma they refer to an external syndrome Yang that is manifested as a Syndrome of Energy Absoluteness; more often than not this syndrome originates in childhood or adolescence and is associated with an External Damaging Energy. Recurrences of the disease appear due to seasonal changes. Asthma as an Internal Syndrome Yin is more common in elderly people and is manifested most often in the kidneys and adrenal glands as the Syndrome of Emptiness.
In all varieties of what we would now call bronchial asthma the ancient Oriental physicians would begin rehabilitation with various techniques to facilitate the removal of fluid from the lungs, and only subsequently from the rest of the body, in accordance with the patient’s physique.
The Impact of Atmospheric Pressure
The Earth's atmosphere consists of the neutral gas nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%) with various other gases and microparticles making up the remainder. Thus we live in a nitrogenous atmosphere. Under the influence of atmospheric pressure human tissues become supersaturated with nitrogen with a five-fold higher concentration in fat and tissues with a high lipid content.
The myelin sheath of nerves as well as the white matter of the spinal cord have a high lipid content. When atmospheric pressure rises, the intensity of the above processes increases. The longer the patient is exposed to higher atmospheric pressure, the greater is the level of saturation. Nitrogen in the tissues takes the form of microemboli. Each individual microembolism has a very rigid structure that consists of more than 16 layers. With a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure there is a rapid release of nitrogen into the bloodstream. The blood carries nitrogen microembolisms to the heart, where they are mixed, merged into larger emboli and through the pulmonary artery reach the lungs, chiefly the right lung. Lung vessels respond to emboli penetration with mechanical obturation of vessels and a generalized vascular spasm resulting from the reflex response of vessel walls to this excitation. The blood flow velocity in venules and arterioles slows; the intensity of the spring reaction decreases, and capillary permeability infringement develops, resulting in pulmonary edema. An enlargement of interalveolar septa is observed as well as a decrease in the size of the alveoli; small shiny bubbles appear in some alveoli. Initially these phenomena develop in the lower portions of the lungs, and subsequently invade all lobes and segments of the organ. As these processes progress, the number of bubbles in the alveoli increase, filling the lumen and decreasing the tissue aeration. Small bubbles combine into larger bubbles, causing mechanical irritation of the receptors of the alveolar wall, and clogging the alveoli. Lung tissues react to bubbles as to a foreign body. Fatty acids are synthesized and released across the whole respiratory surface of the lungs, which for adults is about 80 square meters. This process may become irreversible.
Moreover, the edematous fluid delaminates the surfactant lining of the alveoli, disrupting surface tension, decreasing of lung tissue aeration and predisposing to the development of atelectases. The irritated airway receptors cause bronchospasm, and lead to the development of expiratory dyspnea. The lower the level of the patient’s general health, the lower will be his compensatory capacity and the more conspicuous will be the process of embolization. These phenomena are seen with divers and caisson workers at depths below 15 meters, and with pilots at heights above 7.000 to 8.000 meters, but people with poor health may experience them at ground level under certain circumstances.
There are 19 factors that are known to cause nitrogen emboli to escape from tissues into the bloodstream. These include: excessive heat, hypothermia, physical overexertion, alcohol, expulsion of nitrogen from tissues by the higher partial pressure of other gases, a drop in atmospheric pressure, high stress load, overwork, hunger, etc.
Prophylactic techniques directed against one or more of the above factors can reduce the formation of gaseous microemboli.
Now let us consider two specific examples: rehabilitation of patients with bronchial asthma by either the Buteyko or the Strelnikova system. Both systems have shown comparable results, results that are maintained as long as the patients continue to practice the rehabilitation system.
The main point of the Buteyko method is as follows: holding the breath after a deep inhalation with the participation of the diaphragm will raise the body's level of carbon dioxide (hypercarbia). This brings about the so-called "recuperation response ," which is associated with the extrusion of nitrogen from tissues by the higher tension of carbon dioxide. Patients complain of a loss of appetite, fever above 38 degrees centigrade, motion disorders, and the acute discharge of phlegm (up to two liters in a few hours). Only after such a “recuperation response” does the patient’s state of health improve and the signs of respiratory embarrassment disappear. This methodology is helpful not only for the rehabilitation of patients with bronchial asthma, but also for people who are affected with other illnesses. Free gas bubbles can be formed not only in blood vessels, but also in the lymphatic vessels, in articular cavities, in bile, in cerebrospinal fluid, in the myelin sheath of nerves, in the substantia alba of the brain and especially the spinal cord, in coronary vessels and cardiac cavities, and can be deposited in the blood of parenchymal organs and in the bladder lumen.
The breathing exercises for this group of diseases recommended by the Strelnikova System are entirely different, consisting of compression of the chest while inhaling deeply and not exhaling until the completion of the exercise. The entire set of exercises is intended to promote oxygenation of tissues. In this case extrusion of nitrogen from tissues also occurs, but now it takes place because of the higher oxygen tension. This method also produces a "recuperation response,” about which the author warns before beginning the exercise.
Because the authors of these methods do not take into account the individual characteristics of each patient, including chronobiological and geophysical factors, the results, while positive, do not last.