Respectful Insolence

The pause that refreshes these Doctors

I’ve written about the credulous mass of misinformation that is TV’s The Doctors before. As you might imagine, I’m not impressed with the quality of the medical information that is dispensed on this show. It’s everything I hate about glitzed up medicine as TV entertainment, particularly the vacuously beautiful hosts. I thought Dr. Stork and his merry band of bubble-brained doctors had hit their low point, but I was wrong. Earlier this week, they appeared to be extolling the claimed virtues of (or at least not treating particularly skeptically the claims for)–of all things–urine therapy. Don’t believe me?

Let’s go to the tape (not to mention some rather amusing commentary by Gawker).

Just when I thought The Doctors couldn’t get any worse, damn if they don’t go and prove me wrong! Yes, that’s The Doctors apparently drinking urine. Even if that’s not urine (it doesn’t quite look the right color, even for highly concentrated urine) and they’re just making it look as though they’re drinking urine, it’s a cheap stunt. Personally, I’d have preferred it if it were real urine they were dabbing on their skin.

Comments

  1. #1 Phoenix Woman
    May 27, 2010

    Lemme guess: These loons are into “Traditional Chinese Medicine”, which is essentially bullshit cooked up by Chairman Mao because he wasn’t interested in spending dough on real medicine and has almost nothing to do with what Chinese doctors did in previous centuries. Either that or they’re Ayurvedic nutjobs, in which case we should soon start hearing them extolling the virtues of lead poisoning.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    May 27, 2010

    They may be drinking urine, but they won’t get a drop of myine!

  3. #3 Zetetic
    May 27, 2010

    @ Butler:
    Nice one!
    ;-)

  4. #4 Party Cactus
    May 27, 2010

    Even if that was effective, I’d still take the non-pee alternative. Yuckers. But the one thing I do like about this is that it’s a nice crazy alt med to show people who believe in other alt meds. “So, explain how homeopathy/reiki/acupuncture ect is different, in terms of scientific evidence proving effectiveness, from the guys who drink their own pee?” Replace any alt med in the big pharma conspiracy theory gambit with pee drinking and it still works about as well.

  5. #5 Phoenix Woman
    May 27, 2010

    Oh, and just in case anyone here really needs to be told this, there’s absolutely no evidence for any of the claims made by the piss aficionados: http://www.skepdic.com/urine.html

  6. #6 KnowAboutHealth
    May 27, 2010

    I suppose you have a reason to believe that urine is not suitable as medicine. It does sound gross, but as a scientist, I think you would ask why urine might be useful as a medicine. It should have some ingredient makes it suitable as medicine. Urine might not be cure for all the diseases, but may be effective in some, as mentioned in old literature such as Ayurveda. Do you know what do the chemical/ drugs to your body in long terms that you are more apt to accept that as medicine.

  7. #7 BrianX
    May 27, 2010

    For reasons I don’t care to get into, I see way too much of that show. It was actually apple juice and I think they were trying to intentionally gross out the audience — the guy who they interviewed really didn’t think much of drinking urine as a health regimen either.

    But I still think the show is crap.

  8. #8 Zetetic
    May 27, 2010

    @ KnowAboutHealth:
    Sooooo…Shouldn’t they be able to, you know, cite credible evidence that supports the conclusion that drinking urine works for something (beside thirst) before they endorse it?

    Besides last time I checked it seems that we urinate to get rid of certain bodily products for a reason. That doesn’t mean that there may aren’t any useful compounds in urine, but that doesn’t mean that drinking raw urine will help either.

    Test it, refine it, manufacture it in controlled pharmaceutical doses.

  9. #9 Phoenix Woman
    May 27, 2010

    Dude @ #6: Got any evidence that it DOES work?

    Oh, and citing Ayurveda, which apparently doesn’t recognize that lead is poisonous, isn’t going to get you much in this forum besides laughs.

