In general, IHT contributes to improved immunological status. The occurrence of allergies and inflammatory diseases decreases. This has been observed in continuous exposure to altitude, as well as with IHT. Studies have been able to show improvements to conditions of an inflammatory nature, such as arthritis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, autoimmune thyroiditis and inflammatory skin diseases.
Even the difficult-to-treat and disabling disease rheumatoid arthritis showed a positive response, with seven out of 10 patients receiving IHT showing less inflamed joints, reduced pain and morning stiffness and reduced need for medication. All patients reported improved mood, sleep and appetite and increased . physical activity.
Asthma has received particular attention, with several studies showing significant improvement. Observations made in the Netherlands have shown that asthmatics treated in climatic chambers that simulated altitudes of 1500 to 2550 metres improved rapidly, and with 60 to 100 treatments were ‘cured’. This certainly fits with the common observation that asthmatics, despite their obvious fears about altitude, usually have less asthma and do much better at altitude. I have taught the Buteyko method for the past nine years. This highly successful method (also originating in Russia) teaches that hyperventilation and loss of carbon dioxide (which is anti- inflammatory and bronchodilator) worsen the asthmatic condition.Inflammation in the lungs is one reason asthmatics hyperventilate.
Another perpetuating factor to hyperventilation could be inefficient oxygen metabolism. Until this is improved, the asthmatic will continue to hyperventilate. The improved oxygen capacity observed after adaptation to hypoxia results in the oxygen required by the body being supplied with less volume of air needing to be taken in and less hyperventilation taking place.
Recent experiences with patients on artificial ventilation indicate that the stress of breathing itself might adversely affect susceptible airways. Lower ventilation levels are associated with a 30 per cent lower mortality rate in patients with severe lung disease.
Text by Rosalba Courtney