Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Help Treat Autism.
Although there is no cure for autism at the moment, there are ways to manage and treat the symptoms of autism in order to better the lives of autistic people. One of these treatments is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which involves sitting in a pressurized chamber breathing 100% oxygen for prescribed periods of time. If this seems strange to you, have a look at how simply breathing pure oxygen can help alleviate symptoms of autism.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders which effect, in varying degrees, a person’s ability to interact socially and communicate verbally and nonverbally, combined with an array of restrictive and repetitive behaviors. Although the cause of ASD is not fully known, current studies indicate that genetic syndromes are only responsible for 6-15% of all cases,i and thus the majority of ASD cases are not due to a single gene or chromosomal abnormality. Recently, studies have shown that cerebral hypoperfusion (lack of blood flow to the brain), gastrointestinal and neural inflammation and oxidative stress combined with environmental triggers may contribute to ASD.ii
Although our brains only take up about 2% of our body mass, they require more than 20% of all the oxygen we breathe in order to keep us conscious. Consequently, when less blood flows to the brain, it receives less oxygen and glucose, meaning that it receives less energy to perform tasks. This lack of oxygen to the brain affects cognitive functions, and has been known to cause ASD-like symptoms. For example, cerebral hypoperfusion in the temporal lobes clinically correlates to a desire for sameness as well as social and communicative impairments.iii
HBOT has been seen to reduce the effects of cerebral hypoperfusion, as more blood enters into the brain tissue and is able to help repair and regenerate blood vessels. Studies have also shown behavioral improvements in ASD children who undergo HBOT.iv
According to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, up to 90% of people diagnosed with ASD suffer from gastrointestinal inflammation, and evidence continues to emerge to support the mysterious connection between brain and gut in people with ASD.
Inflammation is not always a bad thing; in fact, it is an automatic response to bodily trauma. However, chronic or continuous inflammation has seriously negative affects on the body, and occurs when the SWAT team of white blood cells your body deploys in response to trauma have nothing to do. Although researchers are not fully aware why people with autism suffer more from gastrointestinal and neural inflammation, it has been proven that HBOT can help alleviate these strange inflammatory responsesv by saturating the surrounding tissue in oxygen, allowing the cells to properly repair themselves. This can reduce swelling and inflammation, as oxygen may have been prevented from entering the problem areas by debris blocking the blood vessel.
Free radicals are very reactive chemicals that have one or more unpaired electrons. Oxidative stress occurs when someone is unable to counteract the harmful effects caused by the body’s production of free radicals. This is more than 68% more common in those with ASDvi. Recently, HBOT has been used to balance out oxygen-based processes in the body by increasing the amount of oxygen in tissue cells, and, in the case of oxidative stress, evening out the oxidants to antioxidants ratio. HBOT also decreases oxidative stress be removing toxins from the body. For example, HBOT helps remove traces of mercury from the blood, which can interfere in brain functioning. Mercury was also found in high levels in those who suffer from ASD in a case study done in Hawaii.vii
Although there have been amazing results from using HBOT on children with autism, it is still a relatively new treatment plan. HBOT is not a cure for autism, but can help alleviate some of the symptoms that come with ASD. If you wish to know more about HBOT, or are interested in trying the therapy, please contact H.O.P.E. for more information.
ii Schaefer GB, Mendelsohn NJ. Genetics evaluation for the etiologic diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Genet Med. 2008 Jun;10(6):464. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18197051/
ii Daniel A Rossignol et al., Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders, Medical Gas Research, 2012; 2: 16. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472266/
iii HBOT for Autism. Oxford Recovery Centre, n.d., http://oxfordhbot.com/hbot-for-autism/
iv Daniel A Rossignol et al., Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders, Medical Gas Research, 2012; 2: 16. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472266/ (References 57, 58 and 59)
v Daniel A Rossignol et al., Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders, Medical Gas Research, 2012; 2: 16. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472266/ (references 74-78)
vi Treating Children with Autism Using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. The Hyperbaric Medicine Center, n.d., web. http://www.hyperbaricmedicinecenter.com/images/pdf/autism_study.pdf (mainly page 3)