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The Surprising Benefits of Inhaled Hydrogen Gas and Hydrogen-Enriched Water

Hydrogen therapy is becoming an increasingly important tool in our regenerative medicine toolkit. As more and more of our patients use hydrogen and are pleased with their results, I am constantly on the lookout for articles and studies that improve our knowledge and give us perhaps new ways to think about using hydrogen.

I recently came across a critical scientific paper that covers two distinct forms of hydrogen therapy: inhaled hydrogen gas and hydrogen-enriched water.

One form is an inhaled gas mixture of 66% hydrogen and 33% oxygen. In our clinic, we have utilized inhalable hydrogen gas for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The other form is drinkable hydrogen-enriched water.

The real question becomes what we might accomplish using these two approaches together. Let’s start with the benefits of inhaled hydrogen gas:

Inhaled Hydrogen Gas Therapy

One critical aspect of this article is that researchers found that inhaled hydrogen stimulates arginine biosynthesis. 

Arginine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in many biological processes, including protein synthesis, cell division, wound healing, immune function, and hormone regulation. Arginine biosynthesis is the process by which organisms synthesize arginine from simpler molecules, such as citrulline or ornithine. Arginine biosynthesis is essential because arginine is a semi-essential amino acid, meaning the body can synthesize it. Still, it may also need to be obtained from the diet in some circumstances, such as during periods of growth, stress, or injury.

In addition, arginine is a precursor for synthesizing nitric oxide (NO). NO is an essential signaling molecule that regulates blood vessel dilation, immune function, stem cell release, and neuronal signaling. This makes arginine biosynthesis necessary for maintaining cardiovascular health, immune function, cognitive function, and general well-being.

Moreover, arginine has been shown to have several potential therapeutic benefits, including improving wound healing, reducing inflammation, and enhancing exercise performance. As such, understanding the mechanisms and regulation of arginine biosynthesis may have important implications for developing novel treatments for various diseases and conditions.

In addition, inhaled hydrogen gas has strong antioxidant properties that can neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Hydrogen gas inhalation can regulate the expression of various genes that control a diverse number of pathways, including the NRF2 pathway.

NRF2 is a transcription agent, which is a protein that gives direction to various genes, turning them on, often stimulating genes to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.  

The NRF2 stimulation gives hydrogen gas its potent antioxidant properties that can neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Another potential benefit of inhaled hydrogen gas is its ability to improve brain function and protect against injuries.

Studies have shown that inhaled hydrogen gas can reduce brain damage and improve cognitive function in animals with traumatic brain injuries. Inhaled hydrogen gas also positively affects the mitochondria, increases collagen synthesis, and generally encourages tissue regeneration. 

Hydrogen-Enriched Water

I have long-been skeptical about claims that commercially available hydrogen-enriched water offers any substantial health benefits, which is why I was glad the article I reviewed looked into this aspect of hydrogen therapy in great detail.

Initially, the problem with hydrogen-enriched water is that the hydrogen has essentially escaped by the time many people drink it. Typically, hydrogen-enriched water is prepared long before people consume it and the hydrogen is nearly gone by the time it is opened.

To combat this “hydrogen escape” our clinic prepares hydrogen-enriched water while the patient gets inhaled hydrogen therapy. We then have the patient drink it immediately while it is still enriched with hydrogen.

The question becomes: What exactly does drinking hydrogen-enriched water accomplish?

Evidence suggests that hydrogen-enriched water may have a prebiotic effect, promoting healthy gut bacteria growth. Now more than ever, we know the importance of the relationship between gut health and our general health.

Hydrogen delivered via water can affect the gut microbiota, a complex community of over 100 trillion microbial cells that influence human physiology, metabolism, nutrition, immune function, and longevity.

Clinical evidence indicates that hydrogen-enriched water can improve intestinal structural integrity and upregulation of butyrate-producing bacteria with ameliorated clinical features of gut microbiota disturbances. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that is produced by the fermentation of dietary fiber by gut bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids are essential for maintaining gut health.

SCFAs provide energy to the cells lining the gut, reduce inflammation, and help to regulate the immune system. By increasing the production of butyrate-producing bacteria, hydrogen-enriched water can help improve gut health and reduce inflammation.

Butyrate is also a potent histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC). Histone deacetylase (HDAC) is an enzyme that removes the acetyl group from histone proteins on DNA, making the DNA less accessible to transcription factors.

In a nutshell, the histone deacetylase inhibitors will allow the chromatin to be more receptive to transcription. Chromatin is a mixture of DNA and proteins that form the chromosomes found in the cells of humans and other higher organisms. Many of the proteins, namely histones, package the massive amount of DNA in a genome into a highly compact form that can fit in the cell nucleus.

Thus, we can see that hydrogen-enriched water helps to turn on transcription by leaving the chromatin open.

Butyrate is a potent histone deacetylase inhibitor, which can promote the proliferation and activation of regulatory T-cells (Treg cells) and play an important role in immune regulation. Treg cells are important in diminishing the effects of autoimmune diseases, and they also help in tissue regeneration.

Microbiota-derived butyrate can reduce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines by regulating the activity of G protein-coupled receptors, NF-κB, JAK/STAT, and other inflammation-related pathways, thereby inhibiting intestinal inflammation and maintaining intestinal immune balance.

In addition to the direct effects on the mucosal barrier, microbiota-derived butyrate can be absorbed and directly transmitted to mesenteric lymph nodes, into the lymphatic system, and then into the systemic circulation, affecting other organ systems.

Overall, hydrogen-enriched water is a promising functional drink for promoting gut health. By improving intestinal structural integrity and increasing the production of beneficial bacteria, it can help support a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation, functioning as an influencer of epigenetics.  

Combining inhaled hydrogen gas therapy and hydrogen-enriched water may lead to additional therapy considerations, including many potentially aiding gastrointestinal problems.

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