How It Works
Oxygen (O2) is a colourless, odourless gas that makes up about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is one of the body’s basic building blocks. All the major components of the body (water, protein, carbohydrate, and fat) contain O2.
O2 drives chemical reactions within the body that involve the production of life-sustaining energy. A body deprived of O2 will die in a matter of minutes.
When one breathes near 100% through an oxygen mask about five times the normal amount of O2 will reach the body’s tissues. In a pressurised hyperbaric chamber 10-20 times the normal amount of O2 reaches the body’s tissues. Red blood cells fill with O2, and additionally, the blood plasma is saturated with O2. This extra O2 stimulates healing.
One mechanism of action is to help overcome diseases and conditions that involve a lack of O2 in the tissues, as normal atmospheric pressure isn’t powerful enough to force O2 into the tissues. Pathological states involving hypoxia, such as circulatory problems and strokes, can be reversed and rapid healing can take place.
High Dose Oxygen Therapy (HDOT) at up to 2ATA utilises the principles of gases and their physiological effects. Normally, O2 is delivered to tissues and cells by attaching to the haemoglobin in red blood cells. Usually the haemoglobin is near to 100% saturated with O2 in the lungs when we breathe. (Our atmosphere is about one fifth O2 and four-fifths nitrogen, a small percentage of carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other gases.)
In HDOT, oxygen molecules are up to ten times more abundant than they are in the air. The blood plasma dissolves O2 when under pressure and the plasma then delivers O2 quite easily. An O2-deficient cell may not be in contact with a capillary but is within range, whereas with HDOT the O2 can diffuse from the capillary to the cell and relieve hypoxia.
These fluids carry the extra O2 to areas where circulation is deficient and/or blocked by diffusing into the cells and tissues. The oxygenation stimulates the healing process, first by enhancing the white blood cells’ ability to fight infection.
HDOT can also encourage the development of new capillaries (angiogenesis) that deliver oxygen under non-hyperbaric conditions (normal atmospheric pressure). In conclusion, it helps the body renew its tissues and thus promotes healing.