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Oxygen - The Big-O-Flow

Is pure air fad, fashion or fitness?

Ever feel like the hustle and bustle of life is leaving you gasping for air? A variety of companies want to sell you some fresh air to help rejuvenate your life.

Breathing for fun

A trendy movement now has people sniffing up to “oxygen bars” across the nation to pay around a dollar a minute for something that use to be considered free.

IN THE PICTURE...Martin Garraver sits back and inhales oxygen bubbled through colored and flavored liquids in Mexico City's first oxygen bar. The bar caters to well-off residents of the capital, offering temporary respite from its infamous smoggy and polluted air and busy streets. © Reuters/CORBIS

‘Nose hose’ fans claim that snorting the pure stuff gives them more energy and a quick pick-me-up, especially useful after a long, late night of drinking.

To add to the marketing appeal, oxygen bars offer flavor enhancement to their price-tagged air such as peppermint, vanilla, orange, lavender, lime and eucalyptus. The National Jewish Medical and Research Center, which specializes in respiratory, allergic and immune diseases, credits Japan, Mexico and South America for initiating the popularized flow of purified air while attempting to combat concerns about air pollution.

Actor Woody Harrelson is recognized for opening one of the first Americanized oxygen bars in Los Angeles, but the flashy Hollywood appeal has now spread nationwide with oxygen bars materializing from the West to East coasts. They have popped up in restaurants, casinos, health spas and kiosks within malls.

Several companies ‘have air, will travel’ and supply portable bars for parties, weddings or special events. And, for those who prefer to snort their air in private, in-home units can be purchased to enhance your next home or office remodel project.

Breathing for life

The free air we all breathe contains approximately 21 percent oxygen, while oxygen bars promote their air as being nearly 100 percent pure. However, medical experts argue that it is diluted upon intake by surrounding atmosphere air, which is inadvertently inhaled at the same time.

In addition, any excess ‘pure’ oxygen, which the lungs cannot transfer into the blood system, may just be wasted and exhaled.

Medical studies don’t seem to back up the trend and discount any self-proclaimed health benefits by recreational-oxygen users. In opposition, studies do evidence that too much oxygen can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.

The American Lung Association’s Ò website states, “Oxygen is also being dispensed for recreational purposes at oxygen bars to patrons who believe that inhaling the pure oxygen will cause their bodies to function even better than normal. Inhaling oxygen recreationally is unlikely to have a beneficial physiological effect. Oxygen at high levels can be toxic; however, there is no evidence that oxygen at the low flow levels used in bars can be dangerous to a normal person's health.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not offered a stamp of approval for oxygen bars because dispensing of oxygen requires a prescription.

“Although oxygen bars that dispense oxygen without a prescription violate FDA regulations, the agency applies regulatory discretion to permit the individual state boards of licensing to enforce the requirements pertaining to the dispensing of oxygen,” said Melvin Szymanski, of the FDA.

Oxygen bars do seem to be careful about walking that thin line by promoting their products as recreational use only and limiting clients to short 15 to 20 minute gas-ups.

They commonly deliver their product through a small plastic tube, called a cannula in medical terms, which is placed under the nose. Oxygen therapy for medical purposes can also be delivered by a facemask, oxygen tent or a number of other methods.

Michael Jackson grabbed worldwide publicity in the 80’s when pictures were released of the notorious pop star relaxing in his $125,000 hyperbaric chamber for an oxygen treatment. (See article on hyperbarics)

Aside from the recreational fun, doctors often prescribe oxygen therapy for medical treatment when a person’s lungs cannot transfer enough oxygen into the blood system, such as those with chronic lung conditions.

Breathing for health

Before you pay out the nose for something you can’t see or touch, yoga and mediation experts recommend simply learning to breathe properly.

“The best ways to reduce stress and feel energized are still the tried and true methods: rest, exercise and proper diet. Meditation, which focuses on breathing and muscle relaxation, also may be beneficial for relieving stress,” says Ron Balkissoon, MD, who is a pulmonologist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

“In my yoga teaching I strongly emphasize breathing,” says Ann Murphy, of Mesquite, NV, who has taught yoga for 29 years. “It is the first thing I teach ¾ actually I re-teach people how to breath.”

