Diveheart Provides Multi-faceted Health Benefits through Dive Therapy
Aug 31, 2020 11:00AM
By Martin Miron
Photo by DJ Wood
One in five people in the country have a disability. Volunteer-driven nonprofit Diveheart, based in Downers Grove, has been serving this population since 2001 with a very unique type of therapy in zero-gravity. They discovered that underwater scuba therapy in a pool, lake or ocean can give people with disabilities the freedom to move independently, even if they are severely disabled. The benefits of therapy in zero-gravity depend on the disability.
Researchers from Midwestern University collaborated with Diveheart to do the world’s first research on autism and scuba therapy. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder, for example, go through therapy on land using pressure vests, weighted blankets and sensory deprivation rooms. Diveheart has found that underwater, they gain the opportunity to avoid surface distractions and triggers that may cause them distress. Pressure also increases the deeper they go—from one atmosphere at the surface to two atmospheres at 33 feet below the surface. This increased ambient pressure seems to provide that soothing pressure sensation for individuals with autism, as well as helping them focus better.
Diveheart has hosted 10 international adaptive scuba symposiums since it was founded in 2001. In Cozumel, Mexico, top hyperbaric physician and researcher Jake Freiberger, from Duke University Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, presented with Dan Goodman, researcher and assistant professor at Northwestern University, who is also an attending physician at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, in Chicago.
Chronic pain relief is another benefit found in scuba therapy. In 2011, a Diveheart-trained team joined researchers from John Hopkins University in the Cayman Islands, where they conducted research involving 12 veterans with spinal cord injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They found that when submerged to 66 feet, or three atmospheres, underwater, there was an extra output of serotonin in the body that helped with pain management and anxiety. Eighty percent of the PTSD symptoms experienced by the subjects were alleviated during the dives.
Diveheart subjects with spinal cord injuries suffering from chronic pain asserted that by the second day of an adaptive dive trip their chronic pain disappeared, and if they dove deep enough, the pain did not reappear until two weeks after the trip.
In addition to helping individuals with autism, PTSD and chronic pain, scuba therapy provides freedom of movement that participants say helps with their bladder integrity and circulation, as well as gastrointestinal benefits.
From the beginning, Diveheart’s mission has been to use zero-gravity and scuba therapy underwater to help build confidence, independence and self-esteem in individuals with any kind of disability. After establishing an adaptive scuba training program for scuba instructors, able-bodied divers and individuals with disabilities, Diveheart has become the leader in adaptive scuba training by inspiring, promoting and helping to facilitate adaptive scuba programs around the world.
Diveheart uses the cool factor and adventure paradigm that accompanies scuba diving to help individuals with disabilities find a new identity. In many instances, when they realize they can scuba dive, they no longer identify as a wheelchair user or someone with a disability, but as a scuba diver. Diveheart mom Denise Brown shares, “My son has a traumatic brain injury and has been diving with Diveheart for 12 years. His association with Diveheart has brought him joy, confidence and a great feeling of accomplishment. I have found that the volunteers are extremely well trained and really love what they do. I have seen them take a person who is scared and turn that fear into one great big smile. As a non-diving volunteer, that alone makes it all worthwhile.”
For Diveheart founder and president Jim Elliott, it’s not about scuba diving. “At Diveheart, we take the unrealized human potential that exists in individuals with disabilities and we help create a paradigm shift in that person so that they start to self-identify as a scuba diver and not someone with a disability,” he says. “Once Johnny in the wheelchair becomes Johnny the scuba diver, we point them towards endeavors like marine biology, oceanography and coral reef restoration, with the hope of inspiring them to become good stewards of the oceans and the planet.”
Diveheart continues to facilitate scuba therapy research with university medical centers around the country, as well as adaptive training programs around the world.
Diveheart is located in Downers Grove. For more information, visit Diveheart.org.
