What is an Oxygen Bar?
An Oxygen Bar is what it sounds like – an establishment that serves oxygen to its patrons. Customers have the choice between breathing unscented or scented oxygen, usually delivered through a mask worn over the face. A session can last from 15 to 60 minutes and costs about $1 USD per minute. Some oxygen bars offer a variety of other services – from massages to health food.
Most oxygen bars use a concentrator machine, which filters out nitrogen and other atmospheric gases to produce oxygen that is about 95% pure (the air we breathe is approximately 21% oxygen). Scented oxygen is purified oxygen that is sent through bottles with aromatic solutions, providing a subtle scent.
The concept originated in countries where concerns over the quality of air pushed people to seek purified air. After gaining popularity in Japan, Mexico, and South America the oxygen bar craze surfaced in North America and Europe. Now one can be found in just about any major city.
It is a worry to some that oxygen bars can actually cause health issues. For instance, within the lungs, there are small sacs (alveoli) where inhaled oxygen enters the bloodstream and carbon dioxide exits. A surplus of oxygen in the lungs can cause carbon dioxide to become trapped in the body. This build up of oxygen in the lungs can collapse the alveoli and cause permanent lung damage. It is very important to note that anyone interested in visiting an oxygen bar should consult with their doctor first, especially adults with emphysema, chronic asthma, or chronic bronchitis, in particular.
There are also arguments confirming the legitimacy of oxygen bars. There is a wide variety of benefits linked to such establishments and are wholeheartedly accepted by oxygen enthusiasts. From weight loss to hangovers, an oxygen bar experience is nothing short of unique.
Oxygen therapy can result in weight loss because it increases circulation and speeds up metabolism, which in turn, can help burn calories. Oxygen is essentially the fuel our cells require to function. If our cells do not have access to enough oxygen, they will not perform as they should. If our cells are not nourished with enough oxygen, they send the message to our brain that they need nourishment, or food. If the majority of our energy is derived from oxygen and the remaining is derived from food, it would make sense that the more oxygen we take in, the less hungry we feel.
Oxygen is critical to life. We don’t usually think about oxygen as energy, but that is how our brains use it. It comes as no surprise that the brain requires a great deal of energy to operate. The brain has a very high metabolic rate because of constant neural activity, so the availability of oxygen is closely related to brain performance. When there is poor blood circulation, memory breaks down. By boosting the blood flow to the brain and increasing neurotransmitter production through oxygen use, it is possible for better concentration and memory retention to be achieved.
It is commonly known that oxygen can be physically and mentally healing. It can help lift one’s mood, even shifting the chemical balance that is necessary to feel well, but how? Similar to the prescription of exercise for improving mood, whether aerobic exercise or yoga, most exercise centers around breathing. This type of breathing results in an increased oxygen intake and produces a natural high. This can also be achieved after a few minutes of breathing oxygen. When breathing highly oxygenated air, you decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that is introduced to the body. With less carbon dioxide present, your body feels less anxiety. Research has shown that there is a connection between the supply of oxygen to the brain and how well the energy-producing fibers of the cells perform. An inadequate amount of oxygen can interrupt neuron function and the electrical activity of the brain. According to some, exposing psychiatric patients to a 40% concentration of oxygen is a safe and effective way to improve psychiatric function.
If you have ever experienced a hangover, you are familiar with the aches and pains that accompany one. After ingesting alcohol, your body needs some time to recover. Oxygen plays a very important role in recovery – of any kind. In this case, your liver breaks down the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is then broken down into water (eventually be expelled through urine) and carbon dioxide (expelled through breathing). It takes 3 oxygen molecules to break down 1 alcohol molecule, therefore, if you increase your oxygen intake, your body will be able to break down and expel the alcohol much faster.
Is it all hype? Can the claimed benefits be felt or is it a placebo effect? Despite the conflicting opinions, oxygen bars, at the very least, offer a peaceful reprieve from every day stressors and air pollutants.