  10. #10 Lexi
    May 27, 2010

    Ha. Our favorite local crackpot likes to tell everyone about his strict raw food vegan diet and urine drinking regimen (it’s what keeps his skin looking so leathery): http://www.poetv.com/video.php?vid=8407

    They should have asked him to be a guest on the show.

  11. #11 Anonymous
    May 27, 2010

    Celebrity proponent of urine drinking: JD Salinger, also a fan of homeopathy, Kriya yoga, Christian Science, and Scientology.

  12. #12 Doazic
    May 27, 2010

    Why drink urine but not eat poop?

  13. #13 jen
    May 27, 2010

    yeah, but look at the positive side. Dr. Stork was all sucky and aghast when the questioning of vaccines happened in one of the recent shows. Most of them think vaccines are great and don’t have any negatives. (except maybe Sears) Don’t even think about saying something like, “but jen, we never said vaccines are 100% safe” and then proceed to dismiss any talk about autism, seizures, brain damage etc. That just doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, yeah, I can hear you now, “but the benefits outweigh the risks.” Yeah, sure they do…

  14. #14 A. Nuran
    May 28, 2010

    Phoenix Woman writes:
    Either that or they’re Ayurvedic nutjobs, in which case we should soon start hearing them extolling the virtues of lead poisoning.

    Yep. Ayurvedic medicine extolls the virtues of drinking one’s own urine. And cow’s urine according to some practitioners.

    The best you can say is that if a person has reasonably healthy kidneys and the specimen doesn’t contain a harmful infection it won’t be harmful. For someone who needs a nephrologist it could be deadly.

  15. #15 gingerbeard
    May 28, 2010

    “Don’t believe me?

    Let’s go to the tape (not to mention some rather amusing commentary by Gawker).”

    Hey ORAC, maybe you should ACTUALLY go to the tape! They say about the only time they could ever recommend drinking urine was if you were stranded at sea and it was drink pee or die of dehydration.

    They then proceeded to show how people were using pee (using apple juice) and were very clear it was apple juice not pee and reiterate, that they really don’t recommend doing this, that there is no evidence for drinking urine being beneficial.

    While I am not a fan of the show, pushing plastic surgery and a lot of other crap as good health care pisses me off, but hey have actually called people out including anti vaxers.

    While I agree they are far to close to supporting a lot of woo,,, you missed the point here, they were actually saying on their show the drinking your own pee woo is stupid don’t do it!

  16. #16 Gopherus Agassizii
    May 28, 2010

    I always thought the show was pathetic when I caught pieces of it, but I just watched part of “The Mona Lisa Smile” and was fairly well struck by the demonstration of how you can be so much more content with your appearance after a few injections by the happy-go-lucky Her Doktor Ordon. Disgusting.

  17. #17 Gopherus Agassizii
    May 28, 2010

    They should be given some credit for making it quite clear that they do not endorse drinking urine. And Orac is wrong for suggesting that these borderline-quacks might be extolling the virtues of urine. (Which they do not do.)

    But the worst crime is that the “doctors” did not dope slap this idiot into submission for suggesting drinking urine might even be worth considering. These “Doctors” let the guy who actually did drink his own urine appear to have a modicum of sense.

    This type of quackery needs to be mocked and lambasted thoroughly, so that other types of alternative “medicine” become just as suspect and worthy of ridicule. Medicine might be an experimental science, but it does not mean every toilet tipping moron should be given airtime.

  18. #18 Rogue Medic
    May 28, 2010

    @ 6 KnowAboutHealth,

    I suppose you have a reason to believe that urine is not suitable as medicine. It does sound gross, but as a scientist, I think you would ask why urine might be useful as a medicine.

    No.

    Outside of preliminary testing, a scientist would want evidence that shows that the treatment is safe and efficacious.

    You show some evidence and then it is worth considering.

    It should have some ingredient makes it suitable as medicine.

    Almost everything does have some ingredients that might make it suitable as medicine.

    Only those things that have evidence of safety and efficacy are worth using as medicine.

    Urine might not be cure for all the diseases,

    Good point.

    Urine might not cure everything.

    That does not mean that it is safe or efficacious for any disease.

