Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Long COVID and Post COVID Vaccine Symptoms

“When I first heard about it [HBOT] I thought, ‘this is goofy,’” said Dr. Paul Marik. Then he encountered a competitive cyclist patient who became bedridden after COVID vaccinations. “He was completely incapacitated. He went for hyperbaric oxygen [and] within about five or six sessions [he] was back on his bicycle.”

Marik, co-founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), told The Epoch Times, that some patients who have spike protein injuries have responded particularly well to hyperbaric oxygen.

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Paul Marik, co-founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) and former Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, at the FLCCC conference “Understanding & Treating Spike Protein-Induced Diseases” in Kissimmee, Fla. on Oct. 14, 2022. (The Epoch Times)

How Does HBOT Work?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves patients breathing in 100 percent pure oxygen in a chamber at an atmospheric pressure higher than normal sea level (1 standard atmosphere, or ATM).

Since oxygen normally only makes up around 21 percent of air, the increased pressure of pure oxygen would further increase oxygen levels in the blood.

Depending on the pressure administered, blood oxygen levels can be increased to three times the normal level.

The treatment is mostly used for wound healing, including both internal and external wounds.

Cells need oxygen to function. The mitochondria uses oxygen to break down sugars into energy, so increased blood oxygen levels drive tissue growth and regeneration. Increased oxygen levels also clear bacterial infections.

HBOT is currently approved as a treatment for 15 different wounds and health conditions including carbon monoxide poisoning, tissue damage, blood loss, burns, skin grafts, soft tissue infections, and intracranial abscesses.

Outside of the United States, Russia lists 70 diseases that can be treated by HBOT, China lists 49, and Japan lists 33.

Dr. Paul Harch, a renowned HBOT expert and founder of Harch Hyperbarics, said at the FLCCC conference in Kissimmee, Florida that a major underlying pathology of wounding is inflammation; HBOT repairs wounding by reducing inflammation and promoting regrowth.

Since inflammation is an underlying pathology for many diseases, this makes HBOT conceptually applicable for various conditions, even wounding from diabetes, which is a metabolic disease driven by inflammation.

In a study published in 1987 on HBOT, the authors listed 132 medical conditions that can be treated using this therapy.

Harch said that he has treated 90 to 100 different conditions with HBOT with the majority of the medical conditions being neurological injuries.

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Paul Harch, founder of Harch Hyperbarics speaks at the FLCCC conference in Kissimmee Fla. on Oct. 15, 2022. (Oliver Trey/NTD News)

HBOT Changes Gene Expression

HBOT reduces inflammation by influencing epigenetics.

Epigenetics are factors that change gene activity. Depending on environmental factors including stress, diet, drugs, and treatments, certain genes can be activated or suppressed.

“Surprisingly, it is the increased pressure, rather than the increase in the concentration of dissolved oxygen, that appears to mediate these effects,” the FLCCC doctors wrote in their treatment recommendations.

For HBOT, the higher the oxygen pressure, the greater the change in gene expression, and the higher the general benefit.

Therefore the FLCCC recommends to use HBOT at a high atmospheric pressure. But treatment regimens need to be monitored by a clinician to prevent oxygen toxicity.

An in vitro study on human microvascular cells found that cells exposed to a HBOT treatment at 2.4 standard atmospheres (ATM) for 60 minutes, had changes in gene expression in 8,101 genes 24 hours later.

HBOT increased the expression of anti-inflammatory genes and reduced the activity of pro-inflammatory genes.

Since cells exposed to pure oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure had “minimal change” in their gene expression, this demonstrated that pressure is the key player in the overall therapy.

Another study on rats further indicated the importance of pressure. The study showed that depending on the pressure of the environment, different numbers of genes were expressed.

The authors of the study exposed rats to normal air and pure oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure and higher pressures. The data showed that in rats, as oxygen levels increased from the pressure would cause an increase in gene expression.

Physiological Changes From Hyperbaric Oxygen

HBOT is currently recommended as a third-line treatment for post-vaccine symptoms, coined under the umbrella term of post COVID vaccine syndrome.

