My day often starts with one of my awesome Twitter followers sending me a link to an “unusual” vaginal therapy. This morning it was a doozy.
Yes, vaginal ozone therapy.
I can’t respond to every one, but this is so unethical and has such potential for harm I felt compelled to respond.
First I had to re-read the article several times to make sure this wasn’t some gag, but alas it isn’t. The author had ozone gas (or what was sold for $25 in Bali as ozone gas) blown into her vagina for 20 minutes in the name of that elusive “wellness.” When did wellness become about poisons? I think of wellness as watching a sunset on the beach, or sipping some great coffee watching the sun rise when the morning is still quiet, laughing with my kids, a good book, or a massage.
The author tries this therapy at a “spa” of some kind in Bali called Alchemy, which I suppose is appropriate given alchemy is the failed science of transforming base metals into gold. In this situation I guess alchemy applies to using pseudoscience to turn the search for wellness into cash.
The author writes about some of the dangers with ozone and mentions that ozone therapy has killed people (which it has). It is highly dangerous when given intravenously and it damages the mucous membranes. The entire lining of the vagina is a mucous membrane, but we’ll get to that in a minute. She interviews a cancer specialist (the day after) who says, “As with all charlatanism, it gives the claim that it cures everything.” She even writes that the Food and Drug Administration calls it a “toxic gas with no known useful medical application.”
All of these dangers apparently didn’t give the editors at Broadly pause to think, “Hey, are we doing a good thing here mentioning this in any other way than don’t do this ever?”
At the end of the piece the author describes her experience of 20 minutes of ozone blown into her vagina with a tube (at least she is told it is ozone) and she mentions the mucous that accumulated in the tube. She then hops on her scooter wondering how something so “artificial” could be administered at a place that claims to be about “natural” and “wellness.”
This is what you need to know about ozone. The FDA says “ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical application in specific, adjunctive, or preventive therapy. In order for ozone to be effective as a germicide, it must be present in a concentration far greater than that which can be safely tolerated by man and animals.”
So A) it’s dangerous and B) even if it could be put in a vagina safely vaginas don’t need germicides.
The FDA also states that “although undesirable physiological effects on the central nervous system, heart, and vision have been reported, the predominant physiological effect of ozone is primary irritation of the mucous membranes. Inhalation of ozone can cause sufficient irritation to the lungs to result in pulmonary edema. The onset of pulmonary edema is usually delayed for some hours after exposure; thus, symptomatic response is not a reliable warning of exposure to toxic concentrations of ozone. Since olfactory fatigue develops readily, the odor of ozone is not a reliable index of atmospheric ozone concentration.”
This isn’t jade egg bad this is, well, ozone bad. Here is my run down of the biggest risks:
Gas introduced into the vagina can enter the blood stream and kill you. Enough said.
Toxic effect of ozone on vaginal lactobacilli
This is completely unstudied, but as ozone is toxic to vegetation I can only guess that it has potential for damaging the good vaginal bacteria (lactobacilli). With low levels of lactobacilli a woman is at higher risk for bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and getting HIV or herpes or gonorrhea if exposed.
Irritation of the vaginal mucosa
The inflammatory response can be painful. It could also result in mucosal injury that might allow bacteria or viruses to enter the blood stream. What if you were shedding herpes at the time (about 2-3% are shedding it at any given time). Could the herpes virus enter the blood stream? What if you had recently been exposed to HIV and your healthy vaginal bacteria was chugging along killing it and then now there is an escape hatch into the blood stream for the virus courtesy of the ozone damage? If the lactobacilli are damaged this bad chain of events would be more likely to occur.
Damage to the vaginal mucous
The layer of mucous in the vagina is one of the protective mechanisms. It physically protects the vagina from injury and contains a variety of substances that keep bacteria in check. Per this report it appears some of it comes out with the procedure. Not good. Girls, mucous is your friend.
Introduction of oxygen and carbon dioxide
The vagina is anaerobic meaning it has no oxygen. Even the minute amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide that is trapped in a tampon can change the ecosystem. It is this introduction of oxygen and carbon dioxide with tampons that is believed to be a crucial step in the development of toxic shock syndrome. The oxygen could kill lactobacilli (bad), but also what if there were some TSS-1 (the main toxin involved with menstrual toxic shock syndrome) producing staph aureus hanging around from a period 4 days ago and the oxygen wafting into the vagina along with the ozone gives it a toxin production boost?
Being in a room with an ozone generating machine
Some of it could easily be inhaled. There is no description of safety gear, like a gas mask or a gas scavenging system.
The big question. Why?
Why the author felt the need to do this other than the search for that mythical wellness is not disclosed, but exposing your body to harmful procedures shouldn’t be legitimized by publications or remotely suggested as therapy.
According to the FDA it is illegal to offer ozone therapy in the United States for any “medical condition for which there is no proof of safety and effectiveness.” That hasn’t stopped many naturopaths from claiming they offer ozone therapy. I’ve found a few medical doctors on line who report they offer “ozone therapy” as well. It is possible someone could get this “therapy” in the United States and obviously they could think about it while traveling.
Ozone is natural in the way that cyanide is natural. It has some uses in nature but it’s really, really bad for people.
What’s next, I tried vaginal carbon monoxide for health? I mean don’t at all, really, but that therapy would be no different medically. Harmful and no conceivable benefit. People often pass over risks because they want to believe that therapy A or B really is miraculous. Ending with the author scooting away with a little tingle really makes it seem not se bad and something a fellow health explorer might do.
I see a growing trend of these articles, and not just limited to the vagina. I tried X dangerous thing and here is what happened. The idea that a publication might pay for this kind of work is worrisome as eventually someone will get harmed. It also legitimizes a dangerous practice. There are people who subscribe to fringe, untested therapies (the number of bizarre injections offered by naturopaths is testimony to that) so this introduces a new and dangerous idea. In addition, a desperate woman with symptoms no one else can solve might consider trying this as it didn’t appear to harm the author.
This isn’t funny or enlightening and I don’t accept the at excuse that “people are doing it” so it is newsworthy.When you tell your readers that something is dangerous and then do it anyway you undo the whole safety message. It is only newsworthy to say this is dangerous so don’t do it.
People are obviously free to stick whatever they want wherever, but giving a dangerous quasi medical “therapy” national exposure is a different matter and it is, in my opinion, unethical.