HBOT for Crohn’s Disease
After hours of search engine research I collected several abstracts and medical journal articles on hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) trials for Crohn’s/colitis patients indicating beneficial results. The side effects are nil and many pro athletes are now using HBO for performance enhancement. I had experienced side effects from conventional drug therapies that were worse than the Crohn’s in my opinion and wanted a healthier, more natural approach to treatment. The possibility that this could help heal Crohn’s seemed plausible; a wound is a wound and HBOT is proven to heal wounds. Crohn’s has been described as lesions or ulcers in the intestinal lining so it made sense that HBOT might work. In addition, some research suggests that harmful bacteria in the intestines could contribute to Crohn’s and HBOT is effective at killing anaerobic bacteria. I am happy that I underwent HBOT and I saw improvements after the third treatment.
So what is HBOT? It is breathing 100% oxygen under increased pressure. A session is sometimes called a “dive” because the pressures are similar to SCUBA diving. My treatment protocol consisted of a pressure 2.4 times atmospheric for 90 minutes each. I underwent 20 week-day sessions. Establishing the protocol with the doctor is more of an art than a science. The literature I read suggested pressures ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 times atmospheric for 20 to 40 sessions at 60 to 90 minutes each.
HBOT is FDA approved for 14 medical disorders and there are many clinical trials ongoing for expanding its use. Unfortunately, it is not currently approved for Crohn’s, therefore my insurance did not cover the cost. Using a HBOT chamber that is FDA approved was important to me, but the cost at a hospital was much more than at independent centers ($200-250 per treatment). I was fortunate to find Carolina Hyperbarics in nearby Raleigh with a FDA-approved chamber manufactured by Perry, model Sigma 40. The chamber is a clear hard shell and is comfortable allowing the patient to sit up or lie down and watch movies or TV (the monitor is mounted external to the chamber). The technician is in the room at all times and in constant communications. This HBOT center followed a rigid safety protocol such as restrictions on what you can wear and take into the chamber. They provided the clothing, blanket, and pillow, as well as many DVDs to select.
I was finishing a short course of prednisone for my April flare-up when I began the HBOT in early June 2012. After the third treatment I had returned to a normal bowel movement, but continued HBOT to enhance the gut healing. In addition, I hope the treatments will prolong remission. Time will tell. I am also a believer in intestinal healing through diet, specifically the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and resumed it during treatment and plan to follow the SCD for a year or more. I feel great and have gained back the weight and muscle I lost. I believe the HBOT brought about healing much faster than diet alone.
In 2006, I was treated with Remicade for a Crohn’s flare up and after 3 injections I developed three melanomas insitu (skin cancer). This was too coincidental for me since I had my freckles checked regularly since 1997 with no issues. There is now a 2011 research study from France (Xavier Mariette, University of Paris) that indicates TNF inhibitors like Remicade appear to increase the risk of skin cancer. I ceased the Remicade and am reluctant to try other TNF inhibitors or “biologic” drugs for fear of more melanomas. I am in remission now and find comfort knowing there is a treatment that promotes healing instead of suppressing my immune system with harmful side effects. I won’t hesitate to turn to HBOT again if I experience the onset of a flare-up sometime in the future.