Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment that delivers pure oxygen to the body in a pressurized chamber. It is used for the treatment of many disorders such as gas embolism, decompression sickness, fast recovery from wounds, and many more medical conditions.
However, recently hyperbaric therapy is surfacing as a viable alternative treatment option for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). HBOT therapy centers provide one such alternative treatment option that is known to have a significant positive effect on ASD patients.
Although the exact reason behind why HBOT therapy centers can benefit people with ASD is still unknown, there are several explanations.
Many children with autism can have brain cell dysfunction because of chronic hypoxia. This hypoxia means that reduced oxygen is reaching to body and brain tissues. It may be caused due to hypoperfusion and HBOT can reverse hypoxia in brain cells. Additionally, children with autism also show a sign of gut and brain inflammation and HBOT therapy has a relieving effect on inflammation symptoms.
Let us consider a scenario:
When we buy a soda bottle or can, the carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles are not visible. Why? It is because these bubbles are under pressure, hence, they get dissolved in the liquid. Once you open the bottle, the pressure is released and the bubbles go back to normal size. In this case, they increase in size.
Similarly, during HBOT therapy, a person receives oxygen in a pressurized environment inside a hyperbaric chamber in HBOT therapy centers, which enables the oxygen to decrease in size and dissolve in other body fluids. Under normal conditions, only red blood cells transport oxygen to all the nooks and corners of our body. But, at the time of HBOT therapy, body fluids such as lymph, blood plasma, and Central Nervous System (CNS) fluids carry oxygen when the pure oxygen gets dissolved in them. This increase in the amount of oxygen makes it possible to transport the unadulterated oxygen to affected areas of the body where blood flow is limited.
Physicians have detected that the patients and children who suffer from ASD exhibit signs of high inflammation and oxygen deprivation in certain parts of their brain. Since HBOT therapy increases oxygen, it helps in reducing inflammation by increasing pure oxygen supply to affected areas.
Cerebral hypoperfusion is a condition in which there is insufficient blood flow in the brain. This affects body functioning and leads to damage of functional brain tissues. Cerebral hypoperfusion is also known to be responsible for the repetitive behavior, reduced language development, impairment in emotions, and desire for sameness in autistic children.
A study involving 320 participants was carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of HBOT therapy in relieving cerebral hypoperfusion symptoms in ASD affected patients. These patients were randomly divided into two groups. The group that received HBOT therapy had healing effects after the treatment when compared to the group that didn’t receive HBOT therapy.
Patients with ASD suffer from high neuroinflammation and gastrointestinal inflammation. While in neuroinflammation the nervous tissues get inflamed, gastrointestinal inflammation often leads to bowel injury. In gastrointestinal inflammation, the immune system starts attacking healthy bacteria in the gut.
In a 2007 study, 18 autistic children between 3 to 16 years of age underwent hyperbaric therapy at either 1.3 atm and 24% pure oxygen or 1.5 atm and 100% oxygen. The participants underwent a total of 40 hyperbaric sessions which lasted about 45 minutes, each. Subsequent to the treatment it was observed that there was a significant development in speech, cognitive awareness, and motivation in all of the 18 ASD affected children.
Mitochondria, an important part of our cellular structure, is responsible for providing approximately 90% of energy to the body. Mitochondrial dysfunction means that mitochondria are not functioning efficiently and these are unable to provide enough energy to the body. Children with ASD evidently show signs of mitochondrial dysfunction.
In 2010, a group of 69 patients suffering from severe traumatic brain injury wase divided into 3 groups. One group received HBOT therapy at 1.5 ATA for 60 minutes, the second group underwent hyperbaric sessions at 1 ATA for 3 hours, and the last was chosen as the standard and control group. The participants of the study exhibited increased cerebral blood flow, increased level of oxygen in the brain, and a decline in the CSF lactate levels. For the uninitiated high CSF lactate level is a definite marker of mitochondrial dysfunction.
During various cellular reactions in our body, free radicals are produced. These free radicals are neutralized by antioxidants of our body. When the antioxidants are unable to neutralize free radicals, our body experiences what is known as oxidative stress. These free radicals are harmful and over time can impair the functioning of cells and tissues of our body. Over the years, multiple studies have concluded the fact that children affected with ASD have exhibited signs of oxidative stress.
However, physicians have seen that if hyperbaric sessions are conducted at an air pressure of 2.0 ATM, it would be beneficial for autistic children. It has also been scientifically seen that regular hyperbaric sessions in HBOT therapy centers have helped counter oxidative stress in ASD affected individuals.
HBOT therapy has helped many autistic children recover from severe symptoms of ASD, which is also the reason why HBOT is becoming a popular alternative treatment option. HBOT helps in countering the ASD related medical conditions effectively without inflicting physical pain or bodily harm to the patient. However, it is still recommended to consult your doctor for developing a proper treatment plan according to your child’s needs and then visit an HBOT therapy center for the sessions.