What is Hyperbaric Oxygen
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, referred to as HBOT, is the medical use of pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, in this case the OxyHealth Vitaeris 320, one of the most popular soft shell chambers amongst practitioners and professional athletes.
oxygen is a required nutrient that, when supplied in higher amounts, allows the body to do what the body does, self-heal and self-regulate. “Every cell in our body uses and needs oxygen to not only perform its daily tasks but also to heal and recover from the variety of stressors, injuries, and challenges they continually face […] a surplus of oxygen helps provide the cell with an increased capacity to heal, recover and produce the necessary energy for its performance.” (Sonners, 2020)
How HBOT works
While the air we breathe is composed of about 21% oxygen (and 79% nitrogen), the oxygen received in the HBOT is 100% oxygen, that’s 5x the concentration of oxygen. At the same time, the HBOT is pressurized to 1 atmosphere absolute (ATA), which is the equivalent of approximately 33-45 feet below the surface of the ocean.
The combination of increased oxygen and pressure allows for oxygen to dissolve and saturate the blood plasma, tissues and organs, yielding a variety of positive physiological, biochemical and cellular effects. In fact, plasma oxygen concentration is shown to increase 10-15x, allowing oxygen to reach tissues at 25x normal levels, drastically enhancing the body’s ability to repair and regenerate.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be traced all the way back to the 1600’s. HBOT was subsequently developed by the military to treat deep-sea divers who suffered from decompression sickness. In the 1950’s, physicians first employed HBOT during heart and lung surgery, which led to its use for carbon monoxide poisoning in the 1960’s. Since then, over 10,000 clinical trials and case studies have been completed for numerous other health-related applications with the vast majority of results reporting resounding success.
There are currently 13 conditions that the FDA has approved treatment of through the use of HBOT, including things like diabetically derived wound healing, anemia, and burns. Additionally, there are over 120 reported conditions for which hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown to be an effective and beneficial off-label use, according to published medical studies.
Hyperbaric oxygen is commonly used by athletes for both sports performance and recovery. LeBron James has been using it for years now as well as Olympic gold medalists like Ashleigh Johnson.Terrell Owens is said to have used it to recover from a severely sprained ankle and fractured fibula to make it back in time for the Super Bowl.According to Steve Weatherford of the New York Giants, many NFL players regularly use personal hyperbaric chambers in their homes. Other athletes that have utilized the benefits of hyperbaric healing include MLB’s Matt Kemp and Adrian Beltre, UFC star Urijah Faber, and golfer Tiger Woods.
HBOT is shown to be a highly effective method of injury recovery, including
- soft tissue injuries, like sprains
- bone fractures
- tear, stretch, shear
- disc herniation
Continue reading here for additional information on the use of HBOT for sports performance and recover.
Hyperbaric oxygen supports healthy immune system function. Since cells need oxygen to perform their job — whether it be to absorb nutrients, fight infection or decrease inflammation. When we hyperoxygenate the cells, we see an upregulation of the immune system. Specifically we see an increase in white blood cells that fight infections, as well as reactive oxygen species.
VIRUSES AND INFECTIONS
HBOT creates an unfavorable environment for harmful bacteria to live. Many of the pathogens (unhealthy bacteria) that invade our body’s are anaerobes, which means they don’t do well in oxygen. While the healthy bacteria that make up our microbiome are aerobes, which means they need oxygen for life. So when you hyperoxygenate the cells, you help to balance the immune system and microbiome by killing pathogens while simultaneously feeding healthy bacteria. Thus hyperbaric oxygen acts almost like a natural antibiotic. HBOT can be particularly helpful for complex infections such as Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria that thrives in a low oxygen state, so increasing oxygen levels helps kill off the bacteria.
HBOT provides the brain with increased levels of oxygen to help recover and repair brain tissue, increase proliferation of neural stem cells, improve cognitive function and neuroplasticity. Studies also suggest HBOT reawakens the dormant neurons that are alive but not functioning in and around the injured tissue of the brain.
HBOT increases oxygen delivery throughout the body and makes it possible for oxygen to reach inflamed tissue and support optimal cellular and organ functionality. This in turn improves overall immune function, including improving the gut microbiome, where 80% of our immune system resides.
- Small Intestine bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- H. Pylori
- C. Diff
Enhanced delivery of oxygen to the skin promotes the body to regenerate cells quickly, which reduces age spots, saggy skin, wrinkles, scarring, poor collagen structure, and skin cell damage. In a recent study, mice were exposed to UVB rays, known to prematurely age your skin, and when placed in oxygen chambers developed fewer wrinkles and showed fewer signs of tissue damage overall. Additionally, HBOT was demonstrated to cause stem cells to be released from our bone marrow into our circulation. According to Dr. Sonners, after 20+ hours of HBOT use the body begins to release stem cells. This process can create roughly 8x more stem cells than is normally found.
Clinical trials continue to study oxygen therapy’s application to cancer and some of the side effects of cancer surgery and other treatments. Some studies support the use of HBOT, like this one from 2015, where scientists in Boston concluded flooding tumors with oxygen may help some therapies work better. A 2012 review by researchers in Norway showed that hyperbaric oxygen slowed the growth of some cancers but not others. Most notably however, a 2013 study found that a ketogenic diet and HBOT therapy in combination produce significant anti-cancer effects when combined in a natural model of systemic metastatic cancer. And in a more recent study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center found that Oxygen-starved tumor cells have a survival advantage that promotes cancer spread (2019).
WOUND & POST-SURGERY HEALING
HBOT heals wounds no matter where they are in the body by accelerating all stages of wound healing. It works by modulating the transcription of over 8,000 genes, upregulating genes responsible for growth and repair, and downregulating genes responsible for inflammation and program cell death. Surgical trauma to tissues results in swelling, decreased blood flow, decreased oxygen delivery, delayed wound healing, increased risk of infection, and poorer outcomes. When delivered before or soon after surgery, HBOT can minimize surgical injury, complications, and speed healing.