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Got O2? Taking a Deeper Breath

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In addition to water and sugar, oxygen is also necessary for the maintenance of optimal health. It should come as no surprise then, that a deficiency of oxygen in the tissues is a major contributor in the development and progression of degenerative and chronic disease. Many, if not all, progressive health issues can benefit from or be resolved with the assistance of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).  

But what exactly is HBOT? Essentially, HBOT consists of a person entering a chamber that is then pressurized. While inside, the person breathes in higher concentrations of oxygen. This increase in both pressure and oxygen is the magic combination that leads to phenomenal health benefits! However, before I get into a review of the benefits, let me first review everyone’s favorite dinner topic: oxygen and physiology.

As pressure, oxygen concentration, or both increase, more oxygen is forced into the blood and subsequently the tissues. Normally, oxygen is carried by our red blood cells. However, given that the red blood cells are typically already loaded up with oxygen, they have very little additional oxygen carrying capacity. As a result, the extra HBOT oxygen is forced into plasma – the liquid portion of the blood. With time, this extra oxygen easily seeps into even the smallest blood vessels of the surrounding tissue, producing all kinds of beneficial effects.

There! That wasn’t so bad was it? So what are these beneficial effects? HBOT has been meticulously demonstrated to reduce swelling and inflammation, up-regulate antioxidant levels, increase cellular respiration and energy levels, protect cells from oxidation, stimulate repair of blood vessels, improve digestion, promote wound healing, improve immunity and accelerate the ability of bones to knit together. 

When one considers that a large part of all chronic disease and infection is a function of the corrosive and oxidative effects of low oxygen, it becomes intuitive that improving oxygen saturation of tissues will help to reverse the debility of disease. This is true! The common link between a heart attack, a raging bacterial infection, cancer and traumatic injury is that each of these conditions progresses in part due to disrupted or reduced oxygen flow. Consider some of the following conditions that have been medically approved for HBOT treatment: severe anemia, carbon monoxide poisoning, crush injuries, advanced soft tissue infections, enhancement of poorly healing diabetic wounds and acute burn injuries. All of these conditions share the common link of poor oxygen delivery to tissues.

Research also demonstrates impressive benefits for “off-label” use of HBOT in conditions such as traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, lupus, recent myocardial infarctions, Lyme disease, autism, migraines, sports injuries, infectious illness, cancer and much more. Many of the benefits of HBOT in these conditions have been substantiated by SPECT scans, a type of nuclear imaging test that that can show both blood flow and metabolic changes to tissues both before and after treatment. Such studies can easily be found on the internet.

When it comes to the actual design of chambers, there are two basic types – “hard” and “soft” shelled chambers. At Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic we utilize a soft shell chamber. Soft shell chambers consist of a sturdy, flexible bladder that is air tight once zipped closed. These  chambers operate at lower pressures compared to hard shell chambers and are always flooded with pressurized room air. An external oxygen concentrator attached to the chamber miraculously takes the 21% oxygen found in room air and concentrates it so that nearly 100% oxygen flows out into the delivery line. 

The experience in the chamber is extremely relaxing. Both reading and watching a movie on your computer are common pastimes during HBOT session. Sessions typically are 90-120 minutes, although positive benefits have been demonstrated in as little as 30 minutes. 

The time spent in an HBOT chamber is referred to as a dive. In a soft shell chamber, a dive subjects the participant to a pressure equivalent to what you feel under about 12 feet of water.  Hard shell chambers subject the participant to much deeper dive pressures. It is important to note that the difference in pressures between soft and hard shell chamber likely has no impact upon efficacy of treatment, provided that the participant remains in the soft shell chamber for a bit longer than s/he would in a hard shell chamber. This extra time enables the participant to achieve  an equivalent level of oxygen saturation in their tissues.

For those who are suffering from the conditions discussed here, consider HBOT to be a therapy that has the potential to achieve remarkable results in a very short period of time.


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