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Alternative Medicine Docs Confused About Oxygen

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Skeptical Scalpel

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.

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Skeptical Scalpel (click to view)

Skeptical Scalpel

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.

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"How about we just take our oxygen the old-fashioned way—normal breaths and never intravenously?"

An article called “Simple ‘4-7-8’ breathing trick can induce sleep in 60 seconds” claims that this trick can get you to go to sleep within 60 seconds. All you have to do is the following:

♦  Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
♦  Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
♦  Hold your breath for a count of seven.
♦  Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
♦ 
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths

An integrative medicine expert, Dr. Andrew Weil, said it works because it allows the lungs to become fully charged with air, allowing more oxygen into the body, which promotes a state of calm.

“Promotes a state of calm” is nonsense. Let’s concentrate on the science.

The air we breathe contains about 21% oxygen. Nearly all oxygen in the blood is carried by hemoglobin. No matter how many deep breaths you take, you cannot get the oxygen saturation of hemoglobin above 100%. This is explained in more detail in a previous post of mine about why athletes don’t benefit from breathing pure oxygen after exertion.

This simple trick might work through the power of suggestion, it doesn’t cost anything, and unless you hyperventilate and pass out, it is harmless.

The next misconception about oxygen is neither inexpensive nor harmless

Two naturopathic “doctors” have been accused of injecting a woman with oxygen or perhaps purified water that had been taken from an Octozone machine. The oxygen was supposed to destroy any pathogens in the woman’s blood. In the process of trying to kill the pathogens, the injection killed the patient who paid $500 for the treatment.

The naturopathic duo left town and were at large for several months before eventually being caught and charged with homicide.

An autopsy found her death was due to an air embolism.

According to a recent review of the subject, “Traditionally, it has been estimated that more than 5 mL/kg of air displaced into the intravenous space is required for significant injury (shock or cardiac arrest) to occur. However, complications have been reported with as little as 20 mL of air (the length of an unprimed IV infusion tubing) that was injected intravenously.”

Pure water should never be injected IV either because it causes blood cells to die from hemolysis.

How about we just take our oxygen the old-fashioned way—normal breaths and never intravenously?

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.

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