wellness

People are drinking their own urine. But should you?

We’ve heard natural health advocates extol the benefits of drinking Kombucha for our gut, or Chlorophyll for our skin. Turmeric lattes were also a thing for a while, because of inflammation… or something.

But what about urine?

Search the phrase ‘urine therapy’ and you’ll find a number of people who claim that regularly drinking/washing with your own wee is the key to good health.

But why? And is there any truth to their rather, erm, unconventional theory? We asked medical professionals to give us the wash.

What is urine therapy?

Urine therapy is an alternative health practise that involves ingesting urine or applying it topically to skin, gums and hair.

Proponents believe urine acts a natural treatment for a variety of ailments, from eczema to chronic illnesses, infections and even cancer.

Singer Kesha famously chugged a jug of her own wee on MTV in 2013, after a friend told her it was good for health. Madonna reportedly pees on her own feet in the shower to ward off Athlete’s Foot. And former Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, once told US 60 Minutes that he relied on urine therapy (mostly drinking it) to prevent illness.

Is urine therapy a new concept?

Not at all. Urine has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia – think ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt – but there seems to have been a slight resurgence in the idea over the past decade. This is likely thanks to claims being spread via natural health websites and forums.

A number of advocates have even popped up in mainstream media lately. Just last month, author Miriam Lancewood told Mamamia’s No Filter podcast that she used urine to cure severe dandruff while living in the wilderness.

And last year, a 46-year-old Canadian woman claimed to have achieved a 60kg weightloss by combining a ‘hunter-gatherer’ diet with daily consumption of urine. She was so convinced of its benefits, The Sun reported, that she’d drink it, gargle with it, even put drops in her eyes [We can’t believe we need to say this but… DON’T DO IT! Please. Promise? Good. See below for explanation about why this is a very, very bad idea].

Australian filmmaker, Steven Williams, produced a documentary called Urine Aid in 2017 (available on Stan), which featured a women from Mexico who claimed drinking urine daily had eased the pain associated with her bowel cancer and even halted the progression of the disease. The film also included testimony from Melbourne-based naturopath Richard Iredale, who has been drinking a glass of his urine daily since 2010 and applies it to his skin to prevent ageing.

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“Urine contains a blueprint of all the vitamins, antibodies and minerals that are present in your body and therefore drinking it tops up your body of its very own prescription medicine,” Iredale claimed in a statement.

Does urine therapy work?

The consensus among the medical community is: no. There is currently no scientific evidence to indicate that drinking urine or applying it topically has any therapeutic benefit.

Drinking urine.

Associate Professor Peter Chin of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand told Mamamia that ingesting urine is entirely fruitless: “It’s not the golden fountain of youth. There is no logical reason to take it.”

He explains that urine is a waste product; it’s your body’s way of ridding itself of excess electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, acid and urea, as well as excess medications and supplements (when people take high doses of vitamin C, for example, whatever their body doesn’t need is expelled through urination).

“So by ingesting your urine, what you’re doing is putting it back into yourself things that your body already said it did not need,” he explained. “So not only does it have to get rid of the waste products and electrolytes that are currently going through your body, it’s now going to get rid those you’ve put back in. So you’ve made your kidneys work twice as hard.”

According to Assoc. Prof Chin, a person who is young, fit, healthy and drinks plenty of water may be able consume small amounts of urine without any negative side effects. But for some it could be dangerous.

“Somebody who is elderly or sick, or who, like a lot of diabetics, has poor kidney function could actually cause themselves more damage,” he said.

“Also, if you drink enough of it and you’re not well hydrated, you could essentially get what we call metabolic acidosis, which increases the acidity of your blood – not always a good thing.”

Assoc. Prof Chin also points out that, despite common belief, urine is not sterile: “Once it enters the urethra, which is the short tube that goes from your bladder to the outside world, it tends to become contaminated from the genital area.”

Putting urine on skin.

Dermatologist Dr Deshan Sebaratnam, Staff Specialist at Liverpool Hospital and Conjoint Senior Lecturer at University of New South Wales, warns against applying urine to the skin.

“Urine can be very irritating for the skin,” he told Mamamia. “Before we had good diapers, for example, babies would often get irritation around around the nappy area because the skin would become soaked in urine.”

He notes that a compound found in urine called urea is used in some products to help soften the skin; useful for treating eczema, for example. However, the ingredient is produced synthetically, and it comes in the form of well-tested, specially formulated creams.

In other words, there’s no need to experiment or risk irritating your skin.

“If you’re going to be putting anything to a skin, there better be good evidence behind it. You want to have been tested on hundreds and thousands of people,” he said. “There are alternatives which have been tested in a scientifically rigorous way, so that’s certainly what I would be using.”

He advises anyone with ongoing or recurrent skin conditions to seek the advice of a dermatologist or visit their GP.

So good news, folks. You can stick to water. First-hand water, that is.

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