Please Don’t Let ‘Urine Therapy’ Be the Next Big Health Trend

No, drinking pee won’t cure cancer or anything else.

That’s probably not pee. Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

TW: brief mentions of miscarriage.

Seen in an online pregnancy group:

“The doctors say I’ve miscarried. There’s nothing they can do for me. I’m such a mess right now. Is there still hope?”
Love pours in: support from strangers, some who can relate, some who can’t.
And then this comment:
“It’s not too late. You can save your baby. There is only one way, and it is literally the cure for anything and everything: golden therapy. Drink your pee and experience the healing. Take note, everyone: it will also cure your cancer and your acne. It is the only healthcare you will ever need.”

I did a spit take when I read this. (I was drinking coffee, to be clear.)

I barely had time to write an empathetic response to the woman going through miscarriage before jumping down the rabbit hole of urine therapy enthusiasts, who advocate urophagia, or drinking urine.

Nobody can agree on a term that will convince others to try it, so it has lots of names, including urinotherapy, urotherapy, urine therapy, UT, Orin Therapy, Shivambu, uropathy, and auto-urine therapy. Plus, there’s this cringe-worthy euphemism: golden fountain of youth.

Musician Boy George, on The Jonathan Ross Show, says he drinks his pee immediately, while it’s still warm.

Sylvia Chandler told Closer, according to the Daily Mail, that she drank hers both fresh and aged, as she believed aged urine had stronger healing properties. Chandler, 63, bragged that pee-drinking kept her so healthy that she didn’t get colds and hadn’t seen a doctor in over a decade. The following year, she died of lung cancer.

Pee-drinkers often say the only reason we’re not all drinking our pee is there’s no money to be made from it.

While I’m sure corporations will soon figure out ways to monetize pee-drinking, for now, urine therapy is out of reach for institutions and capitalism. Drinking your pee is a big eff you to The System, which, by the way, also can’t stop you from eating your own toenail clippings.

“There is no evidence at all that ingesting these substances has any health benefits.”

But there are so many other ways to take your health into your own hands, not just the way Leah Sampson did:

“I stood up in the bathtub, urinated into my hands, and drank it,” she told The Sun. “I collect my urine in glass jars throughout the day and shower with it at night. Not only do I brush my teeth with it, I wash my hair and use it to rinse my eyes and clean my skin.”

Look, I get it. — Well, I kind of get it. Okay, I don’t get it. — But I understand, when we don’t feel healthy, we’ll try almost anything to feel better. And if something seems to bring relief — even if it’s probably just the placebo effect — we hold onto it. If you feel the medical establishment has let you down — and, yes, so many of us have been let down — you might be grasping for any possible cure you can find.

Drink water from your own cistern,
 running water from your own well.
— Proverbs 5:15, a favorite of urotherapy enthusiasts.

People all over the world have been drinking their own pee — and the pee of other animals — for millennia.

Many say the modern alternative medicine practice originated with John W. Armstrong, who published The Water of Life: A treatise on urine therapy in 1944. Interest is growing. A month ago, I did an Amazon search for books about urine therapy and found 93. Today, the same search found 110 books centering on the healing power of pee-drinking, many of them very highly rated. Maybe pharmaceutical corporations haven’t figured out how to monetize this trend yet, but a few enterprising authors are getting in on the game.

What about drinking somebody else’s pee? Like, your dog’s?

Do you love your dog? How much? Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

Don’t click this link unless you’re prepared to see somebody drink a cup of dog pee. This Newsweek piece features a video of Lynn Lew collecting her dog’s pee outside in a plastic cup and then drinking it. She makes a show of getting every single drop, then says,

“Until I first drank my dog’s pee, I was depressed, I was sad, and I had really bad acne. Dog pee also has vitamin A in it; it has vitamin E in it, and it has 10 grams of calcium. And it’s also proven to help cure cancer.”
She dips her finger in the cup, licks her finger and says her final line:
“And that is why I look so much better than y’all.”

Lynn says she started drinking pee because she read drinking human pee might cure cancer (she’s 21 and has never had cancer, by the way). There’s no explanation of why she specifically drinks her dog’s pee (and that of her neighbor’s dog, when her own dog doesn’t pee enough).

Meanwhile, some people around the world drink cow pee.

Here, scientists in The Pan African Medical Journal discourage the practice of drinking human and cow urine in Nigeria:

“…inappropriate administration of remedies, such as urine therapy in pediatric health conditions should be discouraged, considering the fact that no documented scientific / clinical evidence of the beneficial effect of urine therapy in clinical had been reported, while multiple antibiotic resistant bacterial species had also been recovered from such urine.”

And, I really don’t want to believe this is a thing, but in 2018, The Times of India reported, “The govenment ayurvedic pharmacy at Pilibhit, which is one of the two in Uttar Pradesh, has prepared a proposal to collect, process and sell packaged bottles of cow urine.”

Dr. Prakash Chandra Saxena, the principal and superintendent of Government Ayurveda College and Hospital, said, “We will promote cow urine as a health-giving drink.”

What does the science tell us?

Urine therapy proponents make some pretty outrageous claims. They say pee-drinking can cure cancer, AIDS, arthritis, leprosy, baldness, cold sores, heart disease, allergies, auto-immune diseases, diabetes, asthma, infertility, infections…. As I mentioned at the start of this piece, I witnessed someone telling a stranger her miscarried fetus would somehow grow into a live baby, if only she would drink pee.

But those claims are entirely anecdotal at best.

The American Cancer Society’s statement is, “No well-controlled studies published in available scientific literature support the claims that urotherapy can control or reverse the spread of cancer.”

When we don’t feel healthy, we’ll try almost anything to feel better.

Dr. Zubair Ahmed explained to BBC Three:

There is no evidence at all that ingesting these substances has any health benefits…. Urination is one way where our body gets rid of toxic by-products… It is a common belief that urine is sterile — which it normally is if you don’t have a problem with your renal tract. However, once it leaves the body, it can be contaminated with certain bacteria — and ingesting this bacteria can make you feel unwell and can lead to serious complications.”

So there’s no evidence of any positive effects of drinking pee, and negative consequences are possible.

Should you drink your pee if you’re stranded on a mountain?

Altmünster am Traunsee, Österreich Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

We’ve all heard stories of stranded adventurers drinking their own pee, like epically brave mountaineer Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm to survive.

But does drinking your own pee even hydrate you?

Here’s an Army Field Manual on emergency water procurement, arguing against drinking urine (also alcohol, blood, and seawater) in survival situations.

Many scientists make this same comparison to seawater. Here’s Helen Andrews, of the British Dietetic Association, quoted in The Independent:

There are no health benefits to drinking your own urine, and in fact I think it could be quite detrimental. Each time you put it back, it will come out again even more concentrated, and that is not good for health, as it could damage the gut. If you are stranded, your body will try to conserve as much water as it can. Drinking your urine would be like drinking seawater.

So did I try drinking my own pee?

Before I read up on it, I would’ve considered trying it out for myself, so I could write about it, if for no other reason. But the facts have convinced me not to.

There are many things considered to be alternative medicine that are effective, even if not fully understood. Acupuncture, for example, is proven to be an effective pain reliever, even if people often discuss it as if it’s pseudo-science.

When it comes to urine therapy, on the other hand, all the research points to no positive effects and possible negative ones.

However there is one beverage that, research shows, is a wonder drug.

I drink it every day, and I firmly believe my health would suffer without it. Honestly, no one should live without it:

It’s called water. Would you like a glass?