How Does a Hyperbaric oxygen chamber (HBOT) compare to EWOT?
We are often asked if you can get similar benefits from EWOT as you do from HBOT and which modality is better for you. We should start by saying that oxygen, in all its forms can be beneficial to you, and both offer tremendous potential benefits. Before we can answer this question, let’s first understand what each modality is and what it does.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves a person entering a sealed chamber in which the pressure is raised while also pumping in near-pure oxygen. HBOT chambers usually come in one of two types: mild hyperbaric chambers (or soft-shell chambers) and hard-shell chambers.
Soft-shell HBOT chambers are made of fabric and the internal pressure helps them maintain their form – similar to a balloon. These chambers can be purchased with a prescription and these are the chambers you will often see in celebrity or football players homes. Prices for these are generally in the $10,000 - $25,000 range and they can reach a pressure of 1.3 ATA. At sea level, we are at 1.0 ATA, so these produce 30% more pressure than we experience at sea level.
Hard shell chambers are expensive medical devices costing $100,000 or more. Their use needs to be supervised by medical staff in a medical setting and requires a doctor’s prescription. These devices can often reach up to 3.0 ATA, but are most commonly used at 2.4 ATA. A typical session lasts about 90 minutes costs range from $250 - $750 per session.
The Basic Science of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works on the basic equation many of us learned in high school chemistry class: PV = nRT.
Simply put, if you hold the temperature constant, the more pressure you put on a gas like air (and oxygen) the smaller volume it takes up. So, in mild HBOT (soft-shell HBOT) the 1.3 ATA means that the same amount of air can take up 23% less space (1-1/1.3 ATA) and in a hard shell at 2.4 ATA, it takes up 58% less space (1-1/2.4 ATA). That means each time you take a similar-sized breath, you take in 58% more air (and 58% more oxygen) than you would at 1 ATA – what people breathe at sea level.
Furthermore, they use near-pure oxygen within the chamber to boost the oxygen further. The air we breath is normally 21% oxygen, but when you use an oxygen concentrator, you can separate the oxygen in the air from nitrogen and other gases to boost it to 93% oxygen. So, by boosting the oxygen purity while increasing the pressure, a HBOT chamber increases the oxygen you consume in a minute by almost 6x for mild hyperbaric oxygen chambers and almost 11x for hard-shell hyperbaric chambers.
Over the course of a 90-minute HBOT session, the average user will take in about 670 additional liters of oxygen. When you use a hard-shell chamber, this doubles to about 1365 excess liters of oxygen.
Because our red blood cells are often saturated with oxygen, adding extra oxygen to our lungs does not promise it will enter our blood and our tissues. However, the pressure helps drive the oxygen so that it saturates the blood plasma – which normally does not carry much oxygen. This allows the oxygen to be absorbed in the bloodstream and to make it into the cells where it does its magic.
Drawbacks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is time-intensive. Most people do not have 90-minutes to dedicate to lying in a hyperbaric chamber. It is also quite expensive costing around $500 for a session in a hard shell or $15,000 for your own soft shell. Of course, the softshell delivers only about half of the excess oxygen and less pressure to push the oxygen into the blood plasma – slowing potential benefits significantly. You can read more about the differences here. Beyond the cost and time, spending 90 minutes in a tube can be claustrophobic for some people
Additionally, there can be some risks with HBOT, as a sudden depressurization could be very dangerous and other end of the spectrum there can also be the risk of oxygen poisoning. This is why hard shells can only be used in a medical setting.
Exercise with Oxygen Therapy (EWOT)
Now, let’s talk about EWOT. EWOT involves breathing near-pure oxygen while exercising. Manfred von Ardenne, a great inventor and physicist pioneered EWOT back in the 1960’s, which he called oxygen multi-step therapy. Since that time, it has been used by professional athletes, Olympians, and militaries alike to improve athletic performance including strength, stamina, endurance, and recovery. In fact, there is a variety of research on the topic on NIH government funded research site, PubMed – simply search for hyperoxic training.
Modern EWOT is used for both improved athletic performance and improved health and wellbeing. The most common method involves breathing near-pure oxygen while doing a cardio workout for 15 minutes. We offer our EWOT systems at the best price in the industry because we in democratizing the power of EWOT (as of writing this, you can get a system for under $1,600, delivered).
The Basic Science of Exercise with Oxygen Therapy (EWOT)
When we do cardiovascular exercise, our muscles require more energy. To cope with this increased demand for energy our cells require more oxygen to produce APT – their primary source of energy. In order to supply increased oxygen, our heartrate increases which increases our circulation and allows our red blood cells to turn over oxygen more quickly. To counteract the increased pressure of faster pumping blood, our blood vessels dilate or expand. And, in order to meet this demand for more oxygen, our breathing rate increases from 7-8 liters per minute (LPM) up to 100 LPM or more.
Von Ardenne discovered that when we add oxygen to the exercise, the greater demand for oxygen pulls the oxygen into our blood plasma (similar to what happens in hard shell HBOT). He also showed that as we age, the lining of our blood vessels swell, and in many cases this swelling in our capillaries (the smallest part of our circulatory system) can swell shut – effectively starving downstream tissues of oxygen. This is why we require less oxygen as we age. However, he also discovered that when we super-oxygenate the blood plasma, the plasma was able to make it through these “choke points” and oxygenate the tissues downstream. The oxygen also created an anti-inflammatory reaction that reversed the swelling in our blood vessels and eliminated the choke point. Amazing, he found that even after a few sessions, the anti-inflammatory effects were long lasting. He showed that just two sessions of EWOT could improve oxygenation and energy two-weeks after their completion.
In essence, EWOT works similarly to hard shell hyperbaric oxygen training. But, instead of using pumps to pressurize a chamber, it uses your heart to create the pressure that drives the oxygen deeper into your tissues. And, because your body is exercising, and your blood vessels are dilating, the blood can get deeper into the tissues and the time to benefit can be cut drastically. In a 15-minute EWOT session, you can pull in 1370 excess liters of oxygen, just slightly more than you would get in 90 minutes of HBOT in a hard-shell chamber.
But, of course not only are you getting all of the health promoting benefits of super oxygenating your blood and tissues, you are also getting 15-minutes of cardio exercise which offers a host of its own benefits. And, fortunately for us, these benefits are synergistic. The oxygen makes the perceived effort less, allowing us to push harder and drive the oxygen deeper into our tissues. The massive production of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the exercise also helps shuttle the oxygen safely into our bodies without the risks of oxygen poisoning.
Final Thoughts On HBOT vs EWOT
At the end of the day hard-shell hyperbaric oxygen therapy and exercise with oxygen therapy offer many similar benefits. HBOT is a superior choice for someone who is too unwell to exercise or for people with wounds that will not heal. In HBOT, the skin contact of high-concentrations of oxygen can be very beneficial. In fact, there are many FDA-approved uses where HBOT offers has great benefits.
For general health and wellness improvements, EWOT often offers a cheaper and faster results and provide the synergistic benefits of combining exercise with oxygen. Its our belief that if you can exercise, the benefits of EWOT will far outweigh the benefits of HBOT because it is something we can all fit into our schedules and do regularly. Finding two or three hours to drive to a medical clinic and receive 90 minutes of HBOT a few times a week is just not a reasonable, but finding 15 minutes to exercise, even daily, is quite doable for most people. And, for those who cannot find that time, as we noted above, even two sessions improve health for weeks afterwards. EWOT beats HBOT on price and practicality – after all the wellness habit that benefits you the most is the one you stick with.
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