Oxygen: the stuff we breathe

This post (like most posts so far) will be about oxygen, the stuff we breathe daily (all being well) including links loosely connected to measuring and increasing oxygen in the body.

I started taking high density oxygen therapy (breathing 100% O2 in a decompression chamber) three and a half years ago.

When I first started the treatment there was a definite, noticeable effect: picture the dullness of a grey, overcast day and compare that with how we can feel utterly lifted on a bright, sunny, blue sky day. That’s the best way I could think to describe the therapy when I started.

Physiologically, I believe the sessions were addressing low level yet chronic hypoxia in me. I don’t notice those benefits quite so sharply now but I believe that’s because regular sessions keep the level of O2 where it should be and I was treated for CCSVI almost three years ago which I think addressed shortfalls in the easy circulation of blood around the head.

view through a decompression chamber porthole

As well as improving mood it helps bladder function and decreases my fatigue.

These things haven’t been tested although an interesting study in pubmed from April 2013 looks at the effects on an injured brain. Refractory (persistant, not easily fixed) depression they conclude improves with hyperbaric O2 therapy and doesn’t carry any of the adverse effects of anti-depressants. Removing the troughs but also the peaks of life seems a pretty rubbish side effect of something that’s supposed to bring you back to a place of experiencing joy in life.

Regular exercise has also been reported as good for depression perhaps by increasing bloodflow to the brain?

The brain not getting enough oxygen knocks all the brightness out of life. Literally, we’re not firing on all cylinders. Which is a very unscientific way to describe what a number of people with (and without) MS are experiencing every day.

A group of people who are interested in exploring the effects of less oxygen getting to the brain is NASA, in partnership with Paulo Zamboni and the Italian Space Agency. More is reported on the study here. An Italian astronaut has been measuring the effects of zero gravity on the human body’s ability to deal with slowed venous return from the brain.

This is a study, reported by the BBC and I wanted to highlight some of its crapness. As soon as folk start using the word ‘could’ they’re not making any claims that can be backed up, they’re just filling column inches. This ‘could’ be an interesting line of investigation but it is a study formulating a theory based on the patient’s own feelings. The study participants self reported on how forgetful they felt they had become and conclusions were drawn from that?

Now, I’m all for not putting all one’s hopes in what has been delivered to chronic conditions via the double blind placebo controlled trial but a whiff of scientific rigour might be nice.

The Cochrane Group do meta analyses of already published research. This is their section on studies of the condition of MS and other diseases of the CNS (Central Nervous System) and their analysis of the various treatments whose studies reach their requirements.

Oxygen and the Brain; The Journey of Our Lifetime is a book written by the professor who, I believe, has been advising to the MSTCs (Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres) since they were set up in the UK in the 1980s.

The therapy has been reported in The Telegraph it was also in the Daily Mail but I’d heard the Telegraph may be serialising parts of Prof James’ book in 2015. Both papers highlighted the benefits that injured returning soldier Ben Parkinson has experienced.

When trying to find an explanation of what happens during an hour’s breathing in a pressurised container I stumbled on this link.

Reduced oxygen it seems isn’t even good for our furry friends!

 

 

mainstream and less so

night scene of a Brooklyn sidewalk

I took this image when I was getting a form of angioplasty to counter some of the effects of MS in 2012. It hasn’t stopped the disease but my heat intolerance and brain fog is still vastly reduced two years later. I don’t believe the auto-immune theory answers all the questions that MS poses.

The auto immune theory lies at the base of mainstream, accepted MS treatments (see below for details and links on most).

An auto-immune disorder arises when the immune system, the body’s bouncers get confused, go a bit postal and start attacking the body’s own cells. In the case of MS the bodyguards appear to start beating up the nerves’ protective coating (myelin). There’s still big questions about proof that this is what’s happening in MS. MS auto-immune and/or neuro degenerative?

In the vascular model, researchers hypothesize that these bouncers are merely sweeping up at the end of a particularly rowdy night rather than attacking these cells themselves. It is theorized the damage was a side effect of vascular disruption.

The autoimmune model believes that these bodyguards go rogue and kill perfectly healthy and functioning cells. They can no longer distinguish between foreign cells (whose presence would rightly cause an immune response) and self.

The alternative MS theory has been explained most recently by Paulo Zamboni of Italy. He considers MS to be mostly a vascular disorder and a name for this disorder is Chronic Cerebro Spinal Vascular Insufficiency (CCSVI). There are a number of people who don’t agree with the theory that has its roots in the 19th century.

I felt the theory was worth further exploration and went to Brooklyn to get someone else to explore my vasculature for me.

The standard medical approach to multiple sclerosis includes disease modifying therapies, DMTs that don’t really address symptoms as such and require quite a leap of faith in your belief of your caregiver’s ability to alter the course of your disease. That could encompass having a belief in your yoga teacher as much as the men in white coats.

Having some sort of belief in something appears to be good for your brain to get on with its own healing (our brains consist of about 7% stem cells that could, in theory replace our own damaged myelin. Choosing to believe in something I don’t believe is silly.

MS medical treatments started with Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex Beta-Seron (fondly referred to as the CRAB drugs by past patients) which form the cornerstone of accepted MS modification. These guys have a pretty exhaustive list of some treatments available to us. The first of them was released in the US in the early 1990s and the fair prescribing of them brought about the creation of NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence seems to have changed its name once or twice and now stand for NIHCE… Health and Care Excellence rather than Clinical.

Newer treatments include Tysabri which has a very chequered history including being withdrawn from market and then brought back and still being responsible for some of its users contracting another brain disease entirely, PML!

Campath or to give it it’s newer name Alemtuzamab works by knocking out certain proteins in the patient’s immune system. This therapy was first used to treat cancer – decide carefully about the risks and benefits attached to taking any treatment but perhaps especially a recycled cancer drug?

Alternative treatments I’ve tried include hyperbaric oxygen therapy HBO, treating CCSVI, physiotherapy, Feldenkrais Method, Shiatsu, Reflexology, diet modification (gluten, dairy and sugar free), as wide a range of exercise as is possible, mindfulness, MBSR emotional freedom technique EFT, vitamin and mineral supplementation, Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), Inclined Bed Therapy (IBT), and are discussed further on other pages on the site.

I also take cannabis using a vaporiser as it seems if big pharma are trying to replicate the real thing with Sativex why don’t I just get hold of some of the real thing?

I feel having a chronic condition calls for becoming an active participant in our own health rather than sitting back and taking what’s offered.