It can sometimes seem like a cruel world when so many of the decadent vices we crave are also bad for our bodies. But what’s even stranger is how some things that are absolutely repulsive might actually be good for you.
Now, we’re not talking about your least favorite vegetables. This isn’t an article about healthy food that you have to learn to love. No, this is a story about the kind of stuff that might make your stomach churn.
This is about those despicable acts you yell at your kids for doing because it’s gross and impolite. I mean the nasty things that you’ll be shocked to learn could have any health benefit at all.
You have been warned…
1. Booger Eating
I have a distinct memory of watching a certain kid pick his nose, examine it, and then pop it in his mouth. The thought still makes me want to gag.
However, you may not want to be so quick to scold your kids when they dig for gold and give it a taste. It turns out, those slimy boogers are almost like little immune-suppportive supplements.
Biochemist Scott Napper, a professor and researcher at Saskatchewan University, has a theory about boogers (don’t we all). He thinks it might be natural and even beneficial for kids to eat boogers. That is because it introduces certain pathogens into their bodies so that the immune system can learn to recognize those pathogens as threats and develop natural defenses.
What’s even stranger is how Napper noticed kids think boogers taste good – sort of sweet – which entices them to eat more of what they find up their noses. I always thought boogers were more on the salty side. Wait – I mean… never mind.
Napper thinks the flavor of snot has an evolutionary purpose. He wonders if perhaps kids are supposed to be eating boogers – like that’s what nature intended!
Turns out, honest, booger-eating grownups like the taste, too. The Wikipedia article on Eating Mucus cites research which states “that people who ate their boogers found them ‘tasty.'”
Napper wants to study his booger theory further. He just needs to find enough volunteers to participate.
2. Food on the Floor
The healthy booger hypothesis is related to another way of thinking about staying healthy in the modern world. It’s known as the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”
The basic idea is that we live in such an extremely sanitized world that we fail to get exposed to potentially harmful things, like viruses, bacteria and parasites often enough. So our bodies don’t learn to recognize them as threats, making us more likely to be negatively affected by those germs later on.
Some health experts think our desire to kill 99.9% of germs and be clean all the time could have unforeseen consequences. Scott Napper told CBS News that it makes perfect sense to him.
“From an evolutionary perspective, we evolved under very dirty conditions and maybe this desire to keep our environment and our behaviors sterile isn’t actually working to our advantage.”
That’s where the 5-Second Rule comes in. We’ve all dropped a french fry or piece of candy on the floor, then quickly picked it up and ate it. Calling out the 5-Second Rule ensures those around you that this action was socially acceptable and perfectly hygienic. After all, the food was not on the floor long enough to collect germs, right?
It sounds pretty ridiculous – like nothing more than a kids’ joke. Turns out – there is a little bit of truth to it.
Believe it or not, there have been actual studies conducted about the 5-Second Rule. Like this one mentioned in Time magazine online. Those researchers say more bacteria transfers to food from the floor the longer it sits. However, some bacteria transfers immediately. So your Cheetos that sat on the kitchen floor for 3 seconds do not remain 100% pure.
Still there’s a debate on whether or not it’s a good idea to ever eat off the floor. Some say never to do it. And, not surprisingly, it turns out that different surfaces and locations have different risks. But those who have faith in the Hygiene Hypothesis say eating off the floor now and then should be fine. It exposes you to just a little bit of the nasty stuff so your body learns how to properly respond.
3. Slobbery Dog Kisses
How do you react when a dog plants a big wet smooch on your face? Do you go ballistic like Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts? For me, it depends on what my dog was just doing prior to the kiss.
Taking a drink from his water dish – perfect. Licking his own nether-regions – no thanks! And is it so hard to pop in a breath mint beforehand? Okay, yes. For a dog, that would be hard.
You may have heard that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Even Snopes.com is unsure if that claim is true or false. But some wonder if dog kisses might actually have some health benefits.
In fact, researchers from the University of Arizona theorize that letting your dog kiss you on the mouth could have a similar effect as probiotics. Those are the good bacteria found in our guts that have an impact on digestion and appear to affect the immune system as well as mental well-being.