“Shallow breathing (where we inhale and [only] fill the breast) puts tremendous pressure on our entire circulatory (heart and blood vessels), lymphatic (waste and toxic management), and sensory systems (temperament),” says Arnell Bertumen, who teaches Tai Chi and Qi Gong in Draper, Utah.

Bertumen and Murphy both say people breathe properly when they are first born and when they are sleeping, but forget how to breathe correctly during day-to-day life, especially under stressful situations. They emphasize the need for diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing.”

“We want to breathe to the bottom of our lungs to get a full exchange of air, not just into our upper chest,” says Murphy. “Proper breathing enhances any aerobic activity, is relaxing, stress relieving, and valuable for people with respiratory problems.”

Bertumen says Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese way of breathing, also helps bring many benefits to the human system.

Oprah Winfrey has even been known to emphasize the importance of proper breathing for stress and tension relief. “Nothing is more effective than a deep, slow inhale and release for surrendering what you can’t control,” states Oprah’s website. “So stop. Go mindless. Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”

On The Other Hand…

Don't Believe 'Oxygen Deficiency' Scams

Oxygen is essential for life, so the more oxygen you get, the better. Right?

That's the logic behind a number of quack treatments that try to convince gullible consumers that "oxygen deficiency" or "oxygen starvation" causes most disease. The advertising claims for oxygen generators, pills and other therapies also fail to mention that too much oxygen is toxic. Indeed, you could only breathe pure oxygen for a period of days before it would start damaging your lungs.

Even if oxygen pills could deliver usable oxygen to the body, a single dose would provide less oxygen than you get in a single breath, says Dr. Stephen Barrett. In his column in Toronto's C-Health, Barrett describes how oxygen therapy scams defraud consumers.

A more dangerous twist on the oxygen scam uses highly reactive forms of oxygen such as ozone and peroxide chemicals, which are claimed to cure a wide range of ills including cancer and AIDS. Health authorities have jailed people for selling ozone generators as medical devices but consumers should be wary of others selling such dangerous devices.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration describes a Florida couple sentenced to prison for selling ozone generators to treat disease. One videotape claimed that "ozone will cure almost any disease" by administering the reactive gas into the rectum, vagina or ear, by breathing it through the nose or mouth, or by standing naked in a body bag filled with ozone.

- DISCLAIMER –

If you do chose to ‘inhale’ for fun, be sure to contact your physician or health care provider first to check out any health issues or concerns. Also, be sure to do so in a non-smoking atmosphere, since oxygen is extremely flammable.

SOURCES - Article information derived in part from: William Allstetter of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Melvin Szymanski of the FDA, www.oxygenshot.com, www.paramountzone.com/pureoxygen.htm, www.oprah.com, www.time.com, www.bizjournals.com, www.lungusa.org, and www.fda.gov.
Debra Hart’s work appears in many publications in the Western United States, including UTHealth Magazine. She may be reached at (801) 766-9179 or via e-mail at leosbanjo@aol.com
Arnell Bertumen teaches Tai Chi and Qi Gong at the Lotus Store inside the Draper Factory Outlet from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Saturday – (801) 572-1292

SIDEBAR – CANNED OXYGEN

Those seeking a portable blast of fresh air may be interested in ‘oxygen in a can’ products such as “Oxygen Shot” or “O Pur.”

Oxygen Shot promises to give an energy boost through its patented compact oxygen spray. “The Oxygen Shot vapor is a quick recovery therapy that rejuvenates and energizes the entire body. An Oxygen Shot to the face and mouth restores you to a healthy condition. If you feel weak or overheated after strenuous exercise, use Oxygen Shot and instantly you will feel refreshed and recharged,” claims Oxygen Shot’s website.

O Pur’s website says it is a pure oxygen supplement containing 99.5% purity in a light, user-friendly canister/inhaler ¾ and it has been used by Britney Spears and David Beckham. It is suppose to be useful in combating stress, increasing memory, helping the immune system and curing hangovers.

Article Reviewed: July 5, 2012
Copyright © 2014 Healthy Magazine

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