    This is just a sales tactic to get the people paying attention to relax and trust you, even though you have not provided any useful information.

    but may be effective in some,

    You provide some evidence of safety and efficacy (are you beginning to catch on to what science requires?) and people will pay attention to the evidence.

    as mentioned in old literature such as Ayurveda.

    Old literature?

    Similar to the literature that recommends bleeding patients to remove the bad humors?

    Old literature that has been appropriately ignored because the treatments cannot demonstrate safety and efficacy.

    Do you know what do the chemical/ drugs to your body in long terms that you are more apt to accept that as medicine.

    Pick some medication and I will give you a link to some research-based information on the medication. It is true that some older medications have become established treatments without first demonstrating safety and efficacy. This should not remain the case. As more research is done, some of these treatments will be eliminated/discouraged as they fail to show safety and efficacy. Others will be shown to be safe and efficacious. That is the way science works.

    Old literature can be wonderful to read. Conrad, Dostoyevski, Voltaire, Shakespeare, Aristophanes, and on and on.

    I do not see NASA turning to H.G. Wells for clues about spacecraft design. I do not see the Navy turning to Homer for ship design.

    Even if literature does inspire a treatment idea, that idea still needs to be rigorously tested for safety and efficacy.

  19. #19 symball
    May 28, 2010

    As you professed to being a fan of british colloquialisms i present:

    They’re taking the piss

    Anyway, you ‘merkins should be used to this sort of thing- I have tasted american beer!

  20. #20 jim
    May 28, 2010

    Now, now. The Americans are capable of brewing some very nice beer when they put their minds to it. Much like the Australians–it’s only the stuff they export over here in vast quantities that’s piss. If you can get hold of a nice pale ale from Sierra Nevada or Goose Island, to name a couple, I can heartily recommend it.

  21. #21 DLC
    May 28, 2010

    Gee, let’s see.. salt, urea, proteins and water.
    it’s not really a good idea. you *can* drink urine, but why?
    I could live through shooting myself in the foot too, most of the time.

  22. #22 Luke D
    May 28, 2010

    TV medicine is usually a little dubious. Brilliantly there was a report mentioned on Radio 4 recently stating that the public are arriving at hospitals and being disappointed due to the lack of resemblence to Casualty/Holby City hospitals in that medicine hasn’t been elevated to the levels of instant remedies yet.
    Personally, I’d be more relieved by the comparitive lack of patients with horrific injuries.

  23. #23 symball
    May 28, 2010

    @jim- My apologies for the trolling- I should know better. I have indeed tasted some very fine american beers. I can heartily recommend the local stuff in Burlington VT.

    But all this highlights is that they can do it, but that they mainly choose not to- very odd.

  24. #24 Pablo
    May 28, 2010

    It should have some ingredient makes it suitable as medicine.

    I might be going out on a limb, but I would suggest that human urine is probably the best characterized bodily fluid you will ever find. Even more than blood, I think.

    So enough of this “it should have some ingredient” nonsense. If there is something useful in urine, a) we will know what it is, because we know what’s in your urine, and b) we can isolate it and give it separately, without having to use urine itself.

    So what are these magical ingredients in urine?

  25. #25 stripey_cat
    May 28, 2010

    Ayurveda hasn’t cottoned on to lead toxicity?! Even the Romans knew that. OK, they demonstrably didn’t remove all lead from the drinking water infrastructure, as recommended by either Vitruvius or Frontinus (I can’t remember off-hand), but they knew that white oxide was poisonous.

    That is just so mind-boggling (assuming it wasn’t accidental contamination of the medicine) that I think I need a beer. Emphatically not urine.

  26. #26 daedalus2u
    May 28, 2010

    There might be some physiology behind the use of urine as a therapeutic as originally used in antiquity. However I think that the modern practice of urine therapy (and yes I have read about it) is “cargo cult urine therapy” and practitioners are simply going through the motions and the modern practice has lost its original therapeutic efficacy and is now just a placebo.

