WTF Is Oxygen Therapy And Can It Treat Anxiety?

Wellness is going high-tech.


Women's Health |

Wellness has never been more sci-fi: you can inject blood plasma into your skin, get an IV drip for more energy and even manipulate your brainwaves. Now, there’s a new high-tech treatment and it involves the simplest thing: breathing.

What Is It?

Medium Pressure Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or (mHBOT), is a service that allows you to take in a higher concentration of oxygen than you’d normally get. The science is that when our bodies are saturated with O2, healing is promoted. The chamber is pressurised too, to create optimal oxygen uptake.

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What’s It For?

While traditional high-pressure hyperbaric chambers are used for scuba divers to combat decompression sickness, they’re also used to treat radiation injuries. But a more generalised, medium pressure oxygen therapy is now available for all sorts of things, from speeding up recovery from injuries to helping with neurological and traumatic brain injuries, to even easing anxiety. “At any given moment, our oxygen saturation is around 95% to 98%,” says Tony Paladin, facilitator of my session at Oxygenate. “In the hyperbaric chamber, with an elevated concentration of oxygen of 90% and atmospheric pressure and an increased atmospheric pressure of 1.4 atmospheres, we want to get your oxygen levels up to 100% saturation.”

That’s when your body kicks over into increased amounts of aerobic metabolism, Paladin explains. “When your aerobic metabolism is increased, your body is in an optimal state of recovery,” he says. That’s because when your body is saturated with oxygen, your blood has more O2 to carry to places where it’s needed to promote healing: your brain, your muscles, niggles and pains.

WH Tests It

The Oxygenate chamber is a sort of spacy, human-sized soft tube, lined with pillows and a blanket to keep warm. A thin tube feeds from the oxygen concentrator into an oxygen mask that you wear for the session. You can sleep or chill out with a book or catch up on emails with your phone.

As the session starts, the chamber is pressurised. I’m advised to gently blow through my ears to acclimatise. The air I’m breathing is fresh and I’d initially told Paladin that I wanted to sleep, but the fresh air invigorates me and instead I spend the session twiddling my thumbs. (I’d advise bringing something with you into the chamber.)

At the end, I have a rush of energy and badly want to get back to the office to do some work. I can’t testify to its ability to speed up muscle recovery since I wasn’t injured or sore during my session. I do have anxiety, and oxygen therapy is purported to work for that. “When you have a condition like anxiety, you tend to not breathe normally, you tend to be in a hypoxic state – or a state where there isn’t sufficient oxygen in your system,” says Paladin. “It’s perceiving that as a stressful stimulus because you’re not receiving oxygen in your system – so it almost fuels itself.”

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Paladin explains that with mHBOT, hyperoxia (oxygen saturation) is induced, which mobilises your aerobic metabolism, allowing your cellular and neural function to be balanced optimally.

Makes sense. I didn’t find that it relieved my anxiety – but then again, I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious that day.

Paladin says high-powered business people use the service most often since it’s a great way to relieve stress and I can see why – you’re focused on breathing as deeply as possible, so you’re bound to relax. Either way, for the chance to breathe in some clean air, it’s worth a shot.

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