Drinking hydrogen peroxide is a really bad idea.
That seems pretty obvious, but there’s a small faction of the wellness industry that promote drinking hydrogen peroxide as a way to remove toxins (of course), as well as treat everything from headaches to allergies and even Alzheimer's.
Most of the websites that promote the drinking of hydrogen peroxide are small with no proof to back up the claims that it "kills disease-causing microorganisms by ‘oxidizing’ them in a process which breaks down organic materials into oxygen and water.”
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"Your body actually naturally produces a form of H2O2, used by the immune system to help fight infections," Don Tolman wrote in a 2017 article. "Your white blood cells use hydrogen peroxide to help combat any toxins, bacteria, viruses, parasites or yeast invading your body."
Spoiler alert: That's just not true.
Why is drinking hydrogen peroxide dangerous?
"Hydrogen peroxide, even a small amount just enough to take a sip, can release hundreds of millimeters or liters of oxygen in the human body," a doctor told CBS Philadelphia. "If you were to ingest hydrogen peroxide, that air can get into the blood vessels and gravity rises it to the top, can go to your brain, heart or the lungs."
Pretty terrifying stuff — even more terrifying when you learn that these purveyors of wellness promote drinking "food grade" hydrogen peroxide, meaning it’s much stronger than the stuff you buy at the drugstore — 35 percent, compared to the 2 or 3 percent sold as a first-aid tool.
And a 2017 study showed that hydrogen peroxide poisoning does happen semi-frequently. For the study, researchers looked at both accidental and intentional drinking of hydrogen peroxide in "industrial-strength" concentrations — 10 percent or more. The data was compiled from statistics provided from the U.S. National Poison Data System and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) between 2001 and 2011.
In that decade, there were nearly 300 cases of hydrogen peroxide poisoning.
The number of poisoning was "much higher than anyone expected," lead study author Dr. Benjamin Hatten told CBS News.
The poisoning resulted in significant physical injuries, ranging from respiratory distress to seizures, strokes and heart attacks. About 14 percent of the patients experienced heart embolisms, while 7 percent died or had long-term disability after drinking hydrogen peroxide.
Patients also reported experiencing altered mental states.
According to Dr. Eric Lavonas, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, gas bubbles "rise, and when they get to a small blood vessel, the vessel gets blocked."
"Because of gravity, this means the most common place to see damage is the brain," he told CBS News. “The bubbles themselves don’t last very long, but the stroke can be permanent."
So, what is hydrogen peroxide good for?
Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean minors cuts, along with pain associated with blisters or sores in the mouth, according to WebMD. The reason: The oxygen helps remove dead skin and clean the area.
Many medical experts advise against using it for cuts because it’s believed to delay wound healing, but a 2017 study showed it might actually help the healing process.
You can choose to use it — or not — but one thing’s for sure: Don’t believe any wellness "expert" that recommends drinking hydrogen peroxide.