FLCCC doctors reason that both long COVID and post-vaccine symptoms are driven by a chronic exposure to spike protein, which promotes immune dysregulation and inflammation, this therefore makes conceptual sense that HBOT may work as a potential treatment.

Studies showed that HBOT could reduce inflammatory pathways and reduce the action of pro-inflammatory toll-like receptor pathways, both of which are often activated in acute COVID infections and spike protein-induced diseases.

HBOT has also been shown to help with fatigue, which is often a sign of mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondria are responsible for breaking down the sugar we ingested through our food, into energy, and uses oxygen as a key reactant of this biochemical process.

During inflammation experienced in long COVID and post-vaccine syndromes, the spike protein can stress the mitochondria in the cell, leading to reduced energy production and more production damaging radical species. Therefore the extra oxygen provided through the treatment gives ample material for use by the mitochondria to increase energy production for the body.

HBOT also induces the release of stem cells and tissue growth factors.

Many studies found the treatment to be beneficial in promoting tissue regeneration including the regeneration of muscle cells and generation of new blood vessels, this indicates that HBOT can help in the repair of tissue damaged from spike protein injuries.

Neurological symptoms are some of the major symptoms in long COVID and post-vaccine symptoms. There are also studies that showed that HBOT enhanced neurogenesis, though HBOT has not been approved by the Foods and Drug Administration for such treatment yet.

Harch has had successes in treating wounds in the brain including a near-reversal of brain damage in a drowned 2-year-old girl in 2017.

The girl had suffered from a deep brain injury and had “no speech, gait or responsiveness to commands with constant squirming and head shaking” he said.

But following 40 sessions, the girl had near-normal motor function, normal cognition, gait, and temperament, and improvement on nearly all neurological exam abnormalities. Her speech improved to a greater level than pre-drowning and she also discontinued all of her medications, according to the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine media release.

Studies have also found HBOT treatments increased blood flow and induced microstructural changes; this led to improved brain function including cognitive functions, gait, and sleep.

HBOT for Spike Protein-Induced Diseases

Studies on HBOT therapies have shown it to be beneficial against COVID and long COVID. There is much literature on HBOT that find positive outcomes in treating COVID infections.

A 2020 U.S. study on five COVID-positive patients found “dramatic improvement with HBOT,” wrote the authors of the study.

All of the COVID patients presented low oxygen levels, rapid breathing, and inflammatory markers. After one to six sessions of HBOT, inflammatory markers fell and the rapid breathing ceased.

“Most importantly, HBOT potentially prevented the need for mechanical ventilation,” the authors wrote.

In a randomized controlled study from Argentina, HBOT was used to treat for low oxygen in COVID-19. The study was stopped after the interim analysis of 40 patients’ outcomes. The differences between the treatment and the non-treatment group were obvious.

Patients under treatment for HBOT improved their blood oxygen levels in three days, compared to the non-treatment group which took 9 days.

In particular, studies on long COVID showed that HBOT has significant improvements on fatigue, and brain fog by improving attention, memory, information processing, and mental health.

In an Israeli study published in July 2022 on 73 long COVID patients, half (37) were treated with HBOT and the other half (36) with placebo. The patients received treatments five times a week and the protocol included breathing pure oxygen by mask at 2 ATM for 90 minutes.

The authors noticed improvements in the HBOT treatment group in global cognitive function, attention, and executive function, with significant improvements in energy, sleep, mental health, and reduced pain.

Brain scans of these patients further showed improved blood flow in certain areas of the brain, suggestive of blood vessel formation.

The FLCCC recommends HBOT as a third line treatment as it is considered to be a treatment that “may be lifesaving for one patient and totally ineffective for another,” and is therefore less applicable for the general population.

Marik also acknowledged that the high cost of the therapy and differences in pathophysiology may not make the treatment suitable for everyone. They currently recommend HBOT only for severe neuropathologies in patients suffering from post-vaccine syndromes, particularly peripheral neural pain. Contraindications for this treatment include people with untreated pneumothorax.

About the Author: Marina Zhang is based in New York and covers health and science.


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