Can This Be A Better Alternative To Modern Antibiotics?

This article was originally published by Dr Helena Gough on

We’ve all heard about how ‘superbugs’ are increasingly common as bacteria and parasites evolve resistance to our antibiotics. This escalation in resistant diseases is making our dependence on antibiotics ever less viable. Maintaining an awareness of the burgeoning alternative approaches to healthcare is an essential part of taking responsibility for our own wellbeing.

One notable treatment gaining attention for treating several health issues is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), which takes place within a specially constructed hyperbaric chamber. 

What is a hyperbaric chamber? 

Essentially, a hyperbaric chamber is a pressure vessel in the form of a tube or a small room. This vessel holds oxygen at an air pressure level that is three times higher than normal. At sea level, our air has an oxygen content of just 21%. When a patient lies or sits in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber they will breathe in 100% pure oxygen. 

Many people will have heard of hyperbaric chambers in connection with scuba diving and decompression sickness, or ‘the bends’. Hyperbaric chambers have long been found to be successful in treating individuals with this life-threatening condition, and their effectivity in this field has been well established for decades. To give an example, the U.S. Navy has been using hyperbaric chambers since the 1940s. 

Hyperbaric chambers used for oxygen therapy come in two forms, ‘monoplace’ and ‘multiplace’. Monoplace chambers are designed for treating a single individual at a time, whereas multiplace chambers can hold a number of patients simultaneously. 

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and why is it beneficial? 

HBOT involves the medical use of oxygen for healing. In the simplest terms, the tissues of the human body require oxygen to function, and when these tissues are injured a greater amount of oxygen is needed for the repair to take place. Breathing 100% pure oxygen promotes healing in many different ways. It is also a non-invasive, simple and painless method of treatment. 

Under the increased pressure of a hyperbaric chamber, the lungs can take in much higher levels of oxygen. The blood then carries these raised levels of oxygen around the body, including into areas where circulation is diminished or blocked due to injury. This flood of oxygen stimulates the immune system and aids in tissue repair, allowing the body to return to a healthier level of function. 

HBOT helps to break the destructive cycle of inflammation, oxygen starvation, and tissue death that takes place in the event of damage. Increased oxygen in the tissues also assists in resisting infection.

Inhaling high levels of oxygen stimulates white blood cell reserves and encourages angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels. Oxygen therapy also encourages the formation of new collagen and skin cells, leading to the effective healing of wounds in particular. This aspect is causing oxygen therapy to be sought out as a beauty treatment for skin rejuvenation. 


What ailments is HBOT used for treating? 

We’ve already touched on the use of HBOT for compression sickness in divers, but what else is it commonly used to treat? 

  • Wounds and burns that won’t heal
  • Radiation damage (particularly as a result of cancer treatments) 
  • Gangrene and serious infections (such as diabetic sores) 
  • Anemia due to severe blood loss
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

Anecdotal evidence suggests that HBOT is also effective in treating migraines and cluster headaches. An increasing number of practitioners are helping patients cope with degenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as improved oxygenation is believed to enhance memory and mental performance. HBOT is also being used to treat a range of neurological conditions such as strokes and brain trauma.

Proponents of HBOT believe that it has great potential for treating any condition that involves inflammation, wounding or loss of blood supply. 

Related: How To Make Antiseptic Sugardine To Treat Wounds And Inflammation

Where can I receive HBOT? 

A quick internet search will reveal healthcare practitioners who offer HBOT in your area. It is estimated that around 2,000 hospitals in America now offer this therapy, in addition to which there are roughly 700 non-hospital-based practices that can provide this service. Most hospital-based programs will only treat FDA approved conditions, and the FDA has given its seal of approval to only 14 conditions to date. This means that the majority of insurance companies in the USA will cover treatment costs for these issues only. 

 FDA approved conditions for treatment with HBOT

  • Non-healing wounds 
  • Bone infection
  • Gas gangrene
  • Radiation injury 
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Sudden hearing loss (within 3 months of onset)
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections 
  • Air or gas embolism
  • Decompression sickness
  • Crush injury, compartment syndrome & other acute traumatic ischemias
  • Failed skin grafts
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation
  • Severe anemia
  • Thermal burns
  • Intracranial abscess

You are more likely to be able to receive therapy for the widest range of conditions from health care practices that operate outside of a hospital setting. It is worth noting that more than 63 conditions are currently treated in Europe using HBOT! In addition to this, portable hyperbaric chambers are actually on sale to the general public and are already making their way into individual homes. As their popularity grows, they will inevitably become more affordable. 



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