Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Jane Dean runs the Breath for Life charity which provides natural therapies for sick and brain injured children. She describes a treatment which most people only connect with deep sea diving.
Oxygen is so obviously vital to life that it is surprising so little research has been done into therapeutic use and administration of oxygen. Nor has the role of chronic, sub-clinical oxygen deprivation been fully understood.
Every cell in our body requires oxygen both to survive and to function. We receive the oxygen we need by breathing. Poor breathing technique, lack of exercise and air pollution all contribute to a fall in oxygen levels.Today the amount of oxygen in the air ranges from 19-21% but can fall in heavily industrialised regions and of course in our inner cities.
As long ago as 1917 John Scott published an article in the British Medical Journal (1) identifying the need to give more oxygen to ensure that sufficient oxygen actually reaches the tissues, not just for metabolism but also for repair of injury or disease. He devised the first apparatus to administer 100% oxygen and pointed out that the dosage depends on barometric pressure ie the pressure of the atmosphere.
Atmospheric pressure decreases as one climbs above sea level because the air weighs less the higher you climb. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a method of administering pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure. A hyperbaric oxygen chamber is the vessel we use to administer oxygen under pressure. Anyone who has flown in an airplane has in fact been in a pressure chamber.
Traditionally HBOT has been associated with the diving industry as the treatment of choice for decompression sickness. However, in more recent years there has been some notable research into HBOT with regard to certain conditions. For example, head injury (2), myocardial infarction(3), multiple sclerosis(4), cerebral palsy (5), leg ulcers (6) and colitis/Crohn’s disease (7).
So how does HBO work?
3. Vasoconstriction, narrowing of blood vessels
4. Antibacterial activity
Oxygen and the inflammatory cell
Oxygen therapy at a Breath for Life
At A Breath for Life we have a purpose-built, multiple, type 3, chamber. Initially our chamber was used for children with cerebral palsy or similar brain injury. We are registered with the Healthcare Commission to provide this service. In recent years we have allowed adults who are suffering from multiple sclerosis or neurological problems to use the chamber.
Our medical director is Professor Philip James of the Wolfson Hyperbaric Medical Unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Professor James is the guru of hyperbaric medicine with an impressive international reputation.
The children are accompanied by an adult. They receive oxygen via a hood which avoids the use of a face mask. The adults use a face mask.
Compression is not dangerous, however, there may be ear pain similar to that experienced when flying. We advise holding the nose and swallowing or sucking on a boiled sweet for relief. Some clients complain of sinus pain also. Adults who are long- term users can sometimes experience loose dental fillings. An absolute ‘no’ to treatment is pneumothorax, air in the chest cavity.
We are slowly developing our service. We found that children who were receiving HBOT rarely suffered from infections and quickly recovered from any other un-related injury. With medical consent we are hoping to develop a protocol for those people with parasitic infections of the gut. Lyme disease caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, is notoriously difficult to eradicate and often involves antibiotic treatment over several months. Lyme disease has also been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome and theoretically with some food intolerances. A study by Austin in 1993 (9) using HBOT against Borrelia was encouraging.
I am also interested in the use of HBOT wherever there has been inflammation and the gut would be a primary site. Could it be by simply using HBOT we could eradicate parasitic infections of the gut, clear free radical damage, clear the inflammation and allow the gut to become more tolerant of previously allergenic food groups. Utopia!
HBOT is a safe and non-invasive. It works well with other treatments and is inexpensive when compared with other hi-tech orthodox treatments.
More information from A Breath for Life Hyperbaric Treatment Centre LA3 3JJ tel 01524 855422 www.abreathforlife.org
Click here for more articles