Modern medicine has most of us believing in pretty straightforward ways to look and feel better. Eat healthy foods. Stay active. Maybe pop a supplement or two. But say you suddenly got really sick, or needed to lose a large amount of weight. How far would you go to get results?
The huge number of strange medical treatments and fad diets out there are living proof that lots of us are willing to go….pretty darn far. And this isn’t a new phenomenon—some of these alternative treatments have been around for centuries. Ancient Egyptians thought the body of a dead mouse would ease the pain of a toothache, and in the 1800s, you could buy cough syrup made from heroin.
We’re not endorsing any of these ideas, but we have to admit they’re pretty fascinating.
Yep, this one means what you think it means. Urine therapy, or urinotherapy, is the practice of drinking your own pee. The logic behind it? Urine contains high quantities of DHEA, a hormone said to have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties.
Proponents of this therapy claim it can do everything from cure anemia, to fight off a cold, to keep skin from aging. Though mostly a fringe practice, urine therapy became so popular in Cameroon that the government actually banned it. Former Indian prime minister Mojarji Desai reportedly drank a pint of his own urine every day!
This fad diet is the lazy girl’s best friend. Followers of the Sleeping Beauty diet believe that sleeping for long periods of time can help you slim down, and have even gone so far as to sedate themselves for multiple days. Rumor has it that Elvis Presley even tried this diet after one too many peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
The Shangri-La diet recommends guzzling a few tablespoons olive oil before meals to help keep your appetite in check. According to fans of this diet, the calories from the olive oil will fill you up, so you won’t overeat.
Now this is a diet with major “ick” factor. As early as the 1920s, people started—you guessed it—purposefully ingesting tapeworms in pills to lose weight. These parasites live in the intestines and feed off their host, meaning you will likely lose weight if you have a tapeworm.
The not so great effects? Tapeworms grow up to 35 feet long, and can cause a rash of other problems including hives, intestinal blockages, and vomiting.
In 2013, Seattle resident Navenna Shine shocked the world by announcing she was on a diet she called “living on light.” Shine survived on a diet of only water, spiritual light, and air—what some called breatharianism.
After 47 days, Shine ended her experiment, saying a combination of “complex” factors meant she could not continue. But Shine isn’t the only breatharian. An Indian guru claimed to live for 70 years of of this spiritual practice, and a documentary made about him inspired several other people to try breatharianism.
If babies eat it, it must be healthy—right? That’s the idea behind the baby food diet, which literally involves eating all the pureed peas, carrots, apples, and any other baby food you can get your hands on.
Supposedly, the already broken-down food is easier to digest. It’s also lower in calories and comes in much smaller portions than adult meals, although health experts warn that subsisting on a baby-sized diet isn’t a good idea.
Photo credit: Rachel via Flickr
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