portable hyperbaric oxygen chamber

The first hyperbaric chamber was built in 1861 | Source: AHA Hyperbarics

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy The Latest Wellness Trend?

Endorsed by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Justin Bieber, hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT is quickly being recognised for its wide-ranging health benefits. Proving to be beneficial in treating radiation damage, burns and wounds, and reducing inflammation, HBOT has gone beyond its original use in treating divers suffering from decompression illness, or ‘the bends’. Today, the treatment involving breathing in pure oxygen is being recognised as a way to improve your physical and mental wellness with HBOT clinics popping up across the globe.

But what is involved in the rising wellness trend? What’s the science behind HBOT and what can we really gain?

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Sparked by concerns around air pollution and the effects of long-COVID, many have turned to the increasingly popular hyperbaric oxygen therapy in recent years for a breath of much needed fresh, and highly oxygenated, air.

To find out what HBOT is all about and why so many are advocating for it, I tried out the treatment for myself at Cottesloe-based hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic, Studio2.

“Under normal conditions, the air you breathe normally is around 21 per cent oxygen, the rest is made up of mainly nitrogen and other elements,” Natalie White, the owner of Studio2, explained.

“This is generally sufficient for the body’s basic functions, however, elevating the oxygen level in the body can create a cascade of benefits short term, as well as long term with regular use.”

Nat told me these benefits include a rebalanced immune system thanks to the chamber’s ability to increase your glutathione by approximately 15 per cent, as well as improved cognitive function, increased energy levels, reduced muscle fatigue and even anti-ageing effects.

After confirming I was eligible to try the treatment, I stepped into Studio2’s inflatable chamber also known as a mild hyperbaric chamber. Inside I was able to bring my phone or watch Netflix on the iPad provided as the chamber pumped in 97 per cent pure oxygen. Apart from some slight pressure in my ears as Nat brought the tank to pressure -around 1.35ATA- the one-hour session inside the tank was comfortable, peaceful even. Although if you tend to get claustrophobic, this isn’t the treatment for you.

During the one hour session, Nat explained that you breathe in around 1100 grams of “super oxygen”, which equates to 10 times the amount you’d breathe in from normal conditions.

“The flood of fresh oxygen into your blood binds to the plasma, and this is where the real magic happens. All of the super oxygen floating in the plasma rushes into tissue that’s normally restricted by blood flow caused by stubborn inflammation. When the super oxygen seeps into ‘hard to reach’ places via blood, it jump starts your body’s natural healing.”

What are the risks?

According to accredited Australian hyperbaric facility, Wesley Hyperbaric, HBOT is approved for a number of conditions including decompression illness, necrotising soft tissue infection, thermal burns, arterial gas embolisms, carbon monoxide poisoning and radiation injury, to name a few- in accordance with The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. While many of these conditions are covered by Medicare, other applications of the treatment are not, with more research and clinical trials needed to scientifically support HBOT’s growing list of purported health benefits.

As for risks, Western Australia’s Department of Health site states that side effects are not common but can include a change in vision, which is usually temporary along with some mild fatigue. Other possible side effects include fluid build-up or the rupture of the middle ear and sinus damage, although those who’ve had a recent ear surgery or injury are not recommended to receive the treatment.

As more research is conducted into the promising wide-ranging uses of the treatment, including its potential ability to alleviate the symptoms of long-COVID, HBOT very well could be the breath of fresh air we all need.

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