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Oxygen is essential for life. It produces energy and removes toxins from our body. Oxygen therapy heals wounds, increases the quality of life, and also extends lifespan.  Continue reading to learn more about how oxygen therapy can improve your health.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy tank chamber

Oxygen therapy is the use of supplemental oxygen to treat a variety of medical conditions. There are two main types of oxygen therapies available:

  • Normobaric oxygen therapy
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Normobaric oxygen therapy is supplemental oxygen administered at the same pressure of our atmosphere (1 atm). Depending on the medical condition, 40 to 100% of saturated oxygen is delivered to the body.

As excessive oxygen can be harmful, normobaric oxygen therapy should be regulated. In the absence of correct medical supervision, normobaric oxygen therapy can also cause heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, and aging [R].

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is 100% saturated supplemental oxygen delivered at higher atmospheric pressures. Patients are placed in a high pressure, full body chamber (hyperbaric chamber). This increases oxygen delivery to all of the tissues of the body [R].

Treatment schedules of hyperbaric oxygen therapy vary between 60 to 120 minutes, 1 or more times daily [R].

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is approved for the treatment of a number of conditions such as air or gas embolisms, burns, diabetic wounds, and traumatic ischemia.

Mechanism of Oxygen Therapy

Blood is made up of 4 components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Oxygen is transported through red blood cells that contain the protein hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein that oxygen can bind to [R].

The only differences between normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are the pressure that they’re applied at and the method of delivery. Both forms of therapy increase the amount of oxygen that is delivered in the blood [R].

Normobaric oxygen therapy increases binding of oxygen with blood hemoglobin [R].

Titrated normobaric oxygen therapy improves blood oxygen levels [R].

Increasing the delivery of oxygen to the body supports the healing process of damaged tissues.

Health Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

1) Oxygen Therapy Can Improve Lung Failure

Acute lung failure is a condition that is caused by choppy or labored inhaling, causing low blood oxygen levels [R].

A meta-analysis including 703 patients (RCTs) concluded that emergency normobaric oxygen therapy increased the number of patients recovering from life-threatening acute lung failure [R].

A multicenter analysis (RCTs) of patients with lung failure indicated that normobaric oxygen therapy cleared the upper airways, improved lung function, and reduced pressure on the lungs [R].

2) Oxygen Therapy is Beneficial for Asthma

Asthma obstructs airways in lungs and can cause low blood oxygen (hypoxemia) leading to severe health complications.

In 106 patients with severe asthma (RCT), normobaric oxygen therapy for 2 years increased survival of patients and reduced symptoms [R].  

3) Oxygen Therapy Can Improve Symptoms of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis [R, R].

Smoking, breathing pollutants, and lack of a specific protein, alpha-1-antitrypsin, causes COPD [R].

Several long-term clinical studies of hundreds of patients with COPD using supplemental normobaric oxygen therapy showed [R]:

  • Benefit from exercise and activity
  • Reduction of anxiety
  • Improved quality of life
  • Prolonged lifespan
  • Improved sleep quality

An observational study with 195 COPD patients for 6 months indicated that normobaric oxygen therapy improved the quality of life of patients with emphysema [R].

In 86 elderly patients with COPD, normobaric oxygen therapy reduced pressure on the heart blood vessels and improved sleep [R].

4) Oxygen Therapy is Beneficial for Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition caused by the lack of the CFTR gene. People with cystic fibrosis suffer from breathing problems [R].

A review of 11 clinical trials (RCT) with 172 participants found that supplemental normobaric oxygen therapy improved sleep patterns and quality of life [R].

In another meta-analysis of 149 people with cystic fibrosis (RCT), normobaric oxygen therapy improved exercise duration, sleep, and blood oxygen levels [R].

5) Oxygen Therapy May Improve Symptoms of Stroke

Ischemic stroke is caused by a clot in the blood vessels that decreases blood flow to the brain and leads to cell death.

