There are many effective, safe, many times inexpensive treatments available that for a variety of reasons aren’t recommended by medical practitioners. These treatments are not included in typical standards of care protocols. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is one such treatment. Although it is not new and the list of beneficial uses is continually growing, this treatment is rarely recommended in the medical community. Patients usually find out about it through their own research or from an acquaintance.
Why is this? Doctors working in large hospitals don’t have the latitude to design treatment protocols on their own to a large degree. Those are set by the institution. Also, one of the more common comments about something that is not currently used is there isn’t the scientific evidence to support its use. Much of the time that simply isn’t true. In the case of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) there are ample scientific studies to justify its use. It is a safe, non-toxic, non-pharmaceutical approach to healing. In a pharmaceutically driven industry, that could be a major reason why it’s not recommended more. You’ll notice that you will never see it advertised on television.
HBOT is a treatment that provides a high concentration of oxygen in a chamber that utilizes increased air pressure. A person’s body takes in this oxygen and is able to absorb more of it under these pressurized conditions. The increased amount of oxygen is circulated via the blood to areas of need in the body and the promotion of healing is a result. If infection is present, the oxygen directly helps combat it and white blood cell activity is also increased which helps fight the infection as well. Other benefits include the growth of new blood vessels in areas that have poor circulation. Increased blood flow in general is an important factor in the healing process. Remember the movie “Seabiscuit”? A hawthorn poultice was wrapped around the horse’s leg to help it heal. Hawthorn is an herb that aids circulation.
The effect HBOT has on blood flow is one of its strong points. Normally, we breathe in oxygen and our lungs use hemoglobin to transport it. The oxygen diffuses into the tissues from the plasma. Problems arise when blood flow is impeded and the oxygen can’t get to where it is needed. When an area of the body is cut off from oxygen, tissue starts to break down. When that happens there may be swelling and pain in the hypoxic (without oxygen) area. The ability of the body to heal itself is hindered by the cellular degeneration that takes place.
HBOT helps because one is breathing a higher concentration of oxygen under pressure. This causes the oxygen to enter the blood plasma and get past areas of restriction. As the tissue oxygenation increases the hypoxic environment decreases and a restoration of blood supply starts to happen as new capillary networks develop and aid the healing process. This healing may be in tissue and it may also be in nerves.
There are many uses for HBOT and more are being discovered regularly. For this article, I would like to focus in some detail on two of the most common uses and I’ll touch lightly on several other conditions where HBOT might be appropriate.
Stroke is a condition in which the brain cells die suddenly due to lack of oxygen. The cause may be due to a blockage of blood flow or a rupture of an artery that goes to the brain. Many times the patient can’t speak or they may lose their memory. One side of the body may experience paralysis as well.
There are two main types of strokes. One is called an ischemic stroke. This constitutes the majority of all strokes. It occurs when a blood clot blocks blood from reaching a particular part of the brain. The clot may originate from elsewhere in the body and be carried via the blood stream to the brain. Blood clots usually occur in areas where there was damage to an artery due to atherosclerosis. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and fills the space between the brain and skull with blood. High blood pressure, head injury, or aneurysm may be the cause of small arteries bursting in the brain.
Other risk factors for stroke besides high blood pressure include obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high triglycerides, high homocysteine levels, a history of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pill use, and regular diet soda consumption.
Strokes are serious because cells begin to die rapidly. Symptoms may manifest quickly and can include dizziness, loss of balance, speech difficulty, numbness, weakness, one sided paralysis, vision impairment, and a sudden headache that can be severe. The outcome for the patient depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain, how much of the brain is damaged, and how soon treatment is administered.
Oxygen delivery to the brain is essential. That’s what the brain operates on (and glucose). The sooner it gets delivered to the injured part the better. HBOT treatments are a logical therapeutic choice. The only question should be “how fast can it be started?” Since HBOT increases blood and oxygen delivery the long-term effects may be drastically reduced. Along with HBOT, there are some supplements that may help with the recovery. Some of my favorites are bomelain for inflammation, krill oil for inflammation and membrane health, grape seed extract for vessel and nerve repair, and acetyl L-carnitine for cell and nerve repair. Niacin aids in forming new blood vessels, turmeric is a good anti-inflammatory, and resveratrol helps oxygenate the brain.
Along with aiding the stroke patient, anyone with a brain injury may benefit from HBOT. The improvement in microcirculation helps the healing and cerebral edema can be lessened. Damaging effects of the injury may be lessened or halted altogether.
2. Diabetic ulcers and wounds
HBOT has a proven track record for being an effective treatment for diabetic leg ulcers and other difficult to heal wounds. Since diabetes affects circulation, the development of sores and infections can lead to gangrene. Once gangrene sets in amputation is often the treatment of choice. The use of HBOT could save many of these limbs.
Besides diabetes caused ulcers, there are also two other main causes; venous stasis ulcers and arterial ulcers. Venous stasis ulcers usually occur just above the ankle on the medial side of the leg where diabetic ulcers are prone to appear on the foot first. Venous stasis ulcers are common with a history of leg swelling, varicose veins, or a history of blood clots. Arterial ulcers are usually on the feet and can result from a variety of reasons causing poor circulation.
The cause of the problem needs to be addressed. If hypertension is present and affecting circulation for example, obviously it needs to be treated as well. If the systolic pressure is high, potassium may help. Celery juice is also a good remedy. If the diastolic is high, magnesium and hawthorn combined many times helps. If both are high garlic, cayenne, hibiscus, olive leaf extract, and Rawolfia may be helpful.
If there is swelling in the leg, compression techniques need to be utilized. If infection is present in the ulcer, it needs to be treated. Antibiotics may also be appropriate here. The use of HBOT should also be considered. It will help the ulcer to heal, can lessen the pain over time, and prevent infection. The use of medi-honey on the wound should also be considered. It helps combat infection as well as aid healing.
Supplements to aid wound healing include lipoic acid, ginko biloba, collagen, nitric oxide enhancers like arginine, hawthorn, grape seed extract, quercitin and horse chestnut.
The heart patient may benefit from HBOT. The production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which the body needs for energy, is aided by oxygen as provided by HBOT. Also, the increase of blood flow causes a systemic circulation benefit.
HBOT appears to have several pediatric uses. Besides helping brain injured children, children with cerebral palsy (C
P) have shown significant improvements in spasticity reduction after as few as twenty treatments. Hypoxic birth disorders may be helped as circulation is enhanced and oxygen is delivered to the brain. Near drowning and autism are two other conditions where improvements have been documented.
Other conditions that HBOT may help include:
2. Sports injuries
5. Lyme Disease
6. Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus
9. Parkinson’s Disease
10. Radiation damage
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