What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an innovative procedure that provides oxygen under high pressure, typically 1.5 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. The increased oxygen pressure promotes enhanced blood flow throughout all the structures of the body which results in augmenting the natural process of regeneration of cells and tissues which occurs in all organs of the body. In addition to this, increased oxygen delivery results in increased delivery of nutrients to the body’s cells and tissues which ultimately result in better healing and also plays role in prevention of illness.
Aging is physiological process that results in progressive loss of functions of a wide range of body cells and tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is implied nowadays to fight and reverse the signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines. It does this by enhancing the collagen production within the skin cells and also increases oxygen delivery to the cells, helping them to regenerate and heal faster.
How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy prove useful in reversing the signs of aging?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works in the following ways to reverse the signs of aging with oxygen:
- HBOT reverses the process of telomere shortening. Telomeres are regions on the ends of chromosomes that have a protective role. Shortening in the telomere length results in aging process.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also prevents the accumulation of malfunctioning and old cells of the body. It clears up the unwanted and worn out cells of the body.
- HBOT also stimulates collagen and elastin production in the skin and prevents the signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy encourages formation of new blood vessels and new skin cells. Moreover, it also encourages formation of collagen and stimulates production of certain factors, called vascular endothelial growth factor which stimulates the endothelial cells to fasten the healing process.
- HBOT also stimulates stem cell production providing new stores of cells that can replace old and worn out cells.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces inflammation and activates the anti-inflammatory pathways. This is turn results in prevention of a process called ‘inflammaging’ which plays a role in the aging process. HBOT does this by conducting neutrophil apoptosis which results in the resolution of inflammation. Neutrophil apoptosis takes place when exposed to high pressures of oxygen for more than 45 minutes.
- HBOT also exerts influence on brain health as the brain utilizes 20% of the total oxygen delivered to the body. It improves brain health and cognition which may deteriorate during the natural process of aging.
- Lastly, hyperbaric oxygen therapy suppresses the process of senescence. Senescence is a process in which the body cells die and are not replaced by new cells. Prevention of senescence with the help of HBOT results in reducing the signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines.
What to expect during the hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
Individuals undergoing the Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sit or lay down in the hyperbaric chambers and receive oxygen under high-pressure. Only doctors or your healthcare providers can prescribe this therapy. You need to wear a medical gown that is 100% cotton. You should expect a procedure of 45 minutes or a maximum of 300 minutes. It is essential to see the doctor 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. But this totally depends on the treatment plan. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber supplies increased amounts of oxygen to the injured tissue to hasten the recovery process. Your ears may feel plugged as you experience in an air flight or during scuba diving. Swallowing or chewing gum will unplug the ears.
This procedure can prove to be a bit difficult for people suffering from claustrophobia. These individuals can opt for R3 chambers which are more spacious and provide a better experience. You can listen to music, watch TV or even sleep inside the chamber while the therapy continues.
What are the side effects of this procedure?
The side effects of HBOT include:
- Trauma to middle ear
- Lung collapse
- Sinus problems
- Eye damage
- Low blood sugar
- Vision problems
- Oxygen poisoning (Symptoms include fluid in lungs, seizures and lung failure)
How is HBOT beneficial as compared to other procedures providing anti-aging effects?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has a number of advantages over other procedures such as stem cell therapy, intermittent fasting, senotherapeutics and young plasma transfusions. These advantages include:
- HBOT is a non-invasive procedure while the other procedures are invasive and require a lot of precautionary measures to obtain benefits from them.
- Some procedures, such as senotherapeutics do not have well-documented evidence regarding its efficacy. Whereas, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has proved to be a beneficial and effective procedure in providing the anti-aging effects.
- Some of the procedures listed above are complex and time-consuming and require high expertise. In comparison, HBOT is a simple procedure and provides adequate results in a shorter period.
The paradoxical relation between oxygen and the anti-aging effect:
Oxygen is implied in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which may impart advantages when produced in low amounts. However, excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species can result in damage to the DNA and causes lipid peroxidation. But in case of hyperbaric oxygen therapy where oxygen is delivered under high pressures, the production of reactive oxygen species is less than the cytoprotective function of oxygen. This occurs after repeated exposure to the high-pressure oxygen chambers. This explains why hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not a hazardous procedure when it comes to obtaining anti-aging effects.