There is limited evidence in humans indicating that normobaric oxygen therapy is beneficial for stroke patients. Oxygen therapy is most beneficial when applied within the first few hours of having a stroke [R].

The importance of prompt treatment is highlighted in an RCT where delayed normobaric oxygen therapy of 40 patients did not improve the outcomes of these patients [R].

Multiple studies with rats and mice showed that additional normobaric oxygen therapy reduced blood pressure, brain swelling, brain damage, and death [R, R, R, R, R].

Contraindications of Oxygen Therapy

Before using supplemental oxygen therapy, patients must be inspected for pneumothorax. Pneumothorax is caused by the buildup of air in the space between the chest wall and the lungs. If the pneumothorax is unrecognized or untreated, using oxygen therapy could result in the lungs collapsing and ultimately death [R, R].

Oxygen constricts blood vessels, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy might increase pressure on the heart. Patients with a history of congestive heart failure are also at risk of adverse effects [R, R].

Other risk factors are [R, R]:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Severe claustrophobia
  • Febrile illness
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Seizure disorder

Highly concentrated oxygen can easily catch on fire. Therefore, fires surrounding hyperbaric oxygen chambers, oxygen gas cylinders, tanks, and concentrators are a high risk for danger [R].

Side Effects of Oxygen Therapy

Normobaric is safer than hyperbaric oxygen therapy, although hyperbaric oxygen therapy is more effective.

Despite the risks and side effects, proper use of normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapies are considered safe and low-risk interventions [R].

Due to the high pressure, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has more risks than normobaric therapy [R, R, R, R, R].

Technicalities of Oxygen Therapy

During normobaric oxygen therapy, oxygen can be delivered as oxygen gas, liquid oxygen, or via oxygen concentrators.

Oxygen gas is compressed in a gas cylinder. Liquid oxygen is stored in portable tanks and is boiled to release oxygen gas. Oxygen gas cylinders are also fitted with regulators that sense a patient’s breathing rate and sends pulses of oxygen.

Oxygen concentrators are devices that take oxygen from the air and concentrate it for use.

Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick

At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.

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  • SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
  • SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
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  • Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
  • BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
  • SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics

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  • Ann Moses

    I feel like I’m missing something.. it seems like the health benefits of oxygen therapy are small unless one is suffering from some pretty specific serious illnesses and the risks are high even when using oxygen to treat those. How is this knowledge applicable to a healthy person? (Or maybe it’s not.. that’s OK but not what I expect from these articles).

  • Cindy in OH

    I have no experience with ozone suppositories. Weekly coffee enemas for the last 3 years has been my choice. It would have stopped long ago if there was not a benefit. My circumstance is solely for health prevention and maintenance.

  • David

    This article completely misses the two most important uses of hyperbaric oxygenation which is a) it is used for the relief of symptoms in MS and b) it may help in the battle against cancer.

  • Art

    EWOT discussion is more important for Sel Hackers than the discussion in the article. there are way more healthy people that will benefit from EWOT than the much smaller number of sick people. sick people are not SelfHackers. In my experience Self Hackers are curious and much closer to optimal health than the normies and need to know about the benefits of EWOT.

  • Linda

    Have you had any experience at all with ozone suppositories?

  • Cindy in OH

    I’m just a personal study of one but I have been doing regular EWOT for about 18 months. I really enjoy it and give it credit for better lung capacity and function. I built the Ben Greenfield system for $425 compared to thousands for the commercial system. My doctor got interested so I built a system for him. He has since graduated to a normobaric system. According to my doctor do 15 minutes of EWOT for 3 days in a row will put you at peak capacity and if you never do it again the benefits can last for up to 2 months. He said to maintain the benefit do it 2 – 3 times per week. Best of Luck in your healthy journey!

  • bob

    Like to see any research on EWOT…exercise with oxygen. Typically uses oxygen concentrators.

    More serious use involves a concentrator bag that collects the O2 for use.

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