Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been growing in popularity as a method of treating basic pathophysiological processes and the diseases associated with them since it was first used in the 1940s. By exposing patients to 100% pure oxygen with increased pressure, HBOT causes a temporary overall increase in oxygen concentration throughout the body. The cells in the patient’s body can then use this extra oxygen to speed up cell repair systems, one of the main benefits of HBOT.
To look at how HBOT can be beneficial specifically to those with autism, we first need to understand what having autism means, and which symptoms can be affected (and potentially improved) by HBOT.
What Is Autism?
Originally known as just autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobehavioral condition that affects around 1 in every 55 children in the USA. The extent and number of symptoms range in severity, which is why the disorder is now referred to as a spectrum disorder. Symptoms, both behavioral and physiological, will usually appear any time before the child turns three years old.
The most common behavioral symptoms include:
- Impaired social interaction
- Difficulty with developmental language and communication
- Restricted and repetitive behaviors (rocking, hand flapping, or pacing)
- Dependency on routine and ‘sameness’
Some physiological symptoms that many autistic children experience are:
- Cerebral hypoperfusion (decreased blood flow through the cerebrum of the brain resulting in decreased oxygen levels)
- Inflammation – in the brain and/or gastrointestinal tract
- Oxidative stress (an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body which results in cell and tissue damage)
Typical treatment has targeted the behavioral manifestations of autism, without much being done to help from a physiological point of view. From about 2005, investigations have shown that HBOT may be useful in improving both behavioral and physiological abnormalities experienced by autistic children.
How Will HBOT Help With These Symptoms?
HBOT has many benefits, all stemming from the fact that your body needs oxygen for both everyday processes and for the healing of damaged cells and tissues. When looking at how HBOT can help individuals with ASD there are two main physiological side effects that are targeted.
Individuals with ASD have been shown to have cerebral hypoperfusion when compared to those without ASD. Hypoperfusion in this area of the brain has been linked with several of the autistic symptoms, including; repetitive behaviors, difficulty understanding facial cues, urge to experience ‘sameness’, and impaired language development.
The body shares the amount of oxygen in the blood equally. So, because hypoperfusion means less blood is flowing through the brain, it ends up with a lot less oxygen than it needs in order to function optimally.
The increased oxygen levels in the blood following HBOT are highly beneficial in this instance because they allow the brain to start repairing any areas that usually don’t receive enough oxygen.
Some individuals with autism experience neuroinflammation (swelling in the brain) and/or inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. HBOT helps decrease the production of certain proteins that promote inflammation, while simultaneously increasing production of anti-inflammatory proteins. Working to reduce all forms of inflammation in autistic children, HBOT can greatly increase the comfort of the patient.
Side Effects From HBOT
Just like all treatment procedures in the medical field, HBOT may cause side effects. Although a painless and non-invasive procedure, individuals may experience a ‘full’ sensation in the ears to be uncomfortable while the chamber is pressurizing. However, our qualified and experienced technicians are always at the bedside ready to assist if there is a problem. Depending on where they sit on the spectrum, different stimuli can bother autistic individuals to different extents. This is not a problem, but just something to be aware of when coming for the first time. If you are bringing a child, make sure to talk through what the process involves so they can be as mentally prepared as possible.
To help keep the patient relaxed, they are able to watch a TV show, a movie, or just sleep. Our trained technicians are also happy to explain each step of the process until patients understand and are comfortable with the machinery and the sensations of HBOT.
For more information about HBOT, or to ask about booking sessions, contact us at RegenQuest on (954) 571-6788.
Click on the infographic below to download the high res version
Copy and paste the code below to embed this infographic onto your website: