Drinking your own urine?


IF you are, hold that glass and do not say “cheers or ganbei” yet until you read the information on urine therapy in this column.

Informational technology is a wonderful gift to humankind. But just like anything else which makes access to tons of data easy and widespread, interpretation of the information or its abuse could negatively impact some people’s lives, especially those who are gullible or those who do not do due diligence and simply believe everything they read on the internet. One example of this is the widely-circulated claim (in a dozen or more websites) that urine has a wide range of medicinal use.

Why do we urinate?

Urination is one of the detoxification processes of the body. Humans and other animals urinate to eliminate the toxic by-products of the body’s physiology. The system is eliminating these waste materials contained in the urine through the kidneys in order to get rid of them. This is the same when we move our bowels. The body is excreting the stools (feces) from our body because it contains toxic waste.

What is the basis for this claim?

Urophagia (drinking urine) and urine therapy or urotherapy (also known as urinotherapy or auto-urine therapy) is a practice that dates back to the ancient times in countries like Egypt, India, China, and the Aztec empire. Some of the uses for urophagia are for ceremonial services, sexual practice, for survival, and as an alternative cure for illnesses. Even today, some misguided people think urine is beneficial for teeth whitening, migraine, asthma, skin wrinkles, skin allergies, as hormonal therapy, or for prevention or treatment of arthritis and other diseases, including cancer. The Ayurveda ancient holistic healing practices of India advocate uro-therpay. There is no scientific basis for the belief or assertion espoused by “practitioners of urophagia” that urine has medicinal benefit.

Is drinking urine safe?

Drinking your own urine or other people’s urine – even infant’s urine – is as safe as drinking the urine of dogs, cats, mice, or other animals. It is just like recycling waste material: out from your kidneys and bladder, and back into your mouth and gastrointestinal tract, with all the toxic ingredients in the urine your body is trying to get rid of through your kidneys. Urination, like bowel movement, is a part of our body’s natural processes (physiology) to cleanse the blood and the body of toxic waste to maintain health. Swallowing back the urine, or vomitus, or feces our body has eliminated does not make sense, and certainly is not safe, besides being repulsive. One does not even have to be a physician to understand the fallacy of urophagia.

What are the risks in drinking urine?

Urine could be contaminated with bacteria. Urine normally contains urea, sodium, potassium, creatinine, magnesium, calcium, ammonia, sulfates, phosphates, hippuric acid, citric acid, glucoronic acid, hormones, and drug metabolites for those on medications. These waste products, when reintroduced to the body by drinking urine, will put a stress on the kidneys. The adverse effect is worse among those who are dehydrated. If one is allergic to, or could not tolerate, a certain medication and drinks the urine of a person taking that specific medication, the drinker might develop allergic or a worse reaction to the metabolites of that drug in the urine. Drinking the urine of a drug addict or a patient with cancer is obviously more scary than drinking one’s own urine. Either way, urophagia is not medically accepted and is unhealthy, even in a desperate marooned situation.

Is urine therapy effective for cancer?

No, urine is useless in the treatment of any disease, including cancer. The American Cancer Society states that “available scientific evidence does not support claims that urine or urea given in any form is helpful for cancer patients.” Some cancer clinics in Mexico and other countries are offering urine therapy as an alternative to treating cancer, which is obviously inspired only by financial greed, giving false hope and victimizing desperate cancer patients and their family who are already suffering. If urine could effectively cure cancer, there won’t be any cancer left in this world, and its advocates would win the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Who are some celebrities doing urophagia?

Some popular personalities drinking their urine posted on the internet include Madonna, the 5th prime minister of India Morarji Desai, British actress Sarah Miles, former major league baseball player Moises Alou, martial arts fighter Lyoto Machida, and boxer Juan Manuel Marquez, who fought Mayweather. Of course, everybody has the right to consume anything he/she wants, but common sense dictates that what our body rejects and kicks out must remain out. Medical science is lucidly clear on this.

How about urine for topical use?

There are also claims that urine could be used effectively as a topical agent (applied directly to parts of the body). Some examples of the asserted topical application is for jellyfish bite or insect bites, eye infection, skin allergy or ulcer, acne, ear infection, etc. No, urine is not effective or beneficial for any of these conditions, or for any disease at all.

Is urine totally useless?

No. Urine is very useful as a plant fertilizer. According to ModernFarmer, “Across the Atlantic, studies have long established urine as a powerful fertilizer. A study conducted by the Stockholm Water Company in the late 1990s diverted urine from four housing projects to a grain farmer outside the city. The scientists concluded not only that urine could replace quick-acting mineral fertilizers, but also calculated that one Northern European adult pees enough plant nutrients to grow 50 to 100 percent of the food requirement for another person. Other successful trials have taken place in China and Mexico, though none as detailed as the Swedish one. In other studies, urine-treated farms had twice the productivity compared to unfertilized ones.”

What is NASA’s FOB urine filter?

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been working on a FOB (Forward Osmosis Bag) system to transform urine and gray water into water that is safe to drink, “to address one of the challenges of outer space travel.” The FOB system uses a semi-permeable membrane and a concentrated sugar solution. This appears to be very promising but studies are still ongoing.

What is the latest on urine therapy?

Down here on earth, all available scientific data and information from evidence-based medicine today clearly confirm that urine has no medicinal value whatsoever and people are advised not to practice urophagia. Future technology might change all this. In the meantime, for me, I will stick to drinking filtered water, regular coffee, and my Pinot Noir.

***

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA,  a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

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