Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a kind of treatment process in which the human body receives fresh oxygen. Several studies have shown that hyperbaric therapy can cause neurological changes, such as an increase in functionality or a decrease in inflammation.
HBOT therapy is considered safe to treat a wide range of medical conditions, and one of them is boosting brain function. This therapy includes a special chamber where the patients are treated with 100% unadulterated oxygen. The atmospheric pressure is higher than we breathe at sea level inside a hyperbaric chamber. If you are finding answers on how HBOT can help with autism, here’s what you can expect.
Can HBOT Treat Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, popularly noticed among children in the USA. Children with Autism mostly have difficulty with communication and socialization. Mental, emotional, and physical disorders and repetitive behaviors are common symptoms of Autism.
Recently, a study has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be effective in improving the social skills of children with Autism. The study includes multiple stages to figure out the efficacy of hyperbaric therapy on Autism.
In the first stage, a girl, who was carrying the mutation in the SHANK3 gene was part of the study. Autism is highly heritable, and SHANK3 is one of the high-risk genes for this disorder. After a series of treatments in the hyperbaric chamber, the study reveals a positive result. It was noticed that social abilities and brain function of the girl had improved.
In the second stage, researchers bent on exploring how the pressure chamber acts upon the brain. A few adult animals, who were carrying the same mutation in the SHNK3, were the models in this stage. It took several weeks, involving a protocol of 40 one-hour treatments in a hyperbaric chamber.
Researchers found that pure oxygen with pressure inside the chambers can reduce inflammation in the brain. Also, it helps in increasing the expression of substances that are responsible for upgrading the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Thus, it improves the brain’s function.
Additionally, the researchers noticed there was a decrease in the number of microglial cells and immune system cells which lead to inflammation. These conditions are also associated with Autism. The researchers have also discovered a remarkable improvement in the social behavior of those animal models.
They observed significant changes in the social behaviors of the models, who underwent the treatment, compared to those who were exposed to air at normal pressure. The animals treated with hyperbaric therapy seemed to grow a social interest and communication with other animals.
How Oxygen Improves The Symptoms of Autism
Researchers considered HBOT a pseudoscientific treatment of Autism. The cell tissues in the human body can be damaged when there is a lack of oxygen. It causes swelling, pain, and inflammation, and makes the blood vessels wide. Many believe that inflammation due to oxygen deficiency in the brain results in neurological disorders.
Oxygen is considered an anti-inflammatory drug. It is effective in reducing damaged tissue and increasing new tissue growth. HBOT therapy regenerates inflamed tissues by supplying pure oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to them. The therapy increases brain function by boosting the supply of oxygen.
The Process of HBOT Therapy
The tissues in the human body require an adequate amount of oxygen to function correctly. Sometimes, they even need more oxygen to survive when the tissues are injured. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy boosts the level of oxygen which the blood carries to the tissues.
The therapy is performed inside a special chamber, a hyperbaric chamber, in the presence of a health expert. An individual, undergoing the therapy, needs to put on a hospital-approved scrub or gown during the procedure. Anything that can generate heat is not allowed inside the chamber.
There are two types of hyperbaric chambers: monoplace and multiplace. A monoplace is an oxygen chamber, designed for a single individual. You just need to lie down on a table that slides into a chamber. Inside a multiplace, more than one person can receive oxygen through the masks.
During the treatment process, the air pressure inside an oxygen chamber is two-three times higher than the normal air pressure. You may feel a temporary feeling of fullness in the ears like you may feel at a higher elevation or in an airplane.
During the therapy, there is always an individual or a team of health professionals to look after your pulse rate and blood pressure. They continuously monitor you and the hyperbaric therapy unit throughout the treatment.
The therapy lasts approximately two hours in most cases and has a minimal risk of any side effects. If you have a hyperbaric chamber, you can easily perform the therapy at home. In that case, you must consult a professional or hire an expert before undergoing the treatment.