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A few years ago I was working on a project at Westlake Studios in West Hollywood. We were in Studio D waiting for our keyboard player to show up for our 1 p.m. session. A few minutes late, Randy W. (name protected to preserve his innocence,) musician extraordinaire, walked in and plopped on the sofa. Randy was, and is, on the "A" list of studio musicians in L.A. He is a member of a select cadré that are called to work on the top-flight music productions in town, be they records, film or TV scores or commercial jingles. That day he had only to come across the hall from Studio C where he was working on the Michael Jackson album. But when Randy came in to our control room he had a quizzified look on his face. He looked astounded and puzzled at once. Of course we had to ask. "Guys," he said to all of us, "I just saw the weirdest thing in my life. I finished a track and we were listening to the playback and it's blasting and I look over at Michael and he's taking a Kleenex and stuffing it in his mouth. He chews it a few times and swallows. I said 'Michael, did you just eat a Kleenex?" and he said 'Yeah... it's great fiber you know. Cleans you out.'"
Many of us know Michael Jackson has a rather intense interest in health. He's often pictured in a surgical mask and it's suspected that the gloves are more than a fashion statement. But there was one time when Jackson's interest surfaced that doesn't seem as wacky now as it did then.
The first time I saw a picture of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber was on the cover of a supermarket tabloid. It prominently displayed a photo so obviously retouched that a lawsuit about it would have been laughable. The photo depicted the King of Pop lying in what looked like an iron-lung apparatus but was identified as a new-fangled approach to health, a hyperbaric chamber.
Jackson's attorneys didn't have to sue 'cause apparently it was true. Jackson had purchased one after he became acquainted with the device while recovering at an L.A. burn center after the infamous fire on the set of the Pepsi commercial he was filming. When doctors at Daniel Freeman Hospital told him of the benefits of super-saturation with oxygen, he had to have one. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy turns out to have a little more scientific basis than Kleenex-eating.
HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY (HBOT)
Usually we get all the oxygen we need from breathing atmospheric air. The atmosphere is 21% oxygen. Only a few hundred years ago, oxygen was almost 35 %. But the sad fact is that our air ain't what it used to be. It's more. There's more pollution, more toxins, more particulate matter but less of what we need most. Proponents of HBOT doubt that the human body has been able to evolve quickly enough to require less oxygen. HBOT is only one of several forms of oxygen therapy. All of them are intended to make more oxygen available to the body. Some of the therapies include the use of Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), Ozone Therapy, Hyperbaric Oxygen, Stabilized Oxygen, and Ionization.
We must clarify what is meant by HBOT. In a medical or hospital setting, HBOT involves a very sophisticated, unwieldy and expensive machine. The machine is filled with 100% pure oxygen and the pressure is usually increased only slightly. These machines are used only by physicians. Much of the research documenting the benefits of HBOT has centered around these types. However, there is now available a less complex device that is more affordable and does not require application by a doctor. This is the HBOT that we are talking about in this column.
This newer device is often referred to by its manufacturer as a Mild Hyperbaric Chamber. Instead of using pure oxygen, a medical compressor fills an enclosed fabric chamber with ambient air; in other words, just the air in the room. But there is an important difference. The air is filtered and then pumped into the chamber until the pressure inside increases 3 PSI ( pounds per square inch). According to research by Dr. Philip Moffetone, an expert in athletic training, that increased air pressure inside the chamber allows our body to absorb 17% more oxygen. It's the increase of oxygen in our tissues and blood (supersaturation) that leads to the benefits.
The person using the chamber lies comfortably inside. There are two clear plastic windows and in some therapy spas in L.A., the operators place TV's in view of the users so they can be entertained while they "chamber."
(National news outlets recently featured actor Woody Harrelson's newest business venture, an Oxygen Bar called "O2" located on Sunset Strip. Ironically, it's just a few doors down from the Viper Room, where River Phoenix collapsed and died. Hollywood has long been accustomed to locals putting things up their noses but now it's oxygen cannula to give them a "natural" high.)
"More oxygen equals better health," Dr. Walter Conard of Lincoln states simply. A Nebraska native, Conard has been a chiropractor for 17 years. He is one of two physicians in Lincoln who utilize the Hyperoxy brand Mild Hyperbaric Chambers.
"I've been studying hyperbaric therapy for a long, long time. Only now are the chambers in an affordable range that opens up the therapy to everyone," Conard continued. "The pressure is the whole thing. It supersaturates the body and increases oxygen uptake."
What kind of things do people find are helped by this supersaturated oxygenation?
"There's a different response for everyone. Certainly it's been shown that increased oxygen accelerates healing. And one thing big right now is the damage caused by free-radicals. That's very much in the news. Think of any disease caused by free-radicals and that's one that can be addressed by supersaturation with oxygen," Conard tells us.
Mark Gustafson is the other Lincoln physician who offers HBOT to his patients.
"It's unique. I think they do have a 100% chamber at UN Med Center there. The main reason I first got interested in it was because I'm in training for the New York City Marathon. This therapy has a great deal of research about its use for world-class athletes," Gustafson said in a phone interview.
Athletes are often so well in tune with their bodies that they appreciate the advantages of some of these alternative therapies more readily. Many use them to address pain and get back to work. Their livelihood depends on their health and so they are more likely to be open to using something that helps.
"Research in 1993 found that athletes show faster recovery times, perform better, have lower resting heart rate ratings and their perceived exertion level is lower. Triathletes over a 14 month period showed a 3% overall improvement in performance. At first that doesn't look like a lot, but these are the upper echelon who are already performing at a super-high level. 3% increase can be huge at that level. The difference between a world record and not qualifying can be less than 1%!" said Gustafson.
"Oxygen deficiency is a contributing factor in so many diseases. Some at greatest risk are the elderly, smokers, those who do heavy work, people who work indoors, people in high stress positions, people with illness or those with immune system deficiencies," said Gustafson. "My focus now is on the anti-aging benefits. There are a number of anti-aging centers on the Coasts and it's time we had one or more here. This will play a big part in that."
Dr. Conard is in line with that thinking too. "As we age, our ability to uptake oxygen decreases. After age twenty-five, with each decade we lose 5 to 10 % of our ability to take in oxygen," he said.
And what is the most remarkable response he has seen with this new treatment?
"Treating asthma. It's amazing," Conard answered without a moment's hesitation. "It's just amazing."
Dr. Gustafson reminds us what the new shift in healthcare is all about: "Now we can take more personal responsibility into our own hands for our health. We can seek out those things and practices that can aid our health and we can make choices and do things that improve it. This is just another of those things we can do."
From the King of Pop, to the general populace. Gotta love it.
Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.
Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.