Try Foot Reflexology After Heart SurgeryResearchers find that foot reflexology treatment after a major heart operation can decrease patient agitation and reduce the average amount of time spent on a ventilator. Read More »
Oak Wood Extract Can Lessen Post-Surgical EffectsStudy finds oak wood extract can help with stress, energy, mood and the ability to perform physical tasks and participate in social activities in women recovering from hysterectomy surgery. Read More »
Consider Mindfulness for Multiple SclerosisMindfulness training such as focusing on the breath and doing mental body scans may help patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) manage their emotions and process information quicker. Read More »
Reduce PFAS Exposure to Help Delay MenopauseExposure to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS)—“forever chemicals” found in non-stick cookware, food packaging and contaminated water—may cause menopause to occur earlier in women. Read More »
Consider Therapy to Reduce InflammationAn analysis of studies found that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and similar approaches reduced inflammation and enhanced immunity in subjects. Read More »
Boost Fun Nutrition with MicrogreensResearchers exploring the acceptability of microgreens, a sustainably grown plant bursting with nutrients, discovered that subjects found the greens to be fun, colorful and attractive. Read More »
Planetary Planning: Keeping Half the Earth NaturalA study concludes that if we act quickly and decisively, there is an opportunity to conserve about half of the planet’s ice-free land. Read More »
Nurses Stand Up Against Climate ChangeConscientious nurses have formed the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and partnered with Project Drawdown to significantly impact climate change and create a healthier future. Read More »
Starchy Solution: A Plant-Based Alternative to PlasticManufacturer Kuraray has introduced a renewable and sustainable starch-based barrier film called Plantic. The plant-based packaging material can be recycled or composted. Read More »
Plastic Rain: Airborne Particulates Blanket WildernessResearchers estimate more than 1,000 tons of microplastics are deposited from the air into national parks and wilderness areas each year. Read More »
Sea Turtles Attracted to Deadly Ocean PlasticStudy finds that loggerhead turtles are attracted to ocean plastic they've confused as food, causing 1,000 to die each year from consuming plastic or getting tangled up in it. Read More »
Not All Hydroelectric Generators are Created EqualA study that analyzed the climate impacts of hydropower generation facilities found that while many release almost no greenhouse gases, some can be worse than burning fossil fuels. Read More »
Mask Eco-Disposal: How to Dispose of Antiviral WearEco-friendly, sustainable ways to dispose of discarded antiviral protective face masks in a safe, responsible manner to avoid littering the planet. Read More »
Emotional Well-Being in the Pandemic Age: Self-Care Strategies for Tough TimesHealthy ways to cope with the stress the pandemic has placed on mental and emotional health using self-care and compassion strategies to build up confidence, courage and positivity. Read More »
Cars Go Vegan: Leather Interiors are on the Way OutThe environmental impact of producing leather, foam and other materials used in car interiors is being replaced by eco-friendly, sustainable, vegan alternatives. Read More »
Spice Up Health: Using Herbs for Flavor and MedicineBoost the nutritional value and flavors of your favorite food dishes by incorporating these tasty herbs and spices, packed full of healthy benefits to help digestion, immunity and more. Read More »
Spinach & Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Pumpkin SeedsThis healthy, vegan, gluten-free recipe for spinach and grapefruit salad incorporating toasted pumpkin seeds can aid in digestion and invigorate the senses. Read More »
Mint and Feta Bruschetta with Chive BlossomsThis vegetarian recipe for Mint and Feta Bruschetta with Chive Blossoms is the perfect healthy appetizer that can be prepared in no time. Read More »
Cilantro PestoThis five-ingredient vegan recipe for Cilantro Pesto is an easy, healthy twist on the classic sauce. Read More »
Yoga for Every Body: Adaptive Ways Ease Pain and ImmobilityAdaptive yoga can help people challenged by injury, chronic pain, autoimmune disease or debilitating conditions like multiple sclerosis achieve health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. Read More »
Raising Resilient Kids: How to Help Them Bounce BackMindful strategies to help parents build up resiliency in children in order to deal with challenges, overcome difficulties, be less fearful and anxious and more confident and empathetic. Read More »
Sandra Marinella on the Healing Power of Writing Our StoriesAward-winning teacher and author Sandra Marinella discusses using stories, poems and journal writing to find greater well-being and resilience and move beyond negative thoughts and emotions. Read More »
Natural Antivirals: Help in Staying Strong and HealthyOften-overlooked natural remedies with antiviral properties that may help to prevent virus infections like COVID-19 from becoming symptomatic or severe. Read More »
Happiness Helpers: Five Ways to Be More PositiveWe can choose to see things in a more positive fashion by taking these 5 steps to train our brains to look for the good more often, leading to increased levels of happiness. Read More »
Finding the Right Tune for Pets: Music Calms the Animal SoulThe mood of dogs and cats can be improved by hearing the right kind of music. Here are some research-backed musical selections to help your pet become calm, relaxed and stress-free. Read More »
Letter from PublisherI encourage you to step outside each day and reflect on the natural world as you connect with the changing season and slow down, breathe deeply and tend to your emotional well-being. Read More »
