New Research Study: Can Hydrogen Be Used to Treat COPD?

Air Pollution, occupational dust, chemical fumes, cigarette smoking as well as second hand smoking can irritate the lungs. Long-term exposure to such lung irritants can lead to inflammation and the development of lung problems in some people.

 COPD Hydrogen Therapy

One of the lung problems that you may acquire over time from the exposure is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is a progressive disease that cannot be cured and makes breathing very difficult for people who have it. This is as a result of the narrowing of the airways caused by inflammation and blockage making it difficult for air to flow freely into and out of the lungs.


It is estimated that a whopping 65 million people around the world have COPD according to the World Health Organization. Many more are believed to have the disease without their knowledge.


Even though COPD cannot be cured, there are a good number of treatments and management techniques that are available such as corticosteroids, bronchodilators and pulmonary rehab among many others. Most of the people diagnosed with COPD can live a productive long life after diagnosis.

 Inhaled corticosteroid

The most commonly prescribed drugs for COPD are inhaled corticosteroids, this is because steroids help reduce the inflammation in the lungs which is a chief contributor to the progression of COPD. When corticosteroids are paired with bronchodilator medication which helps to open up the airways, most patients experience relief from some of their worst symptoms.


An active area of research has been to find better ways to control the inflammation that underlies the development of COPD. It was reported by Medline Plus, a publication of the National Institutes of Medicine that antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.


The body usually obtains antioxidants naturally from the food that you consume, some companies are however selling dietary supplements with the aim to increase what you derive from your diet.


In theory, if you are able to control or reverse the inflammation associated with COPD, the symptoms of this disease may be reduced and the functioning of the lungs could potentially become better. A study conducted in 2015 by the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease explained that, “dietary antioxidants mainly vitamins C and E, are responsible for antioxidant defenses in the lungs.” A potential antioxidant effect with hydrogen has also been found by researchers.

 Doctor using a clipboard to writer on a piece of paper.

A 2011 study in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design found that, “hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe constituting nearly 75 percent of the universe’s mass; however, hydrogen is absent on the Earth in its monoatomic form and is present in water and organic or inorganic compounds. Hydrogen gas, with the molecular formula H2, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and highly combustible diatomic gas. The Earth’s atmosphere contains less than one part per million of hydrogen gas.”


It is not a new idea that hydrogen can reduce inflammation. A study done in 1975 in the journal Science first proposed its use as a cancer treatment, and ever since that time, a modicum of studies have applied the principles of hydrogen as an antioxidant to a scope of chronic diseases that are associated with inflammation, including emphysema and diabetes. Dr. Philip Diaz, a pulmonary specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio said, “But there’s limited data even in animals.”


“There’s some literature and a theoretical concept that [hydrogen] might have an antioxidant effect depending on how it is delivered. But at this point it would be very premature” for patients to be receiving hydrogen as a component of their COPD treatment protocol, he says.


Despite the warning from Dr. Diaz and most other doctors that the evidence hydrogen can be used to treat COPD is not enough, some patients are using hydrogen peroxide as a so-called ‘natural’ treatment for COPD by experimenting on themselves.


A number of COPD discussion forums found online include threads about how individuals have tried to treat themselves by adding hydrogen peroxide into their nebulizers and through looking for hydrogen peroxide injections from alternative healers. However, by doing this they could face devastating consequences.

 Poster for the television program, "60 Minutes."

A “60 Minutes” report from CBS in 2005 investigated the use of intravenous hydrogen peroxide in the death of a woman that was undergoing treatment for multiple sclerosis and made a discovery that no reputable medical organization would recommend the use of this treatment for any disease and that its use may have led to the death of this woman.


“The National Multiple Sclerosis Society calls intravenous hydrogen peroxide ‘unproven’ and ‘potentially dangerous.’ The American Cancer Society warns ‘there is no evidence that it has value as a treatment for cancer or other diseases,’’’ the 60 minutes report noted. David Sampson, director of media relations for the American Cancer Society, says that the 2005 warning is “still accurate”. We’re not aware of any evidence that H2O2 [hydrogen peroxide] is useful as a treatment for cancer.




Some studies however suggest that there could still be some potential in the use of dissolved or inhaled hydrogen as a treatment for diseases that cause inflammation in the future. The interest in this possibility has also risen as a result of increasing incidences of COPD worldwide.


A study conducted in 2017 in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease investigated the role hydrogen plays in smoking-induced cases of COPD in rats. “It is still uncertain whether hydrogen has effects on COPD,” the authors wrote, “or whether different concentrations of hydrogen could have different effects on COPD.” They set out to examine these views and found that there was a connection between the administration of hydrogen and the progression of smoking-induced COPD in rats.


They noted that the rats that had been administered with hydrogen lost less weight than those that hadn’t been given any hydrogen. The rats that had been administered with hydrogen also experienced reduced inflammation in the lungs, improved lung function, positive changes to the lung structure and heart tissue and restoration of balance in enzymes that support cellular health. The study also suggested that the results were better when a higher dose of hydrogen was administered.


Although the results from this study seem to be promising, it is important to note that this was a single study and it was not conducted in humans. Before your doctor even begins to prescribe hydrogen as a therapy for COPD, it would need to be repeated many more times to help paint a clearer picture of its position in the treatment of COPD. Diaz says, “that animal observation hasn’t been translated to humans and people shouldn’t extrapolate that hydrogen testing in animals. It may not be the same in humans. Basically, there’s not a lot of good evidence in people that this would work.” According to him, a lot more testing would be required for any future use of hydrogen therapy.


Meanwhile, you should follow the orders that you doctor has given you and take the medicine prescribed to you as directed. Be sure to check with your doctor should you want to take up any other alternative treatments such as acupuncture or any other conventional approach.


A good way to provide your body with lots of inflammation-fighting antioxidants without the risk of uncertain therapy is through eating a diet that is rich in fresh vegetables and fruit. Dark leafy greens, berries and other brightly colored produce tend to be rich in antioxidants. You should go ahead and add these to your next meal for a safe and natural nutritional boost.

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