As the health care crisis mounts in the United States, the average American is not only getting older, but likely sicker as well. Many Americans feel they are not receiving adequate treatment from their primary care physicians and are now seeking out alternative or integrative practitioners, like naturopathic physicians. These same folks are not only searching for these "outside the box" thinkers more, but they are paying more out-of-pocket expense to figure out the root cause of their health concerns.

Naturopathic physicians devote more time to helping their patients and they use natural therapies to treat the same ailments for which many physicians don't have an answer. These therapies include: clinical nutrition and nutritional supplementation, natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, acupuncture, intravenous vitamin and mineral infusions.

One modality that has generated quite a bit of buzz in the news lately is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, patients lay inside an inflatable chamber that resembles a large sleeping bag.

Inside the chamber, ambient air is pressurized and the oxygen that is contained within that air is forced into a patient's lungs, tissues and down to the cellular level.

It has been shown that absorption of oxygen increases anywhere from around 20 percent while we are just sitting in open air to up to 50 percent in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Oxygen is carried throughout the bloodstream, and in and of itself is healing. Because HBOT is able to increase circulation of blood throughout the body, more blood and oxygen delivered to body tissues and cells translates to more healing. HBOT has been used for years to help heal wounds, infections, and to recover from all different types of surgery.

It has also been shown to affect the gastrointestinal tract, healing imbalances like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disorder.

Because the brain is the organ in the body that uses the most oxygen, many disorders associated with cognitive decline can be reversed or prevented using HBOT. These include: autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stroke, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Other conditions that can be treated using HBOT include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, Lyme disease, and virtually any pain syndrome.

With our increasingly busy lives, many of us forget to take the time to just slow down and smell the roses. Even without the conditions mentioned above, this therapy can be great to not only help prevent illnesses from occurring, but is also a great way to relax and have oxygen infused into our brains, tissues and cells. In doing so, this can increase our vitality, energy and mental clarity.

• Ahwatukee Foothills' Dr. Matthew Cavaiola is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, who treats a variety of conditions and illnesses associated with the aging process. Reach him at (602) 432-2900 or visit www.phoenixantiagingclinic.com.

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