    The practice originated in India, and I suspect in Tibet, a region that is cold and at high altitude. Humans evolved in Africa, a place that is hot and at modest elevation. An important part of human physiology is NO/NOx generated from a skin resident biofilm of ammonia oxidizing bacteria that convert ammonia in sweat into NO/NOx. In Africa with year round sweating, this biofilm can supply NO/NOx year round. In cold regions, sweating doesn’t happen, and the biofilm is less active, so another source is needed. Virtually every place that is cold has developed the custom of sweat baths. Unfortunately Tibet doesn’t have sufficient vegetation to provide enough fuel to generate enough heat for sweat baths, so they needed something else. I think that something else was urine.

    Urine contains a lot of urea, when that urea is hydrolyzed by bacteria it becomes ammonia. Ammonia oxidizing bacteria oxidize that ammonia to nitrite. If urine was stored in clay pots in non-sterile conditions, over time these pots would unavoidably become inoculated with ammonia oxidizing bacteria and any urine contained in them would be metabolized to a pretty strong solution of nitrite. Nitrite taken internally or applied externally does have a lot of health effects. It does accelerate the healing of wounds and reduce inflammation, it is a broad spectrum anti-microbial.

    The modern practice of only using sterile, freshly collected urine is likely completely useless if not actually harmful.

  27. #27 A. Nuran
    May 28, 2010

    Symbal writes:

    They’re taking the piss

    Anyway, you ‘merkins should be used to this sort of thing- I have tasted american beer!

    I’ve had KB, Carlton and Swan. They’re nothing to write home about. We won’t even talk about Foster’s Fresh-Canned Kangaroo Piss.

    Here in Oregon home of the microbrew revolution I can get beer as good as if not better than anything you can find anywhere else in the world. That includes Belgium and Germany.

  28. #28 BlueMaxx
    May 28, 2010

    I watched the video clip… and while they do make several disclaimers, they really didn’t (IMHO) come out too forcefully against this nonsense. They invited some knucklehead who drank urine for a film school project for three days.
    unfortunately, the average health scam ‘patsy’ will not view critically, and will only retain a vague image and impression that they ‘saw those wonderful TV doctors talking about the benefits of urine, about using it for facials, and that some people drink it for health benefits”..

    And the part about drinking urine if you are stranded on a liferaft or whatever for ‘survival’, is NONSENSE. Urine, in ideal, living in civilization and properly hydrated, is about 95% water. And 5 % waste products deliberately excreted from the body . IF you were ever in a ‘survival situation,’ one of your problems is dehydration, and the concentration of urine goes way way up. That means the percentage of waste products increases, and the water component goes down. To ingest waste products in this way INCREASES strain on your body and kidneys, forcing it to again reprocess waste. Also, and even Dr Wonderful acknowledged that the side effects can include nausea and vomiting, two really really good things to avoid in a survival setting. Military survival schools will teach against “urine drinking” for good reasons.

    Now a pissy poor american mass market ‘pilsner lager” WOULD be a good alternative in survival setting. It is largely water, and it is, if properly bottled/canned, safer as a sterile product than a questionable water source.

    Oh… and Jen(#13) … vaccines still ARE INDEED better than the disease. You have been wrong, and continue to be.

  29. #29 bluemaxx
    May 28, 2010

    for LEXI @ 10…

    oh my… I watched the video clip of your neighborhood Wacky-Woo. Apparently, “piss drinking and piss massage” has been shown, in his universe, to cure most everything on a long very carefully prepared list… except AUTiSM? would have been a fine discovery to see that these two threads could be combined and provide for a cure, huh?

    He is scary… truly scary. A case of exactly what the dangers of youtube and public access channels actually are.

  30. #30 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    May 28, 2010

    re: Anyway, you ‘merkins should be used to this sort of thing- I have tasted american beer!

    Of course, the largest maker of “American beer” is a Belgian company. I’m not sure what that says about Belgium.

