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Gasping for hyperbaric oxygen?

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment offers to flood your body with 100 per cent oxygen, a payload that has all sorts of anti-ageing advantages. With the emergence of spas all around Sydney that offer this treatment, I thought I’d avail myself of the wonders of hyperbaric oxygen and had half a dozen sessions at the beginning of this year. Although I didn’t instantly acquire the adroit dexterity of a virtuoso savant, I did feel calmer and possibly fleetingly sharper. This is because the benefits of delivering so much oxygen to your tissues accrues over time, and you need a number of these treatments before these gains are realised.

How hyperbaric oxygen works

Augmenting angiogenesis

Angiogenesis refers to the formation of new blood vessels. Ageing involves a dwindling in the blood supply to your vital organs, especially your brain, leading to compromised cognitive function and maybe even dementia. Hence, providing your higher centres with an enhanced stream of nutrients might be the rejuvenation you need to reinvigorate your higher powers.

Switching on antioxidant defences

Initially a huge rush of oxygen triggers a whirlpool of free radicals, your cells’ initial response to the sudden build-up of this substance. An abundance of free radicals can be especially destructive if they are not neutralised by your antioxidant defences. Thankfully, over time this mobilises your antioxidant army, making you resilient and capable of withstanding the ongoing free radical and chemical bombardment that is the daily norm.

Reducing inflammation

Inflammation is another consequence of repeated exposure to a host of environmental insults and ongoing salvos of destructive stressors. Your brain cells are especially vulnerable once they are continuously exposed to this incendiary conflagration. Not only does hyperbaric oxygen therapy quell inflammation; it also stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory proteins, which further helps to extinguish the raging inferno that is engulfing your tissues.

Boosting the immune system

As you age your immune system loses its flexibility and mojo, making you more exposed and less primed to resist the advances of marauding microbes. Hyperbaric oxygen can reverse this downward spiral by switching on virus killing and antimicrobial peptides, providing a significant uptick to your immune system’s capacity.

Enhancing stem cell production

Stem cells enable you to replace ailing body parts that are becoming dysfunctional and sclerotic, but as you age your capacity to manufacture these goes into free fall. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can recharge this process, stimulating the production of stem cells, which might help you to regain the vitality that you are losing.

Lengthening telomeres

Telomeres are located at the end of chromosomes, and you rely on these to maintain your cells’ ability to continue multiplying. Once telomeres shorten, which is an inevitable consequence of ageing, this function starts to abort, and as you no longer have the machinery to fashion new cells you slide into inevitable senility and decrepitude. Hyperbaric oxygen can reverse this trend by lengthening telomeres that are losing their structure, reinvigorating your potential to carry on replicating.

Stamping out senescent cells

Senescent cells are the worn-out actors that accumulate with ageing, clogging your body with dysfunctional artefacts that hasten your trajectory towards disuse.

Restoring mitochondria

Mitochondria are your cellular batteries that your body struggles to reproduce as you age. Placing these back on the assembly line with hyperbaric oxygen therapy will make it easier to access your withering energy supplies.

Due to these myriad benefits, it should come as no surprise that this treatment has been shown to boost memory, enhance information processing speed, reverse skin ageing, improve insulin function and blood sugar control, enhance muscle and bone growth, lower blood pressure and ameliorate ailing heart and lung function.

As is the case with any powerful therapy, there are caveats. Those with elevated blood pressure might experience a rise in their blood pressure, an increase in middle ear pressure, a rare yet possible lowering of seizure threshold leading to an epileptic fit in someone already suffering from this condition, worsening of asthma and emphysema and rarely the development of eye conditions — all of which suggests that medical oversight should govern this endeavour.

Article featured in WellBeing 208

Dr Michael Elstein

Dr Michael Elstein

Dr Michael Elstein is a Sydney-based anti-ageing physician and writer. He is the author of three books including his latest, The Wellness Guide to Preventing the Diseases of Ageing. He has also designed the app The Diet Guide to Ageing Prevention.

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