As of this writing, UA researchers are conducting an experiment in which older individuals are paired with puppies from a local Humane Society. The gut bacteria of both human and dog are being closely watched to see what happens. So the jury is still out on how healthy (or disgusting) dog kisses could be.
For now, save those sloppy kisses for very special moments, and keep an eye on what’s been going in your dog’s mouth.
There are other more-extensively researched health benefits to owning a dog. Studies show kids who are exposed to animals at an early age are less likely to develop allergies and asthma. Plus, owning a dog could improve your mental health and longevity.
4. Fecal Transplants
This one probably should have been “Number 2” on our list – HEY OH! But seriously folks, how would you feel about having another person’s poop transplanted into your body?
If it seems like an extreme measure, that’s because it is. However, some people have extreme health problems with their GI tracts. Fecal transplants tend to be useful for patients who have had their healthy gut microflora completely wiped out by something. In many cases, this procedure is used for people suffering from an infection of the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe and even deadly diarrhea.
Basically, healthy poop can restore the beneficial bacteria that these people need. This NPR story does an excellent job explaining how fecal transplants work.
The picture above might have you thinking about doctors using a blender to make poo-smoothies. While that’s not the case, poop pills are being developed because fecal transplants are so invasive.
Thankfully, most people who deal with occasional digestive distress may find relief from typical probiotic supplements.
5. Urine Therapy
This next one could bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “liquid gold.”
There is plenty of controversy surrounding Urine Therapy. Some say your pee could have some amazing health benefits. Other says it’s crazy, and that using urine for health reasons could be dangerous or even toxic.
Some people drink their own urine. Some people use it to bathe in or massage into their skin. Some claim it is a panacea – or a cure for just about anything, even cancer. That’s a pretty tall claim to make. But let’s look at what we know…
There are stories about survivors of natural disasters and people lost in the wilderness who drank their own urine for sustenance. Urine is approximately 95% water – but as for the rest of the 5%, not all of it may be beneficial. We do know that our body flushes out the nutrients it doesn’t use in our urine. So perhaps some of the health benefits make sense. Some believe drinking urine allows you to recycle the vitamins and minerals your body didn’t use the first time. Perhaps pee is like a homemade multivitamin?
But your body also eliminates toxic waste through your urine, and it does contain chemicals like ammonia, which is a byproduct of metabolizing protein.
You’ll find tons of YouTube videos promoting the possible benefits of urine therapy. It’s an ancient practice you can trace back to civilizations in India and Egypt. There are mentions of it in the Bible, and millions of people in China still drink their own urine. Even some celebrities and athletes like MMA fighters do it.
But there are also plenty of skeptics, and there are no definitive studies pointing toward the effectiveness of using urine for anything health related.
What we’re trying to say is…drink your own pee at your own risk. You can always just find a multivitamin with high bioavailability. That way your body will absorb the nutrients you need and you won’t flush it all away.
6. Placenta Eating
Speaking of strange things certain celebrities do – you’ve probably heard of the concept of eating the afterbirth – including the placenta or sack that comes out when an infant is born.
The Stir has a list of 9 celebrity moms who ate the placenta in one form or another. Rebel Circus lists famous women like Alicia Silverstone, Kourtney Kardashian and January Jones who’ve made the placenta into pills. It’s actually a fairly common practice among some of the most-dedicated natural health advocates.
Many mammals, including herbivores, eat the placenta after giving birth. Some wildlife experts think animals do this to hide the evidence from predators and protect their young. But could there also be health benefits to what’s known as placentophagy?
Proponents say, yes. Potential health benefits for mothers include increasing breast-milk production, preventing postpartum depression and boosting energy levels. Plus, the placenta could provide a good source of iron and other nutrients. The placenta is what feeds an unborn baby when it’s in the womb, and that’s where the idea that it could be nourishing to the mother comes from.
But yeah – it looks pretty gross.
