Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment
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Two words. Game changer. It’s the reason I am even able to write this post. Oh how I wish I had discovered this years ago! Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) has simply been the most beneficial treatment I have tried. It has not only provided the biggest improvement but it only took 3 weeks (YES 3 WEEKS PEOPLE) to see and feel that improvement. Those of you that have fallen over at that should pick themselves up off the floor and read on. And if you are an ME/CFS sufferer like me you will know how amazing that timescale is. Side effects are rare (more than we can say for your standards drug option eh?). Hey and it also made deciding on the subject for this, my first post, a complete no-brainer.
Where to start? There’s so much to tell but I’ll try and keep this post fairly short, succinct and not too techy. First of all I’ll explain what HBOT is (and isn’t) and then share with you my experience of it along with a few pointers to consider if you want to try it.
What is HBOT?
HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen at higher than atmospheric pressures in an enclosed chamber. This process increases your oxygen intake from the normal 20% max to 100%. Oxygen is then absorbed by all body fluids, cells and tissues meaning it can even reach those with blocked or reduced blood flow. (This is why it helps with tissue repair where blood supply is compromised)
What conditions can it help?
It can be beneficial for a range of conditions from MS, ME, Lyme disease, Cancer, Fibromyalgia (you may have heard that Lady Gaga uses it to manage her condition), sports injuries, wound healing and many more. Any biohackers might also consider it for it’s intense healing benefits.
What are the benefits?
These include improved immunity, improved healing, improved detoxification, stimulation of stem cells, recent research indicates it can even positively impact our genes plus many, many more. So many more than I can cover in this blog!
Where can I get more information on HBOT?
There are lots of resources on the internet that can provide information but I would suggest having a look at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Trust as this website provides detail around how it works and the conditions it can benefit. This website also provides details of the centres that provide HBOT so you can find one local to you.
Another source of information if you want to delve a bit deeper is Professor Phillip James website (he pioneered the use of HBOT in the UK for divers with ‘the bends’ which led to it’s use by MS patients). You can find out more about his work in his book and website Oxygen and the Brain or you can check out his lecture on YouTube
What it’s not?
Don’t confuse HBOT with Ozone therapy or Hydrogen Peroxide therapy they are completely different treatments.
My nutritionist recommended it to help not just with the bone crushing fatigue that my ME causes but also because it is beneficial against Cancer. Living in Edinburgh means there is a local MS Centre in Edinburgh that offers HBOT to non-MS patients. I knew I had to try it out.
Treatment starts with a protocol to saturate the body then once this is achieved weekly sessions maintain this. The protocol for ME is 15 sessions over 3 – 4 weeks so the schedule is quite intense (well it is when you are ill and hardly leave the house cause it makes you more ill). It took two attempts before I managed to complete the protocol. The first time I just found the travel too much and after 4 sessions had to stop. Looking back, it seems crazy that a 25 minute car journey across town was too much for me but that’s ME for you, making the basics in life a struggle. So, I waited and I worked with my nutritionist to try and improve things.
After 4 months I was feeling better so decided to try again and see if I could manage it. I went back the centre and after my first session I was absolutely shattered. I got home, had some food and flaked out for almost 3 hours. It turns out that it’s not unusual to feel really tired after your first session. This seems logical when you think about the mechanism of HBOT i.e. breathing in 100% oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure that means it gets into every nook and cranny of your body stimulating healing and the immune system. Clearly after a session your body has quite a lot to do!
The recommended protocol for ME meant attending about 5 times a week. Sessions take about an hour and a half but for me the rest of the day was a write off. All the way through my protocol I would flake out for a few hours when I got home. I had to make sure I had nothing else on for the day as I just couldn’t manage anything else. If you want to complete your protocol more quickly you can attend more than one session in a day as long as there is sufficient time in between. My brain melts just thinking about even trying this one but I have met other people that have done this (none of them had ME though). Me, I would have been comatised after two sessions in one day!!
I can’t lie there is a tiny bit of discomfort involved in the treatment. You have to wear a mask so you can breath in the 100% oxygen throughout the session. The centre fit and provide masks but they aren’t the most comfortable thing to wear. I thought that I would find it difficult to breathe with the mask on but actually that part is just fine. The mask is just a bit annoying but I find distraction works really well. Reading, surfing the internet and watching youtube work brilliantly. When else are you going to watch stupid videos of cute cats and dogs without thinking you’re wasting your time?
After a few weeks I started to notice a real difference, and so did others. After 3 weeks I was feeling much better. I still have to sleep after a session but I know this and plan for it. Plus it comforts me that my body is busy fixing itself as a result of the treatment. Before treatment I was suffering from fatigue almost all the time. Now I can stay up all day and have managed to reduce my rest periods significantly. Next step is to start ‘bouncing the boundaries’ to see the extent of the improvement. I have a lot of other infections and conditions that it hasn’t cured but my symptoms have improved and I am looking into the possibility of conjunctive treatments with HBOT as it can help treatments and drugs penetrate deeper into the body. For now I continue to top up with sessions twice a week.
So how much did all this cost I hear you say. The MS Centre charge £15 a session. So for 15 treatments the cost is £225. Prices elsewhere may vary from this, I have seen some on the internet which look pretty expensive. To maintain saturation levels the recommendation is once a week but some people only go once every two weeks. Everyone is different I guess. This cost is minuscule in comparison to the fortune I have spent on other treatments that have done nothing (some have made things worse!!). What I really like is that the science behind this just makes sense. So even if you are ‘healthy’ you could still benefit. Lots of sports people use it to speed up injury recovery.
One last comment on this experience. In this information age we all think we have everything at our finger tips. One of the hidden benefits of HBOT has been the people I have met. Everyone at the centre is understanding and accommodating. I have ear problems which means I have to ask them to go slow when pressurising the chamber. This is never a problem for either the operators or my fellow ‘oxygenators’. Everyone I have met has been helpful, open about their condition and exchanged information on what has helped them. Meeting other people that ‘get ‘ your invisible illness and some who also live in an invisible world has been invaluable to me. You can’t put a price on these things.
Thinking of trying HBOT? here are my 5 points to consider
- You can self refer. You don’t need a GP or consultant to refer you. In fact your GP probably won’t know much about this as there is little training on this provided at medical school. In fact they may be sceptical about it. Don’t worry they are just being cautious as they don’t know.
- Most centres will allow you to come along for a taster session so you can try it out. There are a few conditions that it isn’t compatible with but suitability will be assessed before hand
- If the time and effort of the sessions are overwhelming then try and get some help from friends and family. It will be worth it.
- If you get sore ears when you are flying then get your ears syringed before hand to minimise any discomfort during the chamber pressurisation.
- There are many centres that offer HBOT. From what I have seen the MS centres tend to be the most reasonably priced.