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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: A Promising Avenue in Autoimmune Disease Treatment and Management

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on November 13, 2023

Autoimmune diseases, characterized by the immune system attacking the body's own tissues, have traditionally been managed through pharmaceuticals aimed at suppressing immune activity. However, recent studies have shed light on a potentially effective alternative: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). This therapy, widely known for treating decompression sickness, has shown promise in managing autoimmune conditions with high efficacy.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or chamber. In this environment, the cells can gather up much higher concentrations of oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. This hyper-oxygenated blood can then stimulate healing processes and reduce inflammation.

Evidence of Efficacy in Autoimmune Diseases

Reduced Inflammation: Research indicates that HBOT can modulate the immune system. Animal and some human studies have demonstrated that HBOT can reduce inflammation, a key factor in autoimmune diseases. By decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines, HBOT helps balance immune responses.

Enhanced Tissue Repair: The increased oxygen levels in the blood can accelerate tissue repair. This is particularly beneficial in autoimmune diseases where tissue damage is a major concern. Some studies have highlighted the role of HBOT in enhancing tissue repair in autoimmune patients.

Neurological Benefits: For autoimmune diseases with neurological implications, like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), HBOT has shown beneficial effects. Research has observed improved neurological function in MS patients undergoing HBOT.

Pain Reduction: Chronic pain, a common symptom in many autoimmune disorders, can be effectively managed with HBOT. Patients have reported significant pain reduction post-therapy, as noted in some studies, such as in one on rheumatoid arthritis.

Patient Experiences and Clinical Trials

Personal testimonies and ongoing clinical trials add weight to the scientific evidence. Many patients report improved quality of life and symptom reduction after undergoing HBOT. Clinical trials are further investigating its long-term effects and optimal protocols for various autoimmune diseases.

While HBOT is not necessarily a cure for autoimmune diseases, its ability to reduce inflammation, enhance tissue repair, alleviate pain, and possibly improve neurological function makes it a compelling adjunctive treatment. As research continues, HBOT could become a mainstream treatment option, offering hope to those suffering from these complex conditions.

Resources:

  1. Chiou HC, Huang SH, Hung CH, Tsai SM, Kuo HR, Huang YR, Wang JW, Chen SC, Kuo CH, Wu DC, Huang SK, Hsu SH, Lin MH. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Alleviates the Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis via the Reduction of IL-17a and GM-Csf Production of Autoreactive T Cells as Well as Boosting the Immunosuppressive IL-10 in the Central Nervous System Tissue Lesions. Biomedicines. 2021 Aug 2;9(8):943. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9080943. PMID: 34440146; PMCID: PMC8391387.
  2. Chen SY, Chen YC, Wang JK, Hsu HP, Ho PS, Chen YC, Sytwu HK. Early hyperbaric oxygen therapy attenuates disease severity in lupus-prone autoimmune (NZB x NZW) F1 mice. Clin Immunol. 2003 Aug;108(2):103-10. doi: 10.1016/s1521-6616(03)00091-3. PMID: 12921756.
  3. Ortega MA, Fraile-Martinez O, García-Montero C, Callejón-Peláez E, Sáez MA, Álvarez-Mon MA, García-Honduvilla N, Monserrat J, Álvarez-Mon M, Bujan J, Canals ML. A General Overview on the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Applications, Mechanisms and Translational Opportunities. Medicina (Kaunas). 2021 Aug 24;57(9):864. doi: 10.3390/medicina57090864. PMID: 34577787; PMCID: PMC8465921.
  4. Shroff D, Kothari A, Gupta P, Sahni TK, Narain S. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Combined with Immunosuppression for Acute Macular Neuroretinopathy in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2023 Feb;31(2):355-361. doi: 10.1080/09273948.2022.2029497. Epub 2022 Feb 3. PMID: 35113760.
  5. Saito K, Tanaka Y, Ota T, Eto S, Yamashita U. Suppressive effect of hyperbaric oxygenation on immune responses of normal and autoimmune mice. Clin Exp Immunol. 1991 Nov;86(2):322-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.1991.tb05817.x. PMID: 1934599; PMCID: PMC1554111.
  6. Sit MT, Schmidt TW, Edmonds LD, Kelly JA, Sky KM, Thornton JA, McNeary-Garvin AM, Thom SR, Slade JB. The Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen on Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Pilot Study. J Clin Rheumatol. 2021 Dec 1;27(8):e462-e468. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000001540. PMID: 32947434.

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