Interview with Doctor Konstantin Buteyko, MD. Ph.D. (1982)

- Updated on November 20, 2023

Interview with Doctor Konstantin Buteyko, MD. Ph.D. (1982) 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

– (Translation) Last updated on August 9, 2018

Published in the Buteyko method. Its application in medical practice,
ed. by K.P. Buteyko, 2nd ed., 1991, Titul, Odessa.

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 Man. I thought if I learned 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 took my Degree with Honors and became a resident of 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 in 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 suroxygenation). 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 (a 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, angina with infarction 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 on that memorable night of my duty in the clinic near Petrovskiye Gates. I was busy testing my ideas on patients. I asked asthmatics with angina 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 Semmelweis, 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 the 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 angina. 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 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’s work and the use of state-of-the-art technologies gave us vast knowledge of the main functions of the 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 say, more than 1,000 patients with asthma, high blood pressure and angina 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: What do they mean by Western European medicine?

Answer: Before getting to the core of the method, I-d like to mention I think of two trends in medicine: the so-called official-, western medicine, and the oriental, particularly Tibetan medicine, the judd-shee. 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 the 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 instructions, 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 angina, attacks occurred almost on the 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”, and the people gave it a name “the medical combine”. Materials about it were publicized in the press, for example, in the “Izobretatel i Razionalizator” journal (volume 5, 1962, and volume 6, 1961). That was a unique machine, still unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

Question: Was it patented?

Answer: Only in 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 Professor Meshalkin 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 Meshalkin had 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 the 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 fifty-bed hospital for clinical trials. Our condition was 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 success was 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 the 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 phone call 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 with it nation-wide. Although here in Moscow there are quite a few doctors that had been cured by us, none of the medical institutions here uses it. Our method works in Kharkov, Chernigov, Kakhovka, Leningrad, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, 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 the 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 the concentration of carbon dioxide in air and water was dozens percent. Therefore, a specific cellular concentration of CO2 is a 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 ? to the alkaline medium which alters vitamin and ferment activity. When the activity of metabolic regulators changes, normal metabolism shutters and this leads to a loss of cells. If CO2 comes down to 3% and ? offsets to 8%, the organism dies. Destructive effects of hyperventilation via creating a 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: ?) 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 hemorrhoids. 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 center creating the dominant activation there. This deepens the breath, produces the feel of dyspnea (or air shortage for deep breathers) and locks the vicious circle (the positive feedback that persistently intensifies or deepens the 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 center 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, angina, high blood pressure, and epilepsy. The latter cause side-effects: pneumosclerosis, venosclerosis, 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, angina, or high blood pressure) develop symptoms of endurance, which has been consistently observed for almost two decades. We found out that extreme de-deepening of breath does not end in harmful aftereffects. This is how we have actually discovered the main law of death: the deeper you breathe v 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, Precancer 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?

* Note. The remaining part of the interview is included in the Amazon book (sponsored content): “Original Works by Dr Buteyko and 1988 Buteyko Breathing Manual” (Kindle Book and Paperback). You can also find the PDF version of this book on the page “Dr. Buteyko’s Original Interviews, Articles, Speeches, and Manuals“…..

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