7. Cleaning with Spit
After the placenta-eating stage of motherhood ends, the saliva-polishing stage begins.
Plenty of moms will lick their thumbs to rub a smear of ketchup off a kid’s face. Other mothers will use their spit to clean off a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor. Coincidentally, the paparazzi often snap photos of Britney Spears cleaning pacifiers with her mouth.
The health benefits of mom spit go back to the idea that some exposure to germs is a good thing. Plus, it introduces a wider variety of beneficial oral microflora into the baby’s developing body.
A 2013 article in Time magazine cites Swedish researchers who published findings in the medical journal Pediatrics.
“Parental sucking of their infant’s pacifier is associated with a reduced risk of allergy development and an altered oral flora in their child.”
What’s even more impressive is that babies whose parents cleaned pacifiers with saliva were 1/3 less likely to develop eczema after 18 months than children whose parents used traditional methods, like rinsing the binky under the faucet.
“And it didn’t seem that parents were passing on more germs or infections to their little ones with the practice; regardless of how a parent cleaned a pacifier, all of the babies in the study developed an average of one and a half colds in their first six months of life.”
One Mommy Blogger from The Stir disagrees with these findings. Christie Haskell says sucking on your child’s pacifier can transfer harmful bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, which could damage a baby’s dental health.
If you do use this method, just be careful you don’t get hooked on your kid’s pacifier. Take it from a dad who just got through the toddler stage. That’s a hard habit to kick.
8. Leech Therapy
You’re not alone if you think leeches are nasty things. If you’ve ever gone swimming in a lake or pond and left with some new “attachments,” you know how freaky they can be.
However, leeches have been used throughout history for health reasons – specifically for concerns connected to blood circulation and cardiovascular health. It sounds ancient and even barbaric, but an episode of Nature on PBS explored how leeches are making a comeback in modern medicine. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have even created a mechanical leech that they say does a better job sucking than real leeches.
An article on Healthline.com mentions that leech saliva has been used to create pharmaceutical drugs to treat conditions including:
- varicose veins
- skin problems
But only certain species of leeches have the right kind of saliva. They’re called medicinal leeches or Hirudo medicinalis. The saliva in these leeches contains 60 different proteins, which can produce a variety of different results in humans.
Surgeons can also use leeches in difficult operations in which body parts need to be reattached. The leeches help in certain types of microsurgery involving extremely small veins.
9. Eating Bugs
Most of us in the Western world would only eat an insect if we happened to be on some reality TV show and had the chance to win $1 million.
Eating bugs is common practice in other parts of the world. A 2015 article in National Geographic states that approximately 2 billion people worldwide have bugs as part of their diet. It turns out, those six-legged critters are often packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and important minerals. There are 1,900 edible insects and some are apparently pretty yummy. NatGeo writer Jennifer Holland says ants have a sweet & nutty flavor, and that’s not all…
“Stinkbugs have an apple flavor, and red agave worms are spicy. A bite of tree worm apparently brings pork rinds to mind.”
Recently, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan advocated eating bugs as a way to combat global warming. He stated that the meat production industry is responsible for “14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.” That’s a nice way of saying cow farts are melting the polar ice caps.
Then the U.N.’s Food & Agriculture Organization followed Annan’s advice up with an in-depth report on edible insects, detailing many potential benefits of eating bugs. That includes the idea that bugs are more efficient at creating protein than the animals we normally eat.
Not everyone agrees with the U.N. – both on the reality of climate change as well as the benefits of bug-eating. An article in Time magazine explains the opinion that insects like crickets, are not as sustainable or as packed with protein as we’re being led to believe.
There’s also vegans to consider. They don’t eat any type of animal or animal by product – including insects. Thankfully, vegans can still get nourishment from brands that make products from strictly plant protein like Vega, Garden of Life and SunWarrior.
Let’s Hear from You!
Have you ever tried any of these yucky but potentially healthy ideas? If you have, we’d love to hear your opinions and stories.
Got any other ideas about nasty things that are also good for you? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Image Credits via Flickr Creative Commons: