Drinking urine for health benefits
If you go down to the woods today, urine for a big surprise. It seems that some misguided teddy bears have taken to drinking their own pee in the name of health, albeit the new-age, quasi-religious kind of health.
This slightly left-of-centre practice has a number of monikers - urine therapy, auto-immune therapy, intrinsic medicine, or simply UT. Urine therapy means using your own urine either externally or internally as a way to promote or maintain health. It has been touted as a panacea for pretty much any ailment you can possibly imagine, from a simple insect bite to believe it or not, AIDS.
The origins of Urine Therapy
Apparently it has been practiced for thousands of years, specifically in India, where it is known as “amaroli” and is used in ayurvedic medicine. Ancient texts such as Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi (“the method of drinking urine for rejuvenation”) offer advice on “amaroli”. Shivambu literally means the water of Shiva (‘Le Grande Fromage’ in the Hindu pantheon), and Shiva means auspiciousness. Modern punters (or is that pinters?) readily quote these texts, and any other literature that may hint at the practice. Some have even gone so far as to quote the Bible.
Notably, the so-called father of modern urine therapy, John Armstrong, was particularly fond of using the bible as inspiration. This urine-imbibing pioneer, author of “The Water of Life”, was a leading figure in the urine therapy field in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Armstrong began urine therapy after unsuccessfully trying to find a cure for his Tuberculosis. Apparently, he was drawn to the practice after being inspired by a quotation from the Bible: “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” (The Book of Proverbs 5:15). Not satisfied with just quaffing the stuff, he also advocated massaging yourself with it or bathing in it. This time the biblical verse to blame was: “when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face.”(Matthew 6:17). Not to be outdone, more contemporary supporters have delved into the scriptures and found this gem from John 7:38: “Rivers of living water shall flow from your bellies.”
Armed with these hallowed references, the practice of urine therapy has spawned legions of practitioners worldwide. In fact, there are even World Conferences on Urine Therapy. The first fittingly took place in India in 1996.
Is drinking urine good for you?
Even the greatest fans of Hunter S. Thompson and his Gonzo-style of journalism might be hard pressed to bring themselves to experience this particular magic potion first-hand and so I was forced to ask around. Unable to find any citizens willing to admit to swilling back their own pee, I was forced to consult with the source of all urinary information – an urologist.
The search for the virtues of the golden potion led to a major urology hospital in Pretoria, South Africa for a discussion with a senior urologist about urine therapy. However, the doctor requested that he remain nameless. When asked the reason for this anonymity, he replied, “Otherwise, these freaks will start calling me!” Henceforth he shall be referred to as Dr. P. Nevertheless, the good doctor declared that the practice of ingesting urine for reasons of health is total bollocks, to say the least.
“The practice of Urine Therapy is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever come across. It is absolutely non-physiological. If God had meant us to drink our piss, he would have given us one metre penises,” scoffed the doctor. (Speak for yourself mate.)
According to Dr. P, urine is not necessarily toxic. “Urine is a by-product of blood filtration and metabolic activities and the result is something that is produced by our own bodies, and therefore not necessarily toxic to them. The composition of urine varies according to what you take in. For example, if you drink a lot of water, your urine will be diluted by excess water, but if you are dehydrated, your urine will be more concentrated. Urine contains many substances with the largest constituents being water and urea. It also contains minerals, acids, creatine, hormones, vitamins, amino acids and various other bio-chemical substances in tiny amounts,” explained the Doc. Although these substances are not toxic and some of them may even seem beneficial, the doctor warned that these substances have been excreted for a very good reason.
“Any living organism is driven by a need for homeostasis. Homeostasis is the constant monitoring of an organism’s internal and external environment, and the subsequent reaction to those environments to create and maintain balance. Now in a human being, our digestive system is designed to absorb the substances that our bodies need to survive and function properly. These substances are then assimilated into the blood and taken to where they are needed. After these substances have been metabolised, their by-products may return to the blood. The liver provides a filtration mechanism for many toxins, and the kidneys filter the blood in a highly complex filtration system and retrieve anything that the body may still need. Everything else is then excreted in the form of urine. Basically, your body does not need nor want the stuff it is excreting. If you drink your urine, you are incorrectly presuming that you know what your body needs better than your own body does,” said the bemused urologist.
He also explained that people who indulge in this practice would exhibit the same symptoms as people with impaired kidney function, as they are pretty much taking the poor kidneys out of the equation. The kidneys keep trying to rid the body of these substances, but the idiots keep chugging the stuff back down.
However, when asked if urine had any value if used externally, the doctor said that it could have an effect on the skin. Apparently it can be used for minor skin problems like burns and cuts for example, but the doctor said that there were far more effective (and less offensive) over-the-counter products for these ailments.
This brings us to the conspiracy theory. Of course, there had to be one. Pundits of urine therapy claim that the multinational pharmaceutical companies don’t want the secret of urine therapy to get out because they will lose millions. Urine is free, so to speak, and readily available and these pharmaceutical giants are apparently terrified that urine will usurp their dominance in the world markets. The conspiracy theorists claim that many products like facial creams contain urine anyway, and this is a sign of the conspiracy. The drug companies are supposedly studying urine religiously and patenting medicines that contain many of the constituents of urine. As Dr. P already explained though, urine may have some external benefits and therefore it is conceivable that there may be small amounts of synthetic urea in a face cream, but the majority of face creams do not contain urea and there are far more effective substances anyhow.
After considerable research and a long discussion with the urologist, there is only one apparently possible benefit of urine therapy. As one piddle-partaker said: “Drinking your own urine makes you question what you put into your body.” Finally, some sense. What you put into your body definitely influences what eventually comes out. If you are taking narcotics for example, your urine will contain the end products of your body’s attempt at breaking down that poison. Now you wouldn’t want to drink that, would you? Although this argument does exhibit some plausibility, most people prefer to simply maintain a healthy, balanced diet. You don’t have to taste your pee to know what you have had to eat or drink.
To conclude, the majority of urologists state that the practice has absolutely no medical or scientific value whatsoever. It certainly may give new meaning to the party phrase: “Bring your own drinks,” and it definitely opens up the practitioners to a lot of derision, but each to his own as they say. And I’ll drink to that.
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