On a recent podcast, when the host asked actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow what’s the “weirdest wellness thing” that she’s done, Paltrow responded, “I have used ozone therapy, rectally.” Now, the word “rectally” isn’t something that you typically add on to the end of sentences, such as, “Here’s your order, rectally,” or “How are you doing, rectally?” But that’s the word that Paltrow added at the end. She also added, “It’s pretty weird. But it’s been very helpful,” but didn’t really specify exactly how rectal ozone therapy has been helpful. That comment got a lot of “buts”, “whats”, and other skeptical comments on social media. Just look at how folks responded to the following video clip of Paltrow’s response posted on TikTok.
As you can see, that post got a whole lot of responses such as “Forget about ‘hole in the ozone’ have u heard about ‘ozone in the hole’” and “Tell me you’re rich without telling me you’re rich” and people wondering whether there was any evidence that she was healthier or doing better in any way from such a practice.
Paltrow made this rectal ozone therapy reference on a podcast called “The Art of Being Well,” hosted by Will Cole, who describes himself as a “Functional Medicine Practitioner (IFMCP), Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) and Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) on his website.” Keep in mind that Cole’s website includes the following disclaimer after he mentions his IFMCP, DNM, and DC credentials: “Therefore, I do not practice medicine and do not diagnose or treat diseases or medical conditions.” Cole’s website goes on to say, “My services are not meant to substitute or replace those of a medical doctor but my programs are meant to work in conjunction with them.” Also, keep in mind Maya Angelou’s quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Now, if you Google “rectal ozone therapy,” you’ll get lots of websites making claims about this practice, otherwise known as Rectal Insufflation. By the way, if you accidentally leave out the word “ozone” when Googling, you’ll probably get some very, very different websites. So, as they say, be careful when you Google. Many of these websites making claims about rectal ozone therapy are, guess what, “wellness” spas, clinics, and so-called “gurus” trying to sell rectal ozone therapy services. They claim that rectal ozone therapy, “decreases toxins found in the gut and body”, “Boosts the immune system and immune response”, “Restores gut health and function to an optimal state”, “Reduces chronic inflammation throughout the body”, and “Kills bacteria, parasites, viruses, and yeast.” This makes it seem like this treatment is the greatest thing sliced bread, except that it goes in your rectum. But in the end, the big question is whether there is any scientific evidence that rectal ozone therapy will do any of the aforementioned claims. Or are such claims essentially blowing smoke up your you-know-where?
Well, rectal ozone therapy is essentially blowing ozone up where the sun don’t shine. A variation of rectal ozone therapy is vaginal ozone therapy. And take a while guess as to where the ozone goes in this latter practice. The whole argument is that your rectum and your vagina have relatively thin mucous membranes that in turn allow the ozone to seep into your bloodstream where it can then go to other parts of your body.
What is ozone? While it rhymes with friend zone, it is something very different. Ozone is basically an oxygen molecule (O2) with another O added, another oxygen atom. That means ozone is a molecule with three oxygen atoms (O3). Being around ozone can be much riskier than being the friend zone. That extra O does make a big difference. The Cleveland Clinic website describes ozone as “highly unstable and explosive in liquid or solid form,” which aren’t exactly words that you want to hear when your rectum is involved. Rectally ozone therapy, though, doesn’t use liquid or solid forms of ozone. Instead, it uses ozone in its gaseous form, which the Cleveland Clinic, indicated, “may potentially have therapeutic qualities.” The emphasis here is on the words “may potentially,” though. So why might you want to have this kind of gas up your rectum?
The thought is that ozone may have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and that it may improve the oxygenation of cells. Some websites make simplistic arguments such as emphasizing that your cells need oxygen and that if you hold your breath too long, you will die. This is sort of akin to saying, “Since you need to drink water to survive, you should immerse your head in the toilet bowl and keep it there.” Moreover, just because oxygen is good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean ozone will be. Again, oxygen molecules and ozone molecules are not the same thing.
A PubMed search for “rectal ozone therapy” returns 70 scientific articles, which turns out to be not a lot of studies. Some of these are scientific studies looking at whether ozone therapy can promote the healing of wounds and ulcers, relieving fibromyalgia symptoms, and treating coronary artery disease in humans. The results from these studies are somewhat mixed with a lack of well-designed trials. Many of the studies returned by the PubMed search were conducted on rats, thus, providing not as useful information if don’t have fur, a long tail, and a strong interest in cheese. What happens in rats doesn’t necessarily happen in humans. Therefore, take any rat study results with many grains of salt, although they do conjure up images of rats reacting with very puzzled expressions and some “WTFs” when given rectal oxygen therapy. All in all, the current scientific evidence behind rectal oxygen therapy is not only largely squeak. It’s also largely weak.
At the same time, ozone is not exactly pillows and pound cake. You shouldn’t just try it willy-nilly or simply because you heard about it on a Will Cole podcast. Ozone is a potentially dangerous substance. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently describes ozone as “a toxic gas with no known useful medical application in specific, adjunctive, or preventive therapy. In order for ozone to be effective as a germicide, it must be present in a concentration far greater than that which can be safely tolerated by man and animals.” In fact, the FDA indicates that “the predominant physiological effect of ozone is primary irritation of the mucous membranes.” If irritating your rectum is your goal, there are plenty of other ways to that.
Ozone can be even more dangerous if you inhale it. It can do real damage to your lungs, including pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema is the accumulation of fluid in your lungs, which could potentially be life-threatening.
This certainly isn’t the first time that Paltrow or Goop, the lifestyle and wellness company that she founded, has given air time to something not supported by scientific evidence, as I have written previously for Forbes. It isn’t even the first time that Paltrow or Goop has given air time to something that goes up the rectum. For example, back in 2018, I covered for Forbes the $135 coffee enema kit that was being sold on the Goop website. That’s probably isn’t something that you see at your local coffee shop. You probably won’t be going to a Starbucks anytime soon to say, “Instead of putting that in a cup and filling it from the bottom…”
The bottom line is that there isn’t enough evidence supporting the many wellness claims about rectal oxygen therapy. At the same time, there are real potential risks with putting ozone up your butt. This shouldn’t be a “what a celebrity puts up there so will I” situation. When a celebrity who is neither a medical professional nor a scientist makes a claim about a treatment without offering sufficient scientific evidence, be skeptical. be very skeptical. Be especially skeptical when that celebrity doesn’t even say specifically how the therapy benefited him or her. You often don’t know what the celebrity may be trying to sell or being paid to say. You may not know what that celebrity may be pulling out of his or her you know where.