Article at a Glance
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves exposing the body to increased pressure and 100% pure oxygen to assist in cellular healing and improve health.
- There is significant evidence that suggests HBOT supports white blood cells in fighting infection, encourages new growth of connective tissue, and activates gene sequences that code for repair hormones.
- Patients report improved energy, increased lung capacity, and quality of sleep among other health benefits.
Stop for a second. Take a deep breath. Fill your lungs with as much air as you can, and then exhale. About 20% of that breath was oxygen, and by now it will be circulating in your blood. A few moments later, the oxygen will be used by your cells to convert stored energy from the food you have eaten into a form of energy that your body can use [R]. By about now, that breath of air you took will be powering all of your tissues and vital organs, from your brain to your heart to your liver. Oxygen is our life force. Without oxygen, our cells fail to use energy, and without energy, they can not grow or repair, and will eventually die [R].
Throughout our lives, we accumulate a myriad of injuries that damage our cells. Your body is bombarded with toxins, air pollution, UVB rays, and bacteria. These micro-injuries build up and as you age, your body loses the ability to heal effectively. This affects everything from the durability of artery walls to skin elasticity [R, R].
Eventually, your cells stop functioning as well as they did, the inflammation from daily wear and tear causes aches and pains, and you find yourself feeling much less energetic than you did in the schoolyard. Because the healing of tissue uses more energy and thus requires more oxygen than that which can be gained from breathing, it can be hard for your body to fix these problems [R]. The answer to restoring your cells back to their prime lies in finding other ways of increasing your oxygen intake.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is designed to use pressure to force oxygen into even the tiniest of capillaries. It is a proven treatment for wound repair, and has been approved for treating many conditions including brain abscesses, diabetic ulcers, and thermal burns [R, R].
What are Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is administered in an approved and inspected pressurized chamber. The chambers are either monoplace chambers which hold only one patient at a time or multiplace chambers which can accommodate several patients and an overseeing physician.
In the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the blood plasma is dramatically increased. This causes a difference in oxygen concentration between the blood and tissue [R]. Because molecules naturally move from highly concentrated areas to less concentrated areas, this causes the oxygen to move from the highly concentrated blood into the less concentrated tissues, saturating the body’s cells with oxygen.
As an idea of how effective HBOT is at increasing oxygen levels throughout the body, the normal oxygen concentration of blood plasma is 3 milliliters per liter. In a chamber, these levels approach 60 milliliters per liter [R].
It is this huge increase of oxygen in the body that promotes cell growth, reduces swelling, and encourages the formation of new blood vessels – something everyone can benefit from in supporting and reviving aging cells.
Promoting Brain Health
HBOT has been shown to increase brain function in stroke and trauma patients [R]. Studies have suggested that this is due to hyperbaric oxygen increasing the brain’s blood supply and growing new brain cells [R].
In a promising study, 30 patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), persistent post-concussion syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who underwent HBOT saw an improvement in their symptoms. They reported increased memory, attention and quality of life, and decreased depression and anxiety [R].
It is hypothesized that HBOT may achieve this by increasing the oxygenation of the brain, blood, and tissue, which increases neuronal functioning by reactivating electrical or metabolic pathways [R].
A 2018 study on mice found that HBOT can reverse the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease, which suggests that it could be a promising treatment for humans with the condition before irreparable damage has been done [R].
Blood and Blood Vessel Health
Aging doesn’t only affect our brains – it also affects our blood vessels which become distorted and less elastic over time [R]. Eventually, these vessels can rupture or clog, causing strokes and heart attacks, or just become less efficient at delivering oxygen to where your body needs it the most.
This is why research into endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) is pioneering the way in regenerative medicine [R]. EPCs are immature cells responsible for replacing and the lining of blood vessels. They swarm to the site of an injury and contribute to wound healing by maturing into the cells needed to replace the old ones.
The movement of these cells is induced by increases in bone marrow nitric oxide – an important molecule in cell signaling for vascular constriction and dilation. Because hyperbaric oxygen chambers increase bone marrow nitric oxide, the therapy increases the number of EPC in circulation in the blood and healing of the blood vessels [R].
Additionally, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to dramatically increase the population of blood stem cells [R]. These can mature into any type of blood cells, from the oxygen-carrying erythrocytes to bacteria-eating phagocytes. HBOT has been shown to double the population of blood stem cells eightfold after a series of treatments [R].
Reversing Visible Effects of Aging
The above internal effects might help you keep fighting fit, but how about the visible effects of aging? You might have noticed the tell-tale crow’s feet cropping up around your eyes or the smile lines around your cheeks. Their main cause is sunlight.
Throughout our lives, our skin is bombarded with UV radiation from the sun. The rays activate pathways that cause thickening of the skin, prevention of the formation of blood vessels, and immune system suppression. The accumulated effects of these activated pathways show up as wrinkles [R].
However, HBOT effectively blocks these pathways, reducing wrinkles and the underlying damage to your immune system [R].
How WIll I Feel After Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
The first thing you notice will probably be that you are feeling quite hungry or tired, and maybe a bit light-headed for a few minutes.
There are no studies on the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on healthy people who are not treating a chronic condition. However, patient testimonials note an improvement of lung capacity and feeling energized, faster recovery after sports training, faster-growing hair and nails, and greater mental stamina [R,R,R,R].
Safety of Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is widely recognized as safe, providing that the pressure of the chamber does not exceed 300 kPa and the session lasts fewer than 120 minutes [R]. However, the treatment should only be carried out by professionals to minimize risks.
While there is still some controversy and uncertainty surrounding the exact mechanisms of this therapy at a cellular level, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that hyperbaric oxygen therapy effectively treats chronic conditions and also offers generalized health benefits.
You can search our directory to find the right qualified hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinics for you.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.