Wild health fads: from vaginal steaming to coffee enemas

April 24, 2019

Wild health fads: from vaginal steaming to coffee enemas

The never-ending human quest for the fountain of youth has led us down some strange paths in our history. The ancient Greeks and Romans used crocodile dung as an anti-aging agent, for example. And in the 1900’s, it was thought that fat could be scrubbed away in the bath using obesity soap. Sound crazy? We might think the same in 50 years looking back on today’s fads. From vaginal steaming to coffee enemas, here are five health fads our grandchildren may look back on and chuckle over.

  1. Vaginal steaming

Also known as yoni steaming, this ancient practice is gaining popularity in western spas due to celebrity over-sharing on social media. Vaginal steaming is a spa or home treatment where a woman sits naked from the waist down over a steaming tub of hot water infused with herbs or oils. It’s sometimes compared to a facial, but for the vagina.

Why? Yoni steaming is an ancient treatment practiced throughout the world for a variety of purposes, both healing and social. Different cultures that practice yoni steaming have different reasons. For some, it embodies healing powers to ease menstrual symptoms, and to maintain vaginal and uterine health. To others, it’s a ritual to support their feminine identity, and even to enhance male sexual pleasure. It’s also been reported to help with fertility, treat headaches, and reduce stress. As a western fad, it’s marketed more to cleanse and revitalize the reproductive organs.

Fans of steaming say the steam delivers herbal remedies to the outer tissues, where they are absorbed into the blood stream and into the female organs. Different herbal mixtures are used for different treatment results.

Science or fad? Although steaming is an ancient treatment in many cultures, science-based evidence just doesn’t support it and does point to risks. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ with a very delicate balance of beneficial bacteria. Steaming can damage the natural balance, making one more prone to infection. Not to mention the skin in that area is very delicate and steam may cause painful burns.

  1. Coffee enemas and colonic cleansing

Some fans have claimed that because coffee seems to prompt bowel movements, then a coffee enema must clean their bowels. But really, any fluid administered directly into one’s colon will clean it out, and that is the idea behind colonics. Proponents believe flushing the colon with large amounts of water and other substances like soap, herbs, and yes, coffee, detoxifies the body. That’s true to the extent that the digestive system is already moving toxins through the body and eventually out the colon. That’s what the GI system does. There is no evidence that helping the process with large amounts of water or substances like coffee is beneficial. In fact, overuse of enemas and colonics can cause serious electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, infection, and even tears in the rectum.

Coffee enemas are alleged to relieve constipation (like any enema), help insomnia (um, caffeine?), and treat everything from cancer to cognitive problems. But there doesn’t seem to be evidence-based science backing those claims.  

Science or fad? Although there are medical reasons for enemas and colonics (severe constipation, preparation for bowel procedures) there is little science to suggest that regular enemas or colonics are beneficial. And the potential for electrolyte imbalance, bacterial infection, and bowel perforation makes this trend just not worth it. Keep your coffee in your cup!

  1. Cockroach milk

Not so much a fad as a recurring concept with a major ewww factor. For the past several years, articles have been popping up online calling Pacific beetle cockroach milk a new superfood. This particular type of cockroach gives birth to live young and feeds them a liquid that just may be one of the most nutritious substances found. It is a complete food, containing protein, fat, and sugar; is lactose free; and is easier on the environment than gas-belching cows.

In case you were wondering how to milk a cockroach, the answer is: you don’t. To retrieve the milk, the cockroach must be cut open. Which is not only gross, but the gains are tiny. It would take millions of cockroaches to mass-produce any kind of cockroach milk product. So don’t look for it at your local grocery store anytime soon.

  1. Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal has long been used in emergency rooms to keep certain drugs and poisons from being absorbed into the bloodstream. But it has recently found its way into toothpaste, facial masks, smoothies, supplements, and even specially prepared foods (charcoal encrusted fish and chips, anyone?).

The fad is a little startling, as we’re not used to eating or drinking foods that look like they came from the bottom of our barbecue grill. Or coating our pearly whites with black powder to whiten them. But many claim it whitens teeth and absorbs and removes toxins from your body.

Unfortunately, activated charcoal will actually absorb whatever it encounters. Including vitamins, food, and medications – not just toxins. It also tends to cause constipation. There is also no scientific evidence that it whitens teeth; in fact, it might be harsh enough to damage tooth enamel. The news isn’t all bad, though. There is science backing the claims that it is an odor neutralizer. Charcoal does work in tablets for flatulence, in underarm deodorant, and used in filters, hanging deodorizers, shoe inserts shoes, and so on.

  1. Raw water

We should have seen this one coming, considering the booming growth in the designer water market in recent years. Raw water is water that hasn’t been filtered or treated in any way. It is water directly from its source. And that can mean it contains traces of beneficial minerals. But it can also mean it contains bacteria and parasites.

Raw water sounds like a good idea – it’s sold as being free of chemicals and contaminants – but sadly, our world’s water supply isn’t clean enough to make raw water a healthy option in many cases. Among other things, untreated water can carry cholera, e.coli, and hepatitis. 


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