A Virtual Garden WalkThe annual native garden tour will be virtual this year, providing a fuller, year-round look at the way the gardens develop through the seasons, with practical, hands-on advice to bring native plants into home gardens. Read More »
Annual Mycelium Mysteries Women’s Conference Goes Online This YearMidwest Women’s Herbal is committed to providing herbal education and opportunities for transformation, immersed in the Wise Woman Tradition. Workshops will be offered at the beginner through advanced levels on topics such as wild mushroom skills, fungal ecology, fungi and human health, and ethnomycology. Read More »
Learn to Connect the Digestive DotsWith more than 30 years of combined experience, Renee Barasch and Dr Danny McLane have been successfully helping clients address unresolved heartburn, acid reflux, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Read More »
Digital Journal Writing Courses Now Enrolling for FallJournal to the Self is a six-week, self-paced learning experience where students practice and apply 18 life-changing techniques. Read More »
Illinois Stewardship Alliance Hosts The Dish Virtual 'Storyslam'The Illinois Stewardship Alliance will host an inaugural virtual online storytelling event, The Dish, on the evening of October 4 as part of its annual fundraiser. Read More »
Trinity Health Freedom Expo Goes VirtualThe October virtual Trinity Health Freedom Expo will showcase notable speakers include Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, Erin Elizabeth and Robert Scott Bell. Read More »
New Science-Based Weight-Loss ProgramNirvana Naturopathics in Deerfield offers a support system including motivational essays, journaling prompts, recipes and exercise tips for healthy and natural weight loss. Read More »
BrainTapping Turns Brainwaves Into a SymphonyUnlike meditation programs, Brain Tapping's exclusive neuro-algorithms gently and naturally guide the brain through a broad range of brainwave patterns. The service is offered through Wellness Empowered in Northbrook. Read More »
Fitness is Still a PriorityCertified Personal Trainer Rowena Dziubla provides nutrition coaching, personal training and virtual coaching to help with navigating through these unique times. Read More »
New Personal Sound Journey Available at Soul EnergyThe need to make healing services available online inspired Soul Energy's Mary Ellen Azzi to adapt and create a unique personal service to help in the healing process. Read More »
Counseling to Cope with Turbulent TimesCraig Mead integrates traditional psychotherapy with holistic wellness mind-body-spirit practices to help clients overcome depression and anxiety and return to a place of optimum health and genuine happiness. Read More »
Functional Medicine Practitioner Carla Brook Joins the Staff at Schaumburg's thriveMDCarla Brook, NP-C, is knowledgeable in peptide therapy and specializes in mold/Lyme disease. Read More »
Diveheart Provides Multi-faceted Health Benefits through Dive TherapyVolunteer-driven nonprofit Diveheart, based in Downers Grove, has been serving people with disabilities since 2001 with a very unique type of therapy in zero-gravity. They discovered that underwater scuba therapy in a pool, lake or ocean can give people with disabilities the freedom to move independently, even if they are severely disabled. Read More »
Empowering Adolescents Through Uncertain TimesAdolescents have had portions of their lives altered or put on hold during a time of pivotal social growth and personal development. Chicago organizations are helping them to navigate and flourish in these times of uncertainty. Read More »
5 Easy Tips for Helping Students to Connect with Nature this FallNow more than ever, youth need the benefits a connection with nature offers. Gina Iliopoulos of Chicago's Keeler Gardens NFP has five simple tips on how to create nature-focused learning opportunities. Read More »
Mythbusting Misconceptions About the MicrobiomeGut bacteria play a role that extends beyond the digestive tract, influencing nearly every aspect of the body’s everyday functions. Yet several common misconceptions may affect the way we approach gut health and overall wellness. Read More »
8 Ways To Replace Dietary SaltSalt is salt, and it doesn’t matter if you use sea salt, Celtic salt, kosher salt, pink Himalayan or any other kind of salt. Here are a few tips from Purple Sprout Cafe's Irina Ra on how to replace added salt in our daily lives with other natural sources of flavor. Read More »
Make Back-to-School Lunches Tasty and SustainableMany local grocery stores have posted signs directing us not to bring our own bags—no more using cloth, reusable market bags due to COVID-19 precautions. This is similar to the concept and rules of many of the Chicago area schools and daycares that will be opening this fall for bringing lunch to school. GF Mom Certified's Tiffany offers tips and recipes to make school lunches allergen free and Earth-friendly, too. Read More »
Illinois Prairies are Brilliant with September Colors and WildlifeEven the grasses provide new color this time of year. You can see fields covered in hazes of browns and yellows, and if you look closely, you might even see the bottle gentian blooming. Writer Sheryl DeVore takes us on a tour of Illinois Prairies with Veronica Hinke and Cindy Crosby. Read More »
Maisha Wynn Talks About Brain Aneurysm AwarenessBrain health is directly tied to overall wellness and nutrition, says Chicago lifestyle personality, author and vegan enthusiast Maisha Wynn of Live to Wynn. September is Brain Aneurysm Awareness month, and we talked with her about her own aneurysm, as well as how people can take control of their lives and promote brain health through lifestyle changes such as diet modifications, mindfulness and having an attitude of gratitude. Read More »
In-Print, Healing Ways Feature Autism PTSD Healthy Chicago Therapy Downers Grove September 2020 Community Spotlight Diveheart scuba zero-gravity Midwestern University Jake Freiberger Duke University Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Dan Goodman Shirley Ryan Ability Lab chronic pain relief scuba therapy John Hopkins University Cayman Islands Jim Elliot