IHHT – A Novel and Promising Treatment to Boost Energy & Prevent Illnesses

Have you ever heard of IHHT therapy? IHHT stands for ​​intermittent hypoxia-hyperoxia treatment and is a novel and effective technique to regenerate mitochondrial energy, boost your metabolism, enhance your performance, and prevent susceptibility to certain illnesses. During an IHHT session, you breathe in air with high and low oxygen levels at adjustable intervals through a breathing mask. In this article, CARE will dive into the practice of IHHT therapy, how it works, and what the benefits of this innovative oxygen therapy are.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
6 min read · Jan 11, 2024

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What Is Intermittent Hypoxia-Hyperoxia Treatment (IHHT)?

IHHT stands for hypoxic-hyperoxic training or hypoxia-hyperoxia treatment, a non-invasive respiratory therapy where you breathe in hypoxic air (low oxygen) and hyperoxic air (excess oxygen) in alternation.

The explanation of IHHT therapy comes with a lot of scientific terms, so let’s make sure you comprehend all those before we dive deeper into the topic.

Hyperoxia is a state of excess supply of O2 in tissues and organs.

Hypoxia describes an oxygen deficiency at the tissue level. It is a state in which oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts to maintain homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the state of balance within all biological systems needed for your body to survive and function properly. Maintaining and regulating homeostasis by optimizing the oxygen transport system is one major goal of IHHT.

Mitochondria are integral to homeostasis as they generate the majority of cellular energy (ATP-adenosine triphosphate), providing the necessary fuel for various cellular functions and maintaining the energy balance crucial for the stability of internal cellular environments. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells and play a key factor in our metabolism. They affect our physical performance, our energy levels, and our susceptibility to certain diseases.

To understand how IHHT therapy works, we need to take a closer look at your mitochondria, the powerhouses of your cells.

How Does IHHT Work?

IHHT, Intermittent hypoxic-hyperoxic treatment, sometimes referred to as altitude training, restores your health at the cellular level by destroying damaged mitochondria and allowing your cells to regenerate healthier mitochondria. [1] Sounds good, right?

But how does it work, exactly?

The interaction between oxygen saturation (oxygen levels of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin relative to total hemoglobin in the blood) and our mitochondria is the working principle that IHHT is based on and what allows life to exist. Our body consists of around 36 trillion cells, which all contain mitochondria. [1] [2]

Our mitochondria produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the chemical basis for all reactions and metabolic processes in our body. However, our mitochondria are sensitive to certain aspects of our life and can get damaged quite easily. [3]

When we are stressed, drink alcohol, burn out, have a lack of sleep, or simply because we age, strain is put on our mitochondria, which can cause damage. Mitochondria are especially susceptible to oxidative stress (oxygen radicals). [2]

Oxygen radicals or cellular stress damage the mitochondria, and they become weak. Unlike other cells, mitochondria don't have any repair mechanisms. This means that the damaged mitochondria multiply, which has negative consequences for our health. Damaged mitochondria and their defective DNA are passed on to the new generations of mitochondria. [2]

Since we know how crucial mitochondria are for our energy metabolism, the damaged mitochondria compromise a healthy and energy-rich metabolism.

IHHT is the solution to break this vicious cycle.

Thanks to the Nobel Prize Winners William Kaelin, Peter Ratcliffe, and Gregg Semenza, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research on cellular oxygen measurement, we now know that it is possible to remove damaged mitochondria by using the principle of high-altitude air therapy. [4]

An oxygen-deficient environment (hypoxia) renders functionally impaired mitochondria unfit for life. Therefore, if we breathe in hypoxic air, mild stress is put on our mitochondria, and only healthy mitochondria can withstand this state of emergency. The result is that old and damaged mitochondria perish, and our cells can regenerate new and healthy mitochondria that supply us with more energy. [3]

When Is IHHT Applied in Patients?

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The fundamental health effect of IHHT makes this respiratory oxygen therapy suitable for a broad group of people: people high in age, professional athletes, or just a person who wants to optimize their health.

Chronic Fatigue & Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and abnormal lipid levels, that collectively increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. One of the symptoms is chronic fatigue. IHHT therapy can be an efficient form of therapy that brings relief to people who suffer from metabolic syndrome. [5]

Health Optimization & Preventative Care

You do not need a reason or health issue to make use of IHHT. Intermittent hypoxic-hyperoxic treatment restores your health at the cellular level and can give your metabolism and energy levels a boost. Furthermore, IHHT therapy is a great way of preventive care to decrease your susceptibility to certain diseases. [6]

High-Altitude Training & Performance Issues

If you are a professional mountain climber or enthusiastic about extreme sports and physical exercise, IHHT can be an extraordinary way to prepare your metabolism and body for extreme circumstances and to enhance performance. By restoring your mitochondrial health, you enable your body to gain more energy. [7]

Supporting a Healthy Immune System

Mitochondria are essential for the immune system as they contribute to energy production, signaling pathways, inflammation regulation, and programmed cell death, influencing the overall responsiveness and effectiveness of immune cells. Therefore, intermittent hypoxic hyperoxic training can support the healthy functioning of your immune system. [7]

What Are the Physiological Effects of IHHT?

Mitochondrial Health

The changing levels of oxygen in your bloodstream allow your body to regenerate new and healthy mitochondria by putting so much strain on your damaged mitochondria that they will be substituted over time. Healthy Mitochondria are the basis for a healthy energy metabolism. [1] [2] [7]

More Blood Vessels & Red Blood Cells

IHHT therapy can also increase the production of red blood cells and new blood vessels (capillaries) by increasing the capacity for oxygen uptake and transport through tissue and cells. This means that oxygen is utilized much more effectively in your body. [2]

What Are the Benefits of IHHT?

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Boosted Energy Metabolism – A Mitochondrial Detox

Think of IHHT therapy as a “mitochondrial detox” or an antioxidant for your body. By enabling your cells to produce newer and healthier mitochondria after the interval hypoxia destroys damaged mitochondria, you grant your body an updated and healthier energy metabolism. Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cell and build the base for a healthy energy metabolism. Therefore, IHHT treatment can have beneficial effects on your quality of life and well-being. [1] [2] [3] [7]

Better Performance

It does not come as a surprise that healthy and functional mitochondria produce more ATP and consequently increase your performance abilities in comparison with damaged mitochondria that compromise your metabolism. [1] [2] [3] [7]

Lower Susceptibility for Diseases

Research has shown an association between cells with damaged mitochondria and functional disorders and chronic diseases. If you use hypoxia-hyperoxia training to destroy those dysfunctional mitochondria and allow your cells to replace them with healthy and fully functional mitochondria, you decrease your susceptibility to chronic diseases and functional disorders. [1] [5]

Intermittent hypoxic-hyperoxic treatment is a novel and efficient form of preventative healthcare that can have great effects on your cellular health. CARE continuously keeps up to date with the newest studies and medicinal technologies that offer our members high-end methods to optimize their health and improve their performance.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!