Understanding the effects and mechanisms of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is important in order for us to know when and how to use it. Below are the ways that HBOT benefits the body and provides healing.
Hyperbaric oxygen decreases bubble size
In general, an embolism is anything that has become stuck within the circulatory system. An air embolism is a gas bubble (or bubbles) trapped within the blood arteries.
The bubbles will eventually shut off the blood flow to a certain location in the body. In an emergency, air embolism can easily cause serious and permanent harm to the central nervous system.
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is used to reduce the size of bubbles by employing an oxygen gradient as well as pressure.
The volume of the bubble decreases as pressure increases, according to Boyle’s law. This is just roughly 30% with a change of 1.8 ATA.
HBOT reduces lipid peroxidation
Lipid peroxidation is a series of oxidative lipid breakdown processes. It is the process through which free radicals “steal” electrons from cell membrane lipids, causing cell damage.
Controlling or reducing lipid peroxidation is critical in maintaining normal cell function.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can induce controlled vasoconstriction
Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of blood arteries caused by the contraction of tiny muscles in their walls. Blood flow is delayed or halted as blood arteries constrict.
Vasoconstriction is typically caused by sickness, medicines, or psychological disorders.
Vasoconstriction can also be beneficial. When you’re in a cold place, peripheral vasoconstriction helps your body retain heat by reducing blood flow to your skin.
Older persons have a reduced ability to respond to cold and protect themselves against hypothermia.
To aid persons with certain medical disorders, healthcare providers may utilize medication to cause vasoconstriction.
When induced in a controlled manner through HBOT, this constriction of blood vessels could minimize inflammation and swelling and benefit the body.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces cytokine response
Cytokines are critical components of normal immune responses, but having a large number of them generated in the body at once might be damaging.
Cytokine production might spiral out of control in severe circumstances. Immune cells produce cytokines that signal the body to produce more immune cells, which in turn produce even more pro-inflammatory cytokines.
A subset of cytokines known as chemokines are important in the recruitment of cells to regions of inflammation and in the fight against infections, although this process can be harmful overall.
The positive feedback loop of cytokine production can result in a “cytokine storm,” a condition in which excessive cytokine production triggers an immune response that can harm organs, particularly the lungs and kidneys, and even result in death.
In order to keep our immune system healthy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy balances the body’s cytokine production by reducing inflammatory interleukins and TNF-alpha, as well as by promoting anti-inflammatory cytokines.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy aids in toxin inhibition
Certain pressures of oxygen can suppress toxins like gangrene, or infections like mold, H.pylori, or C. diff.
Certain bacteria’s toxins can be rendered inactive by HBOT. It also raises the concentration of oxygen in the tissues.
This aids in their resistance to infection. Furthermore, hyperbaric oxygen therapy boosts white blood cell ability to detect and eliminate invaders.
Through HBOT, pressure is applied on those microbes with pressurized oxygen, reducing the symptoms associated with said toxins.
Leukocyte oxidative killing with hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Leukocytes (aka white blood cells) contain a phagocyte NADPH oxidase enzyme that creates superoxide after cell activation.
Reactive oxygen species are derived from superoxide and, together with proteases liberated from the granules, are designed to kill microbes like viruses and bacteria that might have been ingested in the body.
HBOT increases these reactive oxygen species, effectively giving our white blood cells a better chance to fight off any microbial invasions.
Antibiotic synergy with hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Certain bacteria are highly resilient to traditional antibacterial treatments, some of which have evolved to lay out a protective biofilm to shield themselves from antibiotics.
By exposing these bacteria to high levels of oxygen, hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps to break down their protective biofilms and render the bacteria itself more sensitive to antibiotics and to the body’s own immune system.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases angiogenesis
In cases of chronic infection, toxin exposure, or physical trauma, there is damage in the blood vessels that causes a breakdown of microcirculation in the affected area, preventing blood from reaching the damaged tissues.
Without this microcirculation, the cells and tissues cannot remove waste products nor receive fresh oxygen, stifling (or outright preventing) the capacity to heal.
HBOT stimulates the regrowth of blood vessels (angiogenesis), effectively restoring function to broken parts of the body faster than it normally can achieve.
Angiogenesis is the process through which new blood vessels grow, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the body’s tissues. It is a necessary function for growth and development, as well as wound healing.
Neurogenesis and hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Nerve cells have an extremely high oxygen requirement in order to function and regenerate, which is why the brain consumes more of our oxygen supply than any other part of the body.
The process through which new neurons are produced in the brain is known as neurogenesis.
Neurogenesis is critical during embryonic development, but it also occurs in particular brain regions after birth and throughout our lives.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy dissolves high amounts of oxygen directly into the blood plasma, allowing our nerve cells to access all the oxygen they need to regrow and function at a high capacity.
For patients who regularly take hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions, this can result in noticeable changes in mood, concentration, alertness, and energy.
Mitogenesis and hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Mitogens are non-specific immune cell stimulators.
Mitogen stimulation activates immune cells and is used to assess overall immunological function. Mitogenesis is the process of regrowing new mitochondria.
Mitochondria is responsible for producing cell energy that can be utilized by the body to repair and improve cell functions.
Metabolizing more mitochondria is directly affected by oxygen levels in the body.
Repetitive HBOT sessions can create a surplus in oxygen that will stimulate the growth and reproduction of our mitochondrial cells.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves fibroblast proliferation/collagen synthesis
Severe injuries or wear and tear can damage our ligaments and tendons to a point where they become painful and cause loss of mobility.
Collagen is a protein that is responsible for joint health and skin suppleness. It’s in your bones, muscles, and blood, and it makes up three-quarters of your skin and one-third of your protein.
As you age, your present collagen degrades, making it more difficult for your body to make more.
Repetitive use of HBOT can stimulate growth factors in order to regenerate these tissues and increase collagen production.
HBOT boosts stem cell production
Stem cells are unique human cells that can grow into a variety of cell types. This can include everything from muscle cells to brain cells.
They can also repair damaged tissues in rare circumstances.
Researchers hope that stem cell treatments might one day be utilized to cure major diseases including paralysis and Alzheimer’s.
There is an 8x increase in stem cell production among patients who regularly use HBOT.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases telomere length
Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of our DNA.
Telomere length has been determined to be the result of the aging of the cells. As cells break down, we will see shorter telomeres.
HBOT has been shown to not only slow the degradation of telomeres but also regrow them.