Hyperbaric Oxygen Miracles  By Dennis Gersten, M.D.

Nutritional Medicine and Psychiatry, Encinitas, CA

 In June 2002, I underwent a corneal transplant, after struggling for two years with a transplant that rejected and failed. I was blind and in a lot of pain. Three weeks after the June transplant, the new graft began to reject, which means that the body’s immune system identifies the cornea as “foreign” and begins attacking it. I underwent a very familiar treatment to me – high doses of Prednisone to suppress rejection, steroid eye drops and injections of long-acting steroids under the eye.

 The standard treatment failed and several weeks into the rejection, I knew that my time was running out. Within another week or two the cornea was likely to severely deteriorate. I needed an alternative.

After a great deal of research, I began hyberbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) at the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California, founded by the well-known pioneer in holistic medicine and author of Health and Healing, Julian Whitaker, M.D.

My response was miraculous, and I kept running into other miracles at the Whitaker Wellness Institute.

After a great deal of research, I began hyberbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) at the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California, founded by the well-known pioneer in holistic medicine and author of Health and Healing, Julian Whitaker, M.D. I had treatments two days in a row, and then saw my ophthalmologist the next day, who told me that the cornea was 50 percent improved. That was great news and was all the information I needed to commit to twice weekly HBO treatments. After a few months of treatment, my cornea is now 85 to 90 percent recovered.

My response was miraculous, and I kept running into other miracles at the Whitaker Wellness Institute. I asked one fellow what he was being treated for, “I used to be quad… I can’t run very well, but I walk pretty great, don’t you think?” It was hard for this conventionally trained medical doctor (me) to understand how a quadriplegic (like Christopher Reeves) could ever possibly have been cured. And then he explained, “Hyberbaric oxygen dramatically decreased edema (swelling) of the central nervous system and spinal cord after injury. It is the swelling that actually leads to the paralysis in most cases.”

I replied “So, what would Christopher Reeves be like today had he begun with hyberbaric oxygen?”

“He would be the same Christopher Reeves he was before his injury,” came the response.

I was sick for ten years. After hyberbaric oxygen therapy, I completely came out of the fog, reconnected to family and friends regained all of my mental faculties. All that is left is some fatigue.”

On another occasion, I asked a 30 year-old man what he was being treated for, “I developed Reyes Syndrome when I was 19 years old and was in a coma for four days. When I finally was able to leave the hospital and return home with my parents, it was as if I were living in a dream. I knew who my family and friends were but I felt no connection with anyone or anything in the world. I was sick for ten years. After hyberbaric oxygen therapy, I completely came out of the fog, reconnected to family and friends regained all of my mental faculties. All that is left is some fatigue.”

And on and on it went with stories like this. I wondered how I could have been so utterly uninformed about this and other oxygen therapies. I became interested in applications of HBO for my patients and for society at large.

Before going into further scientific explanations, let’s take a “dive” into the hyberbaric chamber. There are a variety of chambers, but a common one is a “three-seater.” It is a twelve-foot long steel chamber with round windows. First, a technician will place an oxygen mask on you. The mask used was the same as those used by Air Force fighter pilots. Next, the chamber door is closed and the oxygen is turned on, and you begin breathing 100 percent oxygen. Then the entire chamber is pressurized to levels between 1.5 and 3 atmospheres, the initial feeling is not unlike begin in an airplane that is either taking off or landing. Most people talk about going for a dive, since the chambers are widely used for decompression illnesses in scuba divers. I personally feel as if I am on a plane going on a vacation.

“Dennis Gersten, M.D., like myself is a conventionally trained physician. However, as a patient at the Whitaker Wellness Institute he received unconventional medical therapy. Like many of our patients, he experienced unexpected and substantial benefits. He was surprised that therapies of such benefit could be completely ignored by conventional doctors. That has disturbed me for over 25 years.”

Julian M. Whitaker, M.D.
President and Founder,
Whitaker Wellness Institute

The duration of the “flight” varies but includes about 10 minutes of pressurization, 60 minutes of treatment, and 10 minutes of depressurization. Now, there is an image to help explain what is happening during HBO. We’ll use an unopened bottle of soda pop to illustrate the process. Before you open the bottle, you can see no bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2). As soon as you take the lid off, the bottle fizzes, bubbles form everywhere and are clearly visible. They are invisible before opening the bottle because the beverage is sealed under high pressure, causing virtually all of the CO2 to dissolve into the water. As soon as the cap comes off, the pressure leaves, and the CO2 comes out of the solution.

The same principle applies to HBO. You are breathing 100 percent oxygen under high pressure. The high pressure causes the oxygen to dissolve into the blood. As a result, extremely high levels of oxygen saturate your blood and are delivered to your body tissues. As a result of HBO, there is a 10 to 15 fold increases in the concentration of oxygen in the blood, resulting in a dramatic increase in oxygen delivery to your cells. It’s that simple, although one wants to get an HBO treatment center where the staff is well-trained since there is a lot of complexity that the doctors and technicians need to be aware of.

