The Power of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

I first read about the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) a few years ago when I began to delve into alternative health practices. However, it wasn’t until I read a recent study out of Tel Aviv University and the Shamir Medical Centre in Israel, by Dr. Shai Efrati and Dr. Amir Hadani, when I made the decision to dive in and give HBOT a try.

Dr. Shai Efrati and Dr. Amir Hadani have completed a series of important studies on HBOT over many years. Each one is a well-designed, double blind cross over study, and their most recent study focused on aging. This aging study found that healthy adults can stop the aging of blood cells and reverse the aging process with HBOT due to an increase in telomere length (up to 38%). It found that as treatments progress, the blood cells grow younger.

"Today telomere shortening is considered the 'Holy Grail' of the biology of aging," Professor Efrati says. "Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation. Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level."

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

The word ‘hyperbaric’ simply means high pressure: “hyper” – means increased and “baric” means pressure.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a mode of therapy where you are breathing 100% pure oxygen inside a chamber, at a pressure above normal. This high pressure provides up to 30 times more oxygen delivery to our organs and tissue.

Without getting too scientific, the air we breathe daily consists of 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen. Under normal conditions, when we breathe air, oxygen binds in our lungs to our red blood cells, more specifically, to a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin then travels in our blood stream to our organs and tissues where it creates energy from nutrients and oxygen. As there is no oxygen storage in our body, in the event of an oxygen crisis (when there is no available blood supply) we experience organ malfunction and even organ death. Our brain is not able to survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes (no longer than 20 minutes) before permanent and irreversible damage occurs (think stroke or heart attack).

When we breath pure oxygen at high pressures in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, our blood plasma carries 30 times more oxygen than normal. As 60% of our body weight is fluid (blood, lymphatic, cerebrospinal fluid, water), this all becomes supercharged with oxygen which then becomes more readily available for cellular metabolism. This is extremely important when our circulation has been compromised (such as in a heart attack or stroke) and our bodies can’t deliver oxygen to failing organs such as the brain. During HBOT, which is compressed with oxygen, not air, oxygen simply diffuses through every pore on our skin and is delivered through our lungs.

There are different types of oxygen therapy.

The major difference between the different types of oxygen therapy is in the way the chamber is compressed.

  • Air compressed chambers look like submarines, they are made of steel and have small round viewports. They are pumped with air which makes the inside warm and moist and it is a closed system. Once the pressure is reached (approximately 15 to 20 minutes), you put on either a mask or a clear hood with a neck seal. The mask or hood has two hoses attached: one for oxygen intake and one for oxygen dump. This form of treatment typically has 4 or 5 people inside the chamber with you along with a nurse. As it is a group session, everyone in the chamber gets the same protocol, basically a “one size fits all”. NOTE: during a group session in an air compressed chamber, you can’t go deeper to address a particular infection or health concern.

  • Oxygen compressed chambers are the gold standard, as these chambers achieve the pressure with the flow of oxygen through the chamber. The chamber looks like a clear cylinder and the bed slides inside. It is an open system with up to 500 l/min of pure oxygen passing through the chamber. The therapy is customized to your needs, and the therapist is right next to the chamber and can see and hear you the entire time. If needed, you can be brought to the surface in less than 90 seconds from maximum pressure. There is no mask or hood, and your whole body is exposed to oxygen, not just your lungs. Skin, our biggest organ, also benefits from this constant flow of oxygen - it helps with skin rejuvenation and preventing skin photoaging. (Did I hear skin rejuvenation? Yes! Sign me up!)

  • Mild hyperbaric chambers are soft-shelled chambers with increased pressure up to 10 to 15%. These are the chambers you often see celebrities and athletes promoting for home use. Instead of medical grade oxygen being used, it is an oxygen concentrator. This is ineffective and can be dangerous if the zipper suddenly opens up as a sudden (even small) decompression can cause lung collapse or pneumothorax. These chambers are banned for import and use in Canada as they can cause injury or even death.

What are some of the medical conditions that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help with?

Today in Canada, HBOT is accepted as a primary treatment for 14 specific sicknesses. Decompression sickness (the bends), arterial gas embolism, gas poisoning (such as CO, CO2, cyanide, smoke inhalation), chronic wounds (diabetic foot ulcers, pressure sores, arterial and venous insufficiency ulcers), infections of tissue and bone, especially following radiation in cancer patients causing radionecrosis (flesh eating disease) and osteomyelitis, burns and frostbite, skin grafts and flaps that are not healing well, sudden hearing loss (ISSHL), occlusion of the blood supply to the eye, and exceptional blood loss (anemia).

According to Dr. Sanja Savic Kallesøe, Founder and President of BaroMedical Hyperbaric Oxygenation in Burnaby, BC, there are many more indications that oxygen chambers have been clinically proven to successfully treat. Other illnesses include, (but not limited to): traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, concussion, stroke, heart attack, cluster headaches, dementia, complex pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, exposure to black mold or other medication induced or environmental toxins, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and colitis, severe arthritis, cancer, and complications due to diabetes.

In addition, Dr. Sanja states that HBOT also aids in skin rejuvenation, improved organ metabolism, and overall body cleansing. “When it comes to aging, we often worry about memory loss and dementia, and we have decades of good experience (now supported with the Israeli study), that HBOT can stop and reverse cellular loss and the aging of the brain. We have also shown very good results with dementia, memory loss, reduced executive power and the mental activity associated with aging.”

Dr. Sanja would like to stress the preventive role of HBOT in people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes. Dr. Sanja stresses that, “It is much easier to treat neuropathy at the first sign of a damaged nervous system, with only 20 sessions to rebuild microcirculation. With healthy lifestyle habits, exercise and booster oxygen sessions, we can stall the progress of the disease and even reverse it. Diabetics are 5x more at risk of heart attack or stroke, and at the end of the day it is much harder to commit to 60+ sessions of HBOT to prevent amputation vs. an initial protocol of 20 sessions plus the occasional maintenance”.

Can hyperbaric therapy help someone build their immune system? Ward off viruses?

Oxygen is a natural antibiotic. Infection control and the use of HBOT in combination with antibiotic therapy is one of the major fields in hyperbaric medicine.  HBOT amplifies the effect of antibiotics, and reduces the unwanted side effects, it strengthens our immune system and assists our white blood cells in bacteria elimination. Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, cellulitis, and bone infections are regularly treated with oxygen. Many viral infections (shingles, herpes zoster) and fungal infections are also successfully treated with HBOT.

Dr. Sanja shares that when it comes to COVID-19, “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used around the world to prevent the use of ventilators and has been shown successful.  At the beginning of the pandemic last March 2020, the whole hyperbaric medical community came together online to share their knowledge in several zoom meetings. There were over 500 participants from around the world present to learn all new protocols. We are prepared to treat, but are currently not treating any COVID-19 infected people due to the high transmission of the virus, meaning we would have to shut our clinics down to healthy individuals. However, those who have been infected in the past and still have problems with low energy and poor general health would greatly benefit from HBOT”.

How soon would someone see or feel a response from the therapy?

According to Dr. Sanja, just one session can help you feel more energized, have more restful sleep, and improve your memory. With a soft tissue or whiplash injury,  only 5 to 10 sessions would be a significant reduction to swelling, inflammation and pain. Long term problems such as leg pain and neuropathy need more time, around 20 to 30 sessions. Even years after a concussion, after 10 to 20 sessions you would feel significant improvement.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is just one more tool in the toolbox to consider when faced with various health issues, or simply to promote anti-aging and longevity. As an “experience expert” I like to try as many modalities as I can so that I can share my experience. I personally am a fan of HBOT, after completing 20+ sessions in an oxygen compressed chamber, and I plan to continue with sessions approximately once per month. My mind is sharper, I am sleeping better, have an elevated mood, feel less pain in my back and neck, have faster recovery time post workouts and overall, I just feel better!

When considering HBOT, I suggest opting for the oxygen compressed chamber (clear cylinder), at a reputable clinic with professionally licensed healthcare staff. Be sure that the clinic strictly regulates the use of the chamber and that it was properly installed. You always want a qualified staff member to supervise the chamber during use.

Don’t forget to document your journey by keeping track of how you are feeling as you progress with your treatment, and be sure to share your findings with us!


More about Dr. Sanja Savic Kallesøe

Dr. Sanja Savic Kallesoe has been involved in the field of hyperbaric physiology since 1986 when she first established a hyperbaric center in Slovenia in 1989. Through her academic and industry experiences over the next decade, Dr. Sanja identified the need for general public access to hyperbaric oxygen therapy to aid in wound healing and speed up recovery in rehabilitation, and it was in 1999 when she opened the first Hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic in BC.

To learn more about BaroMedical Hyperbaric Oxygenation, you can visit their website . Feel free to call with any questions (604) 777 7055 or email to set up a zoom introduction meeting.



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