Here's why you shouldn’t try Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘rectal ozone therapy’ hack
Gwyneth Paltrow has, once again, shared a questionable wellness 'hack.' Last week, the Goop founder appeared on Dr. Will Cole's The Art of Being Well podcast and had a...controversial recommendation: rectal ozone therapy.
'I have used ozone therapy, rectally,' she said. 'It's pretty weird, but it's been very helpful.' she said.
To her credit, host Dr. Will Cole did ask her for the 'weirdest' wellness trend she's ever tried. But does 'rectal ozone therapy' truly do anything for your gut health, or your body in general? Women's Health investigated.
Meet the experts: Dr. Joseph Salhab is a Florida-based gastroenterologist and expert in digestion, liver and pancreas health, and nutrition. Dr. Kaveh Hoda is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in San Francisco, California.
Wait, what is ozone therapy?
Ozone therapy, in its best definition, is meant to get more oxygen to the body using ozone. 'Ozone' is an inorganic molecule with one more oxygen molecule than oxygen itself—simply put: oxygen has two oxygen molecules, while ozone has three. Chemically speaking, they are very different.
Ozone can be extremely dangerous to human lungs if inhaled. According to the FDA, inhalation of ozone can cause 'sufficient irritation to the lungs to result in pulmonary edema.'
Experimental research investigates ozone therapy as a technique for wound healing, alleviating pain associated with chronic syndromes such as fibromyalgia, and breathing disorders like COPD, according to Dr. Joseph Salhab, a Florida-based gastroenterologist and expert in digestion, liver and pancreas health, and nutrition.
It's important to note that these studies are 'low-quality' and have limited evidence, per the Cleveland Clinic. Moreover, most significant clinical trials on the therapy so far have only been done on animals, according to Dr. Salhab.
The technique of 'ozone therapy' uses a generator device to create medical-grade ozone to administer to the body, according to Cleveland Clinic. Though it is toxic when inhaled, current studies consider whether it could be beneficial to some bodies if administered through other ways—such as through your skin, through your blood in an IV, or through blowing the gas through a part of your body—such as your rectum, per Cleveland Clinic.
Ozone therapy doesn't have any proven medical benefits.
'There's really no approved use medically for it. It's a toxic gas and has no known therapeutic use,' says Dr. Kaveh Hoda, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in San Francisco, California. 'Best case scenario, [it] would be a waste of money, more likely could actually be dangerous, and cause damage to the gut and the body.'
Both Dr. Hoda and Dr. Salhab say they wouldn't recommend this therapy to patients.
'We don't have enough evidence on its safety, its dosing, or its efficacy,' says Dr. Salhab. 'Any sort of rectal ozone therapy, at least right now, would be unregulated and unstandardised. I would tell [patients] that it should be used with caution. We really don't know what [rectal ozone therapy] would even be treating.'
On top of having no proven benefits, ozone therapy can also have a lot of negative side effects, according to Dr. Hoda.
'The side effects of ozone treatment have been described, with a lot of different issues like nervous system problems, problems with the heart, even vision problems,' Dr. Hoda says.
Ozone therapy is also not currently approved by the FDA, and Dr. Hoda explains that taking an experimental technique like this seriously can 'muddy the water' for real medicine.
'When it comes time for people to learn about something important like vaccines, it's become so unclear what's real and what's not,' he says. 'If rectal ozone therapy is put up there with a medication we have studied and tested and prescribed—if [people] think they're equivalent, we won't be able to convince people of [medical practices that are] really important.'
Why would anyone want to try this?
This certainly isn't the first time Gwyneth has admitted to using an experimental, and potentially dangerous, health trend. Like lots of other wellness trends, Dr. Hoda says there might be something alluring about the sound of 'ozone therapy,' despite its lack of medical benefits.
'It sounds very sexy and interesting and has that "sciency" sound to it,' says Dr. Hoda. 'You can go online [and find] YouTube videos explaining how it could work.'
Dr. Hoda explains that some sources may claim rectal ozone therapy provides 'Immunomodulation,' or boosting your body's immune system by providing more oxygen delivery to your tissues, but there's no proof it actually achieves this.
'While there is a possibility it might have a therapeutic role to play in the future, I think because the studies are lacking, [doctors] can't recommend it for anything,' says Dr. Salhab.
What would be a better method to promote GI health?
Both Dr. Salhab and Dr. Hoda recommend improving your digestive health through diet and lifestyle choices, rather than any experimental therapies. So, instead of Gooping up your life, just stick to the basics: eat lots of fruits and veggies, exercise, and stay away from toxins like alcohol and tobacco, according to Dr. Salhab.
And, obviously, before trying any new wellness therapy or hack (but especially rectal ozone therapy), you should talk to your doctor.
'As a medical doctor part of what we do in terms of prescribing treatments for illnesses is an evidence based approach,' says Dr. Salhab. 'That evidence is backed up by things such as clinical trials, and peer-reviewed journals. So if a patient were to come to me [about rectal ozone therapy], I would tell them, Look, there's no evidence that this treats anything specific.'
Dr. Hoda also emphasises being wary of buzzy wellness trends you see online—especially products boasting words like 'detox,' 'ancient therapy,' and 'boost.'
'If your body has a functional liver and kidney, it will be able to do [this] on its own,' says Dr. Hoda.
In short, it doesn't seem like rectal ozone therapy has any potential to be 'very helpful.' Sorry, Gwyneth.
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