What We Know About Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers And Mental Health?

Please note that this blog contains no original writing. Each section and statement is directly from the aforementioned source.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

According to John Hopkins Medical, “hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is a type of treatment used to speed up healing of carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, stubborn wounds, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen. If you undergo this therapy, you will enter a special chamber to breathe in pure oxygen in air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than average. The goal is to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function.”

In an article shared by Derrick Walker under Advanced Wound Care Systems, Discovery, Dr. Sherman Johnson, Hyperbaric Healing Center, Walker stated that, “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) appears to be a safe and effective treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post‐ Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression.”

How does HBOT work? According to John Hopkins Medical:

  • HBOT helps wound healing by bringing oxygen-rich plasma to tissue starved for oxygen. Wound injuries damage the body’s blood vessels, which release fluid that leaks into the tissues and causes swelling. This swelling deprives the damaged cells of oxygen, and tissue starts to die. HBOT reduces swelling while flooding the tissues with oxygen. The elevated pressure in the chamber increases in the amount of oxygen in the blood. HBOT aims to break the cycle of swelling, oxygen starvation, and tissue death.
  • HBOT prevents “reperfusion injury.” That’s the severe tissue damage that happens when the blood supply returns to the tissues after they have been deprived of oxygen. When blood flow is interrupted by a crush injury, for instance, a series of events inside the damaged cells leads to the release of harmful oxygen radicals. These molecules can do damage to tissues that can’t be reversed and cause the blood vessels to clamp up and stop blood flow. HBOT encourages the body’s oxygen radical scavengers to seek out the problem molecules and allow healing to continue.
  • HBOT helps block the action of harmful bacteria and strengthens the body’s immune system. HBOT can disable the toxins of certain bacteria. It also increases oxygen concentration in the tissues. This helps them resist infection. In addition, the therapy improves the ability of white blood cells to find and destroy invaders.
  • HBOT encourages the formation of new collagen (connective tissue) and new skin cells. It does so by encouraging new blood vessel formation. It also stimulates cells to produce certain substances, like vascular endothelial growth factor. These attract and stimulate endothelial cells necessary for healing.

HBOT for Mental Health? What science says:

Psychiatric disorders are prevalent, debilitating mental and behavioral patterns, usually with a complex biopsycho-social etiology, eventually leading to irreversible brain changes. These changes are comprised of chemical and anatomical alterations in neurotransmitter signal transduction pathways which also serve as the pharmacologic target of most current drug therapy. Accordingly, other mental disorders with a solid pathophysiological base of knowledge, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, etc., may benefit from the use of HBOT as well. In the same manner, as to disorders discussed in this article, research into PTSD and depression does not stand on its own and is always related to physiological insults with biological mechanisms of ischemia, hypoxia, and inflammation. Thus, perhaps these have more potential for improvement with HBOT. [The Role of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Psychiatry: A Review of the Current Knowledge Shani Raphaeli, MD,1 Erez Carmon, MD,2 Boaz Bloch, MD, MHA,3 and Eyal Fruchter, MD, MHA1]

What Brain SPECT Imaging and Other Research Reveals About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy From Amen Clinics:

Brain SPECT is an imaging technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It reveals areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. Brain imaging studies have found that HBOT has several benefits for the brain.

Increases blood flow.

Brain imaging studies using SPECT show that people who have had HBOT have marked improvement in blood flow to the brain. Adequate blood flow in the brain is vital for mental health. SPECT scans reveal that low blood flow is commonly linked to mental health/brain health issues, such as ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, and more. In fact, low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that an individual will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Improves functioning in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Low blood flow is also linked to ASD. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has helped improve cognitive and behavioral functions in people with autism by compensating for decreased blood flow in affected areas of the brain. A 2009 study showed that children with autism who underwent HBOT had significant improvement in overall functioning, eye contact, social interactions, cognitive and sensory awareness, and receptive language. People have also reported improved sleep and reduced aggression in people with autism who undergo HBOT.

Improves cognitive and psychological function after a concussion.

One study from 2017 showed that 29 military veterans with blast-induced concussions found that they performed better on physical, psychological, and cognitive tests after 40 sessions of HBOT. In particular, the veterans who underwent HBOT showed improvements in memory, attention, anxiety, depression (including a reduction in suicidal thoughts), PTSD symptoms, intelligence quotient, and more. They also reduced their usage of psychoactive medication.

Improves PTSD following a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) increase the risk of several mental health/brain health conditions, including ADD/ADHD, anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD, suicide, and more. According to research, treating the underlying TBI with concentrated oxygen can promote the healing process. A brain SPECT imaging study from 2011 involved 16 military personnel with PTSD following a TBI. The soldiers underwent neuropsychological testing and brain imaging and before and after 40 sessions of HBOT. After treatment, they showed significant improvement in mood, impulsivity, anxiety, quality of life scores, and more. Their SPECT brain scans after HBOT showed remarkable overall improvement in blood flow.

Improves brain metabolism in Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2019 brain imaging study involving SPECT and PET scans is the first to document improvements in brain metabolism in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The subject of the study was a 58-year-old woman whose cognitive function had been declining for 5 years. She underwent 40 sessions of HBOT. After just 21 sessions, she reported better moods, a boost in energy, and better ability to perform routine tasks. She even said it was easier to do the crossword puzzle. After 40 sessions of HBOT, she reported improvements in concentration, memory, sleep, and ability to use the computer. She also noted a decrease in disorientation, less frustration, and her anxiety was gone. The brain scans showed 6.5-38% improvement in overall brain metabolism, prompting the researchers to suggest HBOT could be a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. “We demonstrated the largest improvement in brain metabolism of any therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,” says the lead study author Dr. Paul Harch. “HBOT in this patient may be the first treatment not only to halt, but temporarily reverse disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease.”




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