Immediately after the treatment, people often experience more energy, a sense of vitality, and clear-headedness. But that is not the therapeutic effect that is lasting. The true healing impact of HBO comes about after several to many treatments and is explained by several mechanisms.

HYPEROXYGENATION. Supports poorly perfused tissue which helps in wound healing and stroke.

NEOVASCULARIZATION. This means that HBO causes the growth of new blood vessels at a capillary level. If you’ve had a heart attack or are about to, developing increased blood flow, actually growing new blood vessels, via neovascularization could be quite helpful.

ANTI-MICROBIAL ACTIVITY. This is an exciting aspect of HBO, namely its ability to kill bacteria, viruses and mycoplasma. HBO is often used along with antibiotics in treating some bacterial infections and mycoplasma. HBO is often used along with antibiotics in treating some bacterial infections and mycoplasma (a common cause of chronic fatigue syndrome). Viruses cannot live in the presence of oxygen, so it is great news that there are therapies developing that can kill viruses because the anti-viral medications are not a solution to the huge problem that viruses are.

DIRECT PRESSURE. HBO is mainly used in America to treat decompression illnesses in divers, HBO reduces the volume of gases in the bloodstream.

VASOCONSTRICTION. (Constriction of the blood vessels). This occurs without loss of oxygen delivery to the tissues because HBO is delivering highly concentrated oxygen to every cell in the body. This particular mechanism is useful in helping to heal burn wounds.

All five mechanisms are at work during any of the 13 FDA approved indications for HBO therapy.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning complicated by cyanide poisoning

Decompression illness, including air o gas embolism

Gas gangrene (diabetics may develop this)

Chronic osteomyelitis (bone infection)

Radiation tissues injury

Crush injuries and traumatic ischemia

Anemia, including acute blood loss anemia

Intracranial abscess caused by actinomycosis

Necrotizing soft tissue infections

Refractory osteomyelitis (bone infection)

Skin grafts and flaps

Thermal (heat) burns

HBO is being used worldwide for a variety of illnesses and there is tremendous research already supporting these uses. In fact there are more than 30,000 scientific studies. Over the next few years, the documentation will reach the level where the double-blind studies are likely to validate many more treatments.

Here are some of the more intriguing and essential uses of HBO being used both here and abroad:

Near drowning.

Stroke.

Cerebral edema.

Lyme Disease.

Coma.

Cranial nerve disease.

Peripheral neuropathy, often seen in diabetes.

Delayed wound healing.

Diabetic retinopathy.

Tendon and ligament injury.

Accelerated healing from surgery, including plastic surgery.

Ulcerative colitis.

Multiple sclerosis.

The daughter of a woman working at the Whitaker Wellness Institute has multiple sclerosis and has had a lifesaving and life-changing response to HBO.

In Japan no one is more than 30 minutes from a hyberbaric oxygen chamber. In Europe, HBO is the very first treatment for stroke. Hence, HBO chambers are in most European hospitals. And in Moscow, there is a hyberbaric hospital. In the hospital there are large hyberbaric rooms that can hold 30 to 50 people at a time there are even HBO chambers for cats and dogs.

If HBO is the number one treatment for stroke in Europe, one realizes the tragedy going on in America. I have met people who flew in from Indiana for their HBO therapy because there are apparently very few, or no, chambers in the Midwest.

The more I have researched HBO, have experienced my own clinical response, and have spoken with many others helped or cured of dread illnesses, the more I wonder how many people could benefit from this wonderful modality-oxygen. This is a treatment based on one of our body’s greatest needs for survival, along with food and water. I wonder about all the people with brain disorders who might feel better, might lead healthier lives, if they knew about HBO.

I don’t wonder why there are so few HBO treatment centers in America, because we tend to lag 50 years behind scientific breakthroughs. As a specialist in amino acids therapy, I am well aware that we are now 40 years into this modality but years away from any incorporation into mainstream medicine. So I don’t wonder, but I do regret the lag time and I fell for the people who could experience some relief from their suffering if they had access to ( and knew about) hyberbaric oxygen.

To quote Dr. Julian Whitaker, “Most physicians are only aware of HBO’ best-known use, to treat decompression illness (the bends) in divers. This I a shame. This remarkable therapy should be available to millions of patients who would fare much better with it than the drugs and surgical procedures they’re currently getting. Ask your doctor about hyberbaric oxygen therapy, and suggest that he or she look at the medical literature. Patient demand will likely be the deciding factor in making this therapy universally accessible.”

A final word – Prior to World War II there was a gigantic hyberbaric treatment facility in Chicago. However, it was dismantled so that the metal could be used to help fight the war. No such facility has replaced that one. Nonetheless, one at the time we can climb into these healing chambers, perfuse our tissue with oxygen and recover from a variety of symptoms and illnesses.

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