Treating Autism with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) involves the therapeutic use of oxygen at higher than atmospheric pressure. The increased level of oxygen at the level of tissues and organs resulting from HBOT explains its medical benefits in a variety of conditions including strokes, non-healing ulcers, burns, Autism, and cerebral palsy. More specifically in Autism, HBOT exerts a powerful anti-viral effect reducing inflammation in the brain and GI tract. It has also been found to help with post-op healing, athletic performance/recovery, and mental acuity.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Why is oxygen so important in the first place?
Every day an average adult consumes four pounds of food, two pounds of water and almost 6 pounds of oxygen. People need about the same amount of oxygen by weight compared to food and water combined! From that six pounds of oxygen about 2 pounds gets into the blood for transport to tissue cells. We need this oxygen in order to complete the energy cycle that sustains life.
Q: Is hyperbaric oxygen different from natural oxygen?
Hyperbaric oxygen is natural oxygen, delivered in a pressurized chamber. The increased pressure does not change the molecular composition of oxygen. The increased pressure just allows extra oxygen to get into tissues above regular amounts.
Q: What do you feel inside a hyperbaric chamber?
Chamber atmosphere pressurization occurs slowly allowing you to adjust to ear pressure changes. As the air pressure increases just yawn, swallow or "blow your nose" to clear pressure changes in your ears and you are "good to go". Other than this, there are no unusual or different sensations. Some children with Autism and chronic viral issues may benefit from from 40-80 dives at 1.3-1.5 atm.
Q: How does being inside a pressurized chamber give us more oxygen?
When we sit inside a chamber pressurized at twice the normal air pressure it may not feel different, but we breathe double the number of molecules. Breathing pure oxygen in such a chamber gives us 10 times the regular amount of oxygen. In one hour we can inhale 2.4 pounds of oxygen! Red blood cells instantly fill with oxygen and the extra oxygen dissolves directly into the blood fluid. In a few minutes this extra oxygen builds up tissue oxygen levels far above normal. This action has been scientifically proven to stimulate healing. In order to raise tissue oxygen tension to 80 mmHg for optimal healing one must have oxygen delivered under increased atmospheric conditions. This is not a plastic bag but a solid chamber certified to safely hold the high pressure. How high? The pressure against a 30" hyperbaric chamber hatch at 2 atmospheres has about 10 tons of pressure exerted against it!
Q: What does HBO2 research show for children with Autism?
The initial research on Autism shows significant improvements in blood perfusion to key areas of the brain. These changes are accompanied by improvements in behavior and cognitive function corresponding to those key areas of the brain.
Q: Is there any reason to believe that the beneficial effects of HBO2 would continue beyond treatment endpoint? If so, approximately how long and why?
Barr and Perrins published some observations on this matter in the Proc.11th International Congress 1995 (ISBN 0-941332-44-6). Briefly, they showed tissue oxygen partial pressure measurements that rose from near zero to 50 mmHg after some months long course of HBO2 were retained without further treatment for at least three years! They thought they were witnessing a vascular 'medical disobliteration'. Whether this is due to recanalization of atrophied vessels or in-growth of neovasculature is open to question.
Summary of the effects of HBO2 both in acute and semi-acute and long-term neurologic conditions:
HBO2 reduces any pressure within the brain caused by swelling, restoring the functions of the blood brain barrier and cell membrane; It neutralizes toxic products in the brain, and over a period of time, enhances growth of new blood vessels; It also acts as a scavenger of free radicals and promotes internal cleaning of debris; HBO2 also reduces the stickiness of blood products (white blood cells and platelets), and makes oxygen available for use without energy transfer (when the hemoglobin carries oxygen, it requires energy to deliver to the tissue spaces); With HBO2 the free oxygen is available immediately for metabolic use.