Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and Mitochondrial health is one of the many therapies we utilize at Carolina Functional Neurology Center. It can be used for a lot of reasons and the dosage of hyperbarics varies person by person. A question we receive often is how does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work? Why is it beneficial for me?
HBOT helps to override and increase the body’s oxygen carrying capacity. By putting oxygen under slight pressure, this helps to dump more oxygen into the plasma of the blood, which in turn will help to increase oxygen that reaches tissues throughout the body.
Oxygen is a nutrient to our body, it is something that we cannot live without. It is important that we have adequate oxygen around our system to help decrease inflammation, boost our immune system, and increase our mitochondrial density to provide us with more energy.
Let’s look at this further by beginning with what oxygen does at a cellular level in our body. Our body takes oxygen and the food that we ingest and turns it into energy. How? Through our mitochondria.
What is a mitochondria?
Mitochondria are organelles. They are little organ-like structures that live inside of the cells in our body. These tiny organ-like structures have very specific roles in our cellular function. One of their functions is to create proteins. Proteins are the backbone of ALL of the structures in our body. For instance, proteins help to transport oxygen, create muscles and muscle contractions and more.
Another role that mitochondria serve is that they are in charge of making cellular energy for the cell that it is housed in. The energy that mitochondria create is the energy currency that our body uses to perform all of its processes – creating hormones, developing neurotransmitters, and forming muscle contractions in our skeletal muscle, smooth muscle and cardiac muscles. These are very important organelles in our body and we can improve their performance with hyperbaric oxygen therapy!
What is the role of mitochondria and inflammation?
In the conversation of inflammation, mitochondria have a primary role. Our bodies require a lot of energy to create nutrients, eat, breathe, remove toxins, regulate hormones, create neural synapses and more. In order to get enough energy to meet the demands of our body, we require excellent mitochondrial health.
We do not get energy directly from the food we eat. The body first has to break our food all down into glucose and fatty acids. From there, our mitochondria take those substrates and create adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is then used as the energy currency our body uses to perform many functions. When we have mitochondrial dysfunction, it means we have low cellular energy. This affects our brain’s synapse speed, neurotransmitter function (affecting things like memory, mood, personality and movement), hormone regulation, DNA expression, as well as compromising intestinal absorption and more!
The amount of cellular energy produced by our mitochondria will affect the mitochondrial density and function, which is key to managing issues associated with inflammation, immune function and neurological function. There are multiple factors that will alter the performance of our mitochondria at creating energy.
These factors include:
What we eat
What other health challenges we have (autoimmune disease, comorbidities, co-infections, etc.)
What is the total inflammation level in our body
The state of our circulatory system and blood vessel health
How do we manage our stress
Do we perform physical exercise every day
Do we sleep 7-8 hours every night
Our body is constantly meeting the demands we put it under – same with our mitochondria. They will change their density, shape and size in order to create more ATP efficiently in different cells of our body. The overall inflammation in our body that we are exposed to will add or subtract to the performance of the mitochondria.
Chronic inflammation through toxicity, sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, traumas ( concussions, brain injuries, etc.), autoimmune disease, medication usage and more will cause mitochondrial dysfunction.
Where does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) come in?
HBOT puts oxygen under pressure and allows for more oxygen to diffuse into our circulatory system. It is important to think of oxygen as a nutrient more so than a gas. It is a required nutrient that when supplied in high amounts allows the body to self regulate and begin to heal.
When we give our bodies the raw materials that it needs to create energy and function, then the body will begin to do what it does naturally – it begins to heal itself. Over time, with hyperbaric oxygen therapy the body will rid the inflammation because there is more cellular energy being produced because mitochondrial density has increased. By reducing inflammation, our brain functions more efficiently and can become more plastic. A healthy brain promotes positive neuroplastic changes and allows for optimal brain function.