Arrived early for my hyperbaric oxygen therapy today and snapped a quick selfie. I thought it would be a good opportunity to post about what it’s like, for anyone who is interested in giving it a go.
The first thing worth noting, is that Chronic Fatigue is categorised as a neurological disorder by The World Health Organisation. I don’t know if this applies to all countries, but under U.K. legislation and prescribed NICE guidelines doctors have to follow, healthcare providers are required by law to recognise it as such. In the U.K., there are around 50 Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres and because CFSME is classified as a neurological disorder, they are usually happy to treat people who have a confirmed diagnosis.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen under pressure in a purpose built chamber, usually for an hour. Most people do a weekly session, but for some conditions like cancer where HBOT is proven to make chemotherapy more effective, 3-5 sessions per week may be recommended. This pure supply of oxygen is delivered *above* normal atmospheric pressure, so that the oxygen is delivered is in excess of what you would normally breathe in everyday.
Under normal circumstances oxygen is transported around the body by red blood cells. But with HBOT, the pressure increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood stream which induces oxygen levels to increase in ALL of the body's fluids, including blood plasma and lymph fluid.
The benefit of this increased level of oxygen is that the oxygen can more effectively reach damaged tissue and areas where circulation is poor or sluggish, as is the case for anyone suffering from long term chronic illness who is not able to take regular exercise. Another benefit is that it enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill infections, and oxygen is both antibiotic and antiviral. HBOT also helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. Delivery of extra oxygen encourages the rapid growth of new blood vessels into the affected areas which are then available to stimulate healing and repair.
This makes oxygen like little cheerleaders for your body 😍
Recent studies suggest that increased oxygen levels can help release stem cells from bone marrow. These stem cells have the potential to transform into any cell of the body and so there is the possibility that damaged tissues can be renewed, and I assume this is probably one of its many benefits for Mutiple Sclerosis sufferers. Depending upon the pressure level or “diving depth” as it’s commonly referred to—the body is provided with between a 10-20 fold increase in normal oxygen delivery, making it a painless and non invasive treatment.
In terms of what to expect, you will likely need to have your doctor or GP, endorse your condition and give their blessing for you to do HBOT. You may asked to visit the centre in advance of doing any sessions so they can show you how it all works, but my husband was able to do this on my behalf.
The “depths” of pressure can vary between 16ft, 24ft, and 33ft. You start off at the lowest and the instructor will let you know when you can increase to a higher pressure—often after about five dives. The chamber itself has space for around 6 chairs. At my centre they are like padded office chairs, so you need to be able to sit upright for roughly an hour and a half, but they do also accommodate wheelchairs.
You get given a mask and you attach the nozzles on each side which you can just see in my picture. One is for O2 in, and the other for breathing CO2 out. You have to create a seal on your face so there are adjustable straps to help you achieve this. I have learned that taking the mask off, often upsets the seal so it’s best try keep you mask on. The mask may leave your face with some pressure marks but these fade within 10-20 minutes after your session.
At the start, the chamber gets pressurised for about 15 minutes. Your ears feel like you’re on an airplane and you may need to yawn a few times to clear them. In my first 10 sessions or so, I would get really hot in the first half hour. Some people bring a small towel with them, if they are excessive sweaters but I have since stopped experiencing this side effect.
Putting the chamber under pressure is a loud affair and feels very similar to taking off in an airplane. The noise stops after the desired pressure has been reached, and then your hour begins...
I like to take a book to read, but in the beginning I just focussed on my breathing. If you are familiar with yoga and meditation breathing exercises, these breathing techniques can help you to maximise the benefits of breathing in concentrated oxygen. My local centre has a camera and a PA system fitted in each chamber, so the instructor can monitor and communicate with you. So if at any point you are in distress or need medical attention, you can wave and or shout to get their attention and they will depressurise the chamber for you.
After the hour is up, it takes another 15 minutes to release the pressure. Sometimes it can get quite cold in the cabin and occasionally a bit fog like—and then you’re done!
In terms of the benefits, it has really helped my energy levels. In my first few dives, I wasn’t capable of putting on makeup or fixing my hair which I am able to do again so that at least once a week I get to do some mild socialising. There is however the potential to induce a herxheimer / healing crisis. I found this out when I tried to go to 33ft—the detox and die off effect became too much, so I have dropped back down to 24ft for the time being.
For those who know about my hyperthyroidism hair loss experience; the combination of DMSO and oxygen has helped to stop any further hair loss, and is slowly helping to regrow my once thick locks (my eyebrows and eyelashes are thankfully back to normal from the DMSO!) It is also really helping me to tackle my airway infection from yeast and mould/mold mycotoxins, so that I no longer have the constant stuffy feeling in my nose that I’ve had for the past 20 years.
The wonders of DMSO are too numerous to detail here—deserving of its own post. But I hope that this post helps anyone who has been thinking of trying Oxygen Therapy, a better idea of what to expect and perhaps give you the courage to give it a go.
I wish I had done it sooner rather later, and I’m very happy to answer any questions anyone may have 🤗
#ChronicFatigue #MyalgicEncephalomyelitis #ChronicFatigueSyndrome #Fibromyalgia #MyCondition #HypothyroidismUnderactiveThyroidDisease #Hyperthyroidism #MultipleSclerosis #Cancer #LymeDisease