Molecular Hydrogen: A Novel New Anti-Inflammatory?
Molecular Hydrogen: A Novel New Anti-Inflammatory?
There is an ever-increasing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of molecular hydrogen with overall inflammation in the body, as well as playing a role in various diseases and infection. Here is a very brief overview to pique your interest and perhaps look into it for yourself.
What is inflammation?
Acute inflammation is your body’s natural way of healing and repairing itself when it comes into contact with a harmful pathogen (bacteria or virus), allergens (from food, pollen, dust etc.), or you have an injury.
An almost immediate response, acute inflammation is a first line of defence and relatively short-lived. It’s designed to get rid of any harmful agents via microcirculation.
This ensures swift delivery of leukocytes (a type of white blood cell) to the area of injury to remove the toxins and repair any damage. Once healing is established, your inflammatory response shuts down.
With acute inflammation, you can experience redness, increased heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. These are all your body’s way of fast-tracking, isolating and limiting the danger of the trauma or infection.
So, as you can see, this is self-preservation and designed to protect you. Issues arise when for various reasons, you develop low-level chronic (longer lasting) inflammation which can lead to an increased risk of infection and disease.
Lots of things can cause systemic inflammation including poor gut health leading to conditions such as leaky gut, a bad diet, exposure to environmental toxins, chronic stress, insomnia, smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption. The list goes on.
When there’s an imbalance, your system becomes overwhelmed, and regulatory pathways start to go haywire. You may have heard of free radicals and know that they can be harmful to health, but we also need them. Without a healthy ratio of antioxidants and free radical reactive oxygen species (ROS), your body cannot carry out various physiological processes.
Problems occur when this delicate balance is disturbed over a prolonged time. Antioxidant defences can’t keep up with increasing levels of ROS which generates inflammatory responses, which increase ROS even more.
Meanwhile, raised free radicals (oxidative stress) cause damage to cells and tissues and a vicious cycle ensues.
What is molecular hydrogen, and how can it reduce inflammation?
Molecular hydrogen is hydrogen gas (H2), found in trace amounts in the air. By all accounts, it has immense antioxidant capabilities but with a difference.
Compared to other antioxidants which can be less discriminating between targeting harmful free radicals and important signalling ROS species, H2 targets specific free radicals, protecting the cells from damage.
One of the most toxic and highly reactive radical species is known as hydroxyl, which indiscriminately attacks our molecules, damaging and killing them. Hydroxyl is present in significant amounts in many chronic diseases. By effecting cultured cells with extreme oxidative stress, researchers found that hydrogen (H2) can select and substantially reduce hydroxyl, protecting the cells.
H2 gas can also effectively and rapidly pass through biomembranes, reaching the centre of your cells.
It is still not fully understood exactly how H2 works but it has selective anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties. Because it targets harmful ROS like hydroxyl and peroxynitrite, molecular hydrogen prevents DNA damage. It downregulates the expression of proinflammatory and inflammatory cytokines, reducing oxidative stress, and it also helps upregulate your cells’ antioxidant defence system.
The anti-inflammatory action of molecular hydrogen, along with its other capabilities, has the potential to positively affect various diseases, including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and organ injury. Research in this continues, but so far, the results appear promising.
Molecular hydrogen and gut health
It appears that H2 is naturally produced in the gut through the fermentation of undigested carbohydrates by certain gut bacteria. Escherichia coli produces a substantial amount, but so far, little is known about the therapeutic effects of gastrointestinal H2.
Researchers have found that antibiotics can inhibit the production of H2 in the gut, and an animal study discovered that innate H2 production in the colon had anti-inflammatory effects on colitis.
Hydrogen produced in the colon may also help to improve intestinal motor function, reducing food transit time, preventing constipation. Among other things, turmeric can encourage the production of H2 by gut bacteria, and some researchers hypothesise that hydrogen gas in the gut could play a role in preventing cardiovascular events.
Intestinal ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury develops when the blood flow to the intestines decreases, followed by the re-establishment of the blood supply to the ischemic tissue. Potentially life-threatening intestinal I/R injury causes intestinal mucosal barrier dysfunction, increased oxidative stress and severe local and systemic inflammation as well as distant organ injury. For example, it may cause acute lung inflammation.
Causes vary, but the only medical treatment for I/R is surgery, and it is thought that dysbiosis (unbalanced gut microbiota) plays a role. In one animal study, injected H2 solution reduced inflammation, oxidative stress and I/R injury.
H2 treatment has also been shown to reduce transplant induced intestinal injuries and alleviate colonic mucosal damage and postoperative constipation in animal studies.
A brief mention of COVID-19
According to researchers, at the cellular level, COVID-19 is characterised by a dysregulated inflammatory response of the immune system, excessive oxidative stress and impaired cellular function.
Molecular hydrogen has proven its healing capacity in these areas, and a mini-review in the ‘Journal of Translational Science‘ discusses the potential of hydrogen-rich water as a treatment for COVID patients alongside nitric oxide. You can read it here.
How is molecular hydrogen (H2) administered?
There are several ways molecular hydrogen can be successfully administered whether it’s orally as water, the gas is inhaled, or it’s injected or intravenously administered as a saline infusion.
Methods vary among researchers, and several positive studies have used hydrogen-rich water – water into which molecular hydrogen has been dissolved or released.
Cultured cell studies using hydrolysed water show that it can penetrate cellular membranes and function as an antioxidant in human liver cells.
Within other human cells, it has been able to modulate glucose uptake and insulin signalling. Human studies, including a pilot study on patients with RA, have had good results using HRW. It has displayed anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects in several studies for multiple diseases.
How to make your own hydrogen water
There are lots of expensive options out there, but if you would like something more affordable, we recommend the Biocera alkaline jug and filters. This stands out from regular filters and transforms tap water into alkaline, mineral-dense, hydrogen-rich water.
You can also make your own H2 water by using molecular hydrogen tablets. They provide a higher concentration of hydrogen, measured in parts per million (PPM) rather than parts per billion. They generally combine a form of elemental magnesium and an organic acid which releases the bonds of H2O after mixing with water. The result is millions of hydrogen gas-filled nanobubbles.
HydroTab is a blend of pure magnesium and malic acid. It has the highest concentration of molecular hydrogen on the market, at 10 PPM, in 500ml of water and is more effective at producing hydrogen-rich water than a high-end electronic ioniser. These smart tablets create H2 water that is ready to drink in just two minutes.
Molecular hydrogen or H2 is an inert gas, found in trace amounts in the air. It is also present in your body, and your gut naturally produces H2.
It has immense antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, and research continues to find out how far-reaching and beneficial molecular hydrogen could be as a treatment for many diseases. This is, in part, as H2 can significantly lower oxidative stress, a precursor to chronic inflammation and protect your cells from damage.
When you consider that chronic low-level inflammation has the potential to cause and advance many diseases, looking into ways to successfully down-regulate inflammation could be a way forward to treating chronic illness. Molecular hydrogen could be a part of that process and warrants further attention.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
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