  31. #31 Rogue Epidemiologist
    May 28, 2010

    @30
    Shut your dirty mouth, Mephistopheles! The Belgians make bieres par excellence (no parlez français). I love a good Trappist ale or Witbier.

    Don’t judge a country’s brewing prowess by the mass-produced swill touted by some faceless, corporate macrobrewery.

  32. #32 Jenbphillips
    May 28, 2010

    These doctors are disturbing indeed. How much to you have to not give a shit about your actual medical career to agree to be a part of such a show? Ew.

    @A. Nuran: Ninkasi Total Domination, perhaps? That’s the stuff…

  33. #33 Zetetic
    May 29, 2010

    I find jen’s comments @ #13 relating urine drinking to vaccines rather amusing since urine drinking is squarely in the domain of the “health freedom” crowd and the money funding them.

    There goes another irony meter….

  34. #34 BillyJoe
    May 29, 2010

    I don’t get it.
    One of the hosts says at least three times that there is nmo evidence that drinking urine has any health benefits and he specifiically says that the yellow fluid in the glasses is not urine by apple cider.
    What’s the problem here?

  35. #35 gingerbeard
    May 29, 2010

    I’ve been really impressed by ORAC in the past, but if he can post something this bad, something where he obviously didn’t watch the video and is attacking people he disagrees with for something they did not do, it makes me question his honesty.
    Really come on ORAC, man up and admit you were wrong so we can have more respect for you and continue to trust your opinions.

  36. #36 Pierce R. Butler
    May 29, 2010

    A few relevant excerpts from Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein’s eye-opening Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives’ Tales -

    …the ancient Romans are reported to have used urine as a mouthwash – a practice that probably did have limited antibacterial (and therefore cavity-fighting) effects. But talk about morning breath! … Some evidence exists that Taoists may have prescribed the drinking of urine to improve sexual performance as long ago as 200 A.D., and a continuous record of its use for this purpose exists since the fourteenth century. … Princeton professor Hubert Alyea used to introduce the subject of organic chemistry in the 1960s and ’70s by handing out tiny crystals of urea for his students to taste. These crystals instantly make the tongue feel as if it were shriveling up. Then comes a cold sensation and a taste so bitter that no one who has tried it can forget (we know!). ¶ This cold, shriveling sensation is a clue to why urine is a therapeutic agent. The urea creates very high osmotic pressure, literally sucking the water out of the cells of the tongue. As with honey and sugars, the high osmotic pressure created by urea has a debriding effect on open wounds; that, in fact, is one of its most common uses in pharmaceutical preparations today. … urokinase was discovered as a result of the age-old observation that urine has the ability to help break down blood clots and scabs.

  37. #37 BrianX
    May 31, 2010

    American beer is really rather excellent, but only if you define the BudMillCoors products as “something other than beer”.

  38. #38 Dr. Vanderloop. D.C.
    February 6, 2011

    Drinking urine would not be on my most advisable things for anyone to do. Sad to say that there are actually quite a few women in America and other parts of the world that are taking a product derived from horse’s urine. The estrogen that is taken from the urine is then used in birth control pills. If the pharmaceutical companies are using urine, then it most be okay; right? Urine for thought. I met food for thought.

    Source: Houston Chiropractor

  39. #39 Dr. Vanderloop. D.C.
    February 6, 2011

    Drinking urine would not be on my most advisable things for anyone to do. Sad to say that there are actually quite a few women in America and other parts of the world that are taking a product derived from horse’s urine. The estrogen that is taken from the urine is then used in birth control pills. If the pharmaceutical companies are using urine, then it most be okay; right? Urine for thought. I met food for thought.

    Source: Houston Chiropractor

  40. #40 Dr. Vanderloop. D.C.
    February 6, 2011

    Drinking urine would not be on my most advisable things for anyone to do. Sad to say that there are actually quite a few women in America and other parts of the world that are taking a product derived from horse’s urine. The estrogen that is taken from the urine is then used in birth control pills. If the pharmaceutical companies are using urine, then it most be okay; right? Urine for thought. I met food for thought.

    Source: Houston Chiropractor

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