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Hydrogen-enriched water … it conjures up conflicting images of a nuclear reaction, or perhaps the latest, weird health fad to appear (which will soon disappear – leaving a few people rich and everyone else disappointed.) The fact that it’s another water-plus product doesn’t inspire much confidence. How could, after all, adding more hydrogen gas molecules to water really make a difference?

Hydrogen plus oxygen forms water. Could adding more hydrogen to the mix be helpful?

In fact, there is a way. Hydrogen, it turns out, is a potent antioxidant – meaning it appears to be quite good at sopping up some of those free radicals that chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) studies suggest our bodies are full of.

In their search for stability, free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) tear holes in the membranes of our cells. As they do that, they liberate more free radicals – sometimes producing a kind of free radical storm, which damages our cells and prevents them from functioning properly. Studies indicate that neither ME/CFS nor FM patients’ antioxidant systems are keeping up.

Some researchers believe hydrogen may actually be one of the best antioxidants around. While other antioxidants interact with all kinds of reactive oxygen species – including helpful ones – hydrogen appears to reduce only the levels of the worst free radicals. That includes the most dangerous reactive oxygen species known, the hydroxyl radical (OH-), as well as peroxynitrite (OONO-), the reactive oxygen species that forms the basis of Martin Pall’s OONO- ME/CFS hypothesis. More recent research indicates that H2 promotes the gene expression of several other antioxidants including superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Plus, hydrogen gas’s small size – it’s the smallest molecule – allows it to diffuse across membranes and penetrate into the tiniest corners of our tissues and cells.

Possible Benefits

A wide range of possible benefits are being looked at:

Inflammation Reducer? – Evidence that H2 – whether present in water or as a gas (or even in bath water) – may help is building.  A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study found that an H2 infusion reduced pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

Metabolism Enhancer? – Just this year, a similar trial found significant improvements in metabolic factors (blood cholesterol and glucose levels, attenuated serum hemoglobin A1c) and reduced markers of inflammation in metabolic syndrome. The reduction in A1c was an interesting finding given a recent study suggesting that A1c might be increased in fibromyalgia.

PEM Reducer? – Another interesting possibility concerns H2’s potential to reduce the increased oxidative stress and inflammation that Dr. Klimas’s exercise studies find in ME/CFS. Given the massive amounts of oxidative stress that exercise incurs, even in healthy people, it’s no surprise to see H2 studies popping up in Sports Science journals. Given the recent lactate findings in ME/CFS, a reduction in blood lactate levels in soccer players was intriguing.

Mitochondrial Aid? – Perhaps the most interesting trial for ME/CFS and FM, though, was a 2012 trial which found that hydrogen water improved mitochondrial functioning (lactate-to-pyruvate ratios, fasting blood glucose, serum matrix metalloproteinase-3, serum triglycerides) in two mitochondrial diseases.

Others H2 animal studies have found reductions in allodynia, pain, inhibited glial cell activity, improved cognition, enhanced clearance of the excitotoxic neurotransmitter glutamate, and reduced colonic inflammation.

Hydrogen rich water, it turns out, is not so “woo-woo”, after all. Most the studies done are quite small and more extensive studies are needed, but it’s clearly got some science behind it, and it appears to be safe and easy to administer. Thanks to Fred Friedberg, we now have a small ME/CFS trial going.

The Friedberg Study

Fred Friedberg PhD, is an author, researcher, the President of the International Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (IACFS/ME), and a person with ME/CFS.  The Stony Brook University professor is launching a small pilot study of H2 water’s effect on chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). He reported:

“I first heard about hydrogen as a potential treatment for chronic conditions at a talk given by a highly regarded neurologist at Stony Brook medical school. As he summed up the scientific literature on the therapeutic uses of hydrogen, I got enthused about its potential in ME/CFS and have started a new treatment study with hydrogen.

 

Based on this literature and consultation with the neurologist who gave the talk on hydrogen, I’ve started a 6-week controlled pilot trial of hydrogen treatment, funded by my institution.

 

We hope to enroll 25 volunteers. All study activities are done at home. There are no in-person visits. People can call the number on the ad or send an email to us (also below). The hydrogen is in pill form (OTC supplement) that is dissolved in water. The study will be open to enrollment until we have 25-30 people enrolled.

 

If you’d like to volunteer or get more information, feel free to call 631-638-0056 or email to: FatigueMECFS@stonybrookmedicine.edu”

Update! – the study has just expanded to include testing for inflammation and oxidative stress. If it’s successful this could go a long way to nailing down a biological effect. As of Sept. 10th, the study still has a few openings. Enroll now if you want to get in it. 

If you’ve tried hydrogen-rich water, please take the poll and tell us how it went.

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