4 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma

Ozone Therapy for Immune Support: Strengthening Your Body's Defenses

Wellness, Health, Education

What is Ozone Therapy?

By way of influencing oxygen utilization, ozone therapy is an incredible age management tool, as well as a method of treatment for various chronic diseases. Ozone therapy can also be used to as a component of treatment plans targeting acute or chronic viral, fungal, or bacterial infections, as well as cancer, due to its effects on the immune system.

Ozone and Cytokine Production

Mononuclear blood cells, such as T cells, B cells, and NK (or natural killer) cells play a key role in our immune system. In response to infection or cancer, mononuclear blood cells produce cytokines - molecular messengers that communicate with other cells. There are many categories of cytokines, with varied functions. Certain cytokines have anti-viral effects; others trigger inflammation, as a protective response to foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, or fungi; others regulate T-cells; further still are responsible for anti-tumor effects.

It is through the action of cytokines that our immune system can kill off microbes, control viral replication, and kill off cancer cells. We need cytokines in order to have a healthy immune system. Our understanding of the cytokine response system has led to specific cytokines being utilized to treat cancer, infections, and autoimmune conditions. However, these treatments typically involve single cytokines, creating imbalances in cytokine regulation, and side effects.Alternatively, exposure to ozonides (the active component of ozone therapy) triggers mononuclear cells to increase production of a wide variety of cytokines, including IL1, IL2, IL6, TNF-a, IFNb, IFNg, and TGFb1.(1-4)

Various treatment techniques can increase or decrease the ozonide effect on cytokine production, including concentration (or gamma) of ozone utilized, or pretreatment with ascorbate, glutathione or calcium.(5) Additionally, when white blood cells are exposed to infection, they undergo a ‘respiratory burst’, rapidly increasing the amount of oxygen they consume; exposure to an increased level of oxygen, as occurs in ozone therapy, is theoretically supportive to cells with an increased oxygen demand. Ozone is also directly germicidal, killing 99% of bacteria it is exposed to.(6) For this reason, it is widely utilized as an industrial sterilization method for water and air.

Ozone and Infections

Research has shown ozone therapy to be effective in treating a variety of severe infections including chronic septic infection of a prosthetic joint;(7) tick-bite cellulitis;(8) and Ebola.(9) Ozone therapy has also shown promising results with the treatment of biofilms, a new category of ‘encrusted infections’ that are typically challenging to eradicate.(10)

These results have encouraged the utilization of ozone therapy for a wide variety of infections, including viral, bacterial, spirochete, and fungal infections. It is theorized that ozone is effective at treating infections due to its direct cidal capacity and effect on cytokine modulation, in addition to increased oxygen utilization and improved mitochondrial function that results following the introduction of ozone.

Ozone and Autoimmunity

Ozone therapy has also been utilized to treat autoimmune conditions. Our understanding of autoimmunity is deepening; once thought to be simply the act of the immune system attacking one’s own tissue without rhyme or reason, autoimmunity is now understood as a complex interplay between genetic predisposition; increased intestinal permeability;(11) environmental triggers;(12) stress;(13) and hormones.(14)

The use of ozone therapy was shown to reduce oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines in multiple sclerosis patients.(15) Ozone, alongside removal of infective jaw tissue, led to remission of dermatomyositis, an aggressive autoimmune condition.(16) Rectal ozone, combined with sulfasalazine, resulted in more rapid alleviation of symptoms and better histological improvement in patients with ulcerative colitis than sulfasalazine alone.(17)

Improvements observed in autoimmune conditions following ozone therapy may be related to cytokine modulation, or perhaps the interplay between effects on cytokines in addition to the direct cidal (anti-infectious) characteristics of ozone therapy and increased oxygen utilization and mitochondrial efficiency that results from the introduction of ozone into the body.
For many people with autoimmune conditions there was no singular cause of their condition; ozone may be successful due to its broad and multi-faceted effects on our immune system and cellular physiology.

Are you wondering if you’re a candidate for ozone therapy?

Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to determine if it would be a helpful addition to your treatment plan. Click here to book your appointment!
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