treatment part 5: hyperbaric oxygen therapy

While most doctors agree that antibiotics are a necessary part of Lyme treatment, they can be a gigantic bummer. Not only are antibiotics expensive, but they have a host of side effects that make you feel worse. And to top it off, it can be difficult to know if they are even helping.

Introducing (with great cheering)… Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). This is a type of treatment that is easy on your body and considered mega-safe. I’ve done it for 9 months under the care of my neurologist, and I’m pleased enough to rave about it. Here’s how it works:

You begin by climbing into a tube or a chamber, and rest lying down. The air pressure around you is gradually increased 3 times more than normal atmospheric pressure. This allows your lungs to take in a greater amount of oxygen than it normally could. On top of that, you are then fed 100% oxygen through a mask. (This is a big deal. Normally, we breathe 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen.) The combined efforts of pressurization and the oxygen mask leads you to breathe 15 times more oxygen than you would on your own. Your blood carries this massive load of oxygen throughout your body increasing tissue function, which helps fight bacteria, and stimulating stem cells responsible for healing your body.

The session lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours. All you have to do is lie there and breathe. I like to bring headphones and listen to music or an audio book. Many patients even nap. At the end, the chamber or room is slowly depressurized, and you’re done. Easy peasy treatment. It’s that simple. And the best part is that oxygen therapy is a very safe treatment for your worn-out body. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is used for a wide variety of medical problems. My neurologist mostly works with patients who have had strokes or patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With stroke victims, HBOT specifically helps to heal damaged neurons and create new pathways for cognitive function and mobility. With RA patients, it suppresses inflammation—slowing the disease—and eases pain. With Lyme patients, it is believed that it could start killing the bacteria on the spot, and in the very least, that it helps to bolster the systems of our bodies that are being hit the hardest.

So, here’s my experience:

I began by doing weekly one-hour sessions in a hyperbaric chamber. Within 5 minutes, I would start herxing (During the course of treatment, Lyme patients experience intense Lyme and co-infection bacteria die-off. It happens so rapidly that their bodies can’t filter out the dead bacteria quickly enough… resulting in an intense burst of symptoms). My herxes were a sign that the hyperbaric chamber was significantly attacking the bacteria. I could barely walk after the sessions because of how much die-off was occurring. I would then spend the next 3-4 days in bed recovering.

My neurologist was enthusiastic about my body’s response and suggested that I bump up to having two sessions per week. This meant that I was herxing constantly. By the time I would recover from one session, I’d be walking into the next. Initially, I was excited to run full steam ahead with a treatment that was clearly helping, but over time it became clear that my body couldn’t sustain a pace of constant die-off. I was physically miserable, and it was emotionally taxing to be in bed constantly.

My Lyme doctor advised me to change my schedule to once every two weeks to allow myself some time to recover between sessions. I’ve done that now for the last 7 months, and I believe that this was a great choice for my emotional sanity and for what my body can handle. My Lyme recovery isn’t a 6 week intensive. It’s years of matching Lyme and co-infection die-off with bolstering my immune system. I can’t go full-force after the Lyme and forget to give my body the time and help it needs to actually fight.

After 9 months time, my HBOT-induced herxes have much decreased. I continue to have tiny herxes either in the chamber or shortly after, which means that it is still working and that it is well-paced. To my delight, I now generally leave feeling less pain and having more energy than when I walked in.

I can say with certainty that this has been a great treatment for me. I can see marked improvement since I began 9 months ago.  For one, my cardiac problems have much improved. I’m also thinking more clearly, noticing fewer gaps in memory and able to engage in more critical thinking. Overall, I have far less nerve pain, and I generally have a boost in energy for several days following each session. Not only is it killing harmful bacteria, but I’m experiencing greater quality of life now. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for the win!

Here’s the great part. HBOT is one of the most affordable forms of treatments I’ve heard of; your insurance will likely cover it. Even if you did have to pay out-of-pocket, you may be able to find it at an inexpensive rate. Without insurance coverage, I pay $50 a session. Worth every penny.

While this has been extremely helpful for me, each Lyme patient responds differently to each treatment option. So, this may not be the ticket for you. Nevertheless, I’d encourage you to try it. Oxygen is safe for your body. It can only help, and I truly hope it does.

My dear friends, I wish great peace for you as you consider your treatment options, and I pray you find the one that works best for you.

hbot 3

One comment

  1. laurabennet · November 1, 2015

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve wondered about this as it’s come up in my research along with infrared saunas. It’s great to have someone explain this and share your specific experience. Also, to explain herxing. When we take on a protocol for getting well, it’s easy to become frightened or sidetracked by the die off detoxing. I started and stopped many attempts at natural remedies because I didn’t know I would feel worse initially before feeling better. Love your posts!


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