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Dr. Cheney on an Effective Breathing Technique Alternative to the “Rebreather” Protocol for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Paul Cheney, M.D., discussed a “new” breathing technique with patient Carol Sieverling – he presented it to her as no cost, easier, and more effective at increasing oxygen transport than the “rebreather” protocol. The following is a transcription from a conversation taped with Dr. Cheney by Carol Sieverling, that took place in November 2000.

First, here are the benefits of increased oxygen:

1) more energy at the cellular level

2) suppresses growth of yeast (and other pathogens)

3) prevents swelling of the brain caused by decreased oxygen

Dr. Cheney said this was not uncommon in CFIDS and is the connection between Chiari Malformation and CFIDS. Dr. Cheney said that Chiari is a compression phenomenon due to lack of sufficient width/depth at the base of the skull, while CFIDS is a compression phenomenon due to anoxic cerebral edema.

Many CFIDS patients are familiar with Dr. Cheney’s earlier oxygen protocol using a partial rebreather mask to address tissue acidosis/blood alkalosis and thereby improve oxygen transport from the blood into cells (see www.virtualhometown.com/dfwcfids for Cheney Treatment Plan Prescriptions).

Dr. Cheney has realized this rebreather protocol, while beneficial, has limitations. It can be difficult to find the equipment, it is expensive, and the procedure requires much “tweaking.” Most significantly, he has come to realize that it does not address the underlying problem of 2,3 DPG levels.

2,3 DPG is a substance that allows oxygen to be released from the hemoglobin in our blood. Without 2,3 DPG, oxygen can’t get off the hemoglobin and into the cells of our body. This oxygen deprivation makes the body switch over to anaerobic metabolism, which produces tissue acidosis, which can be painful. However, the more 2,3 DPG one has, the more oxygen is released from the blood into the tissues and organs and brain. (And oxygen will help kill candida and other pathogens.)

The very simple breathing technique Cheney is recommending to all his patients can be found on Andrew Weil’s tape of eight different breathing methods. This particular method is Weil’s favorite – he says it’s the most powerful way to treat chronic illness that he knows of. Ayurvedic physicians developed it 3,000 years ago. And 30 years of clinical experience now back it up.

Here is how it works:

1) Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds

2) Hold your breath for 7 seconds

3) Exhale through tightly pursed lips for 8 seconds, creating “back pressure” (you should be able to hear the air being forced out of your mouth as you do this.)

Do this 8 times in a total of two and a half minutes. Do this twice a day – a grand total of 5 minutes a day. That’s all it takes. (If you feel lightheaded, just do it 6 times or until you begin to feel lightheaded, then build up to 8.) You must be very faithful and consistent for this to work, and it takes weeks for the body to adjust the 2,3 DPG levels. But your oxygen transport will get better and better over time.

What does this breathing exercise do? This method is based on the same principle at work in the marathon runners from Kenya who frequently win the Boston Marathon. They live and train at a high altitude. They run at 12,000 feet. To compensate for the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes, their bodies make a physiological adjustment, raising 2,3 DPG levels so more oxygen is released. The higher the 2,3 DPG goes, the easier it is to run. Then the Kenyans go to Boston, which is at sea level (with more oxygen in the atmosphere of course), and run their race. But their bodies are still set for high altitude, so they end up with more oxygen being transported into their tissues than other runners. They are superoxygenated, transporting oxygen like crazy.

Dr. Cheney’s goal is to “trick” our bodies into thinking we live at a higher altitude, thus raising our 2,3 DPG levels, thereby transporting more oxygen from our blood into our tissues. How is that done? By not breathing! This method is actually regulated breath holding. As you regularly breath hold, your O2 drops. You induce a state called desaturation. And for those five minutes a day of desaturation, your body panics. It believes it’s high up in the mountains and it spends the rest of the day compensating for that (by raising 2,3 DPG), even though you’re not actually up in the mountains. The body is so concerned with desaturation that even though you live in Dallas, for example, it will program your body as if you live in Denver (at a higher altitude).

Besides being cheaper, easier, and more effective, Cheney says this method has another advantage over the rebreather mask: you can’t “overregulate.” With the rebreather mask you can “counterregulate” – the result is that you can get too much oxygen transfer going on, which will cause your body to lower 2,3 DPG, ultimately lowering oxygen transfer. This is why the rebreather stopped working for many of us after several months.

With this breathing method, Cheney said that the body will raise 2,3 DPG to the point that it is beneficial, but it won’t raise it so high that it “forces a more profound alkalosis” of the blood.

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