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The Body Buffet: Are Human Fluids the Newest Food Trend?


Our bodies are rich with nutrients, an amalgamation of those we eat in our diet and those we produce naturally.  But, for some of us, we opt to eat the same nutrients we produce… sourced from our own bodily fluids. The practice of consuming human bi-products dates back to primitive cultures, but the modern world has come to view it as taboo. It’s no surprise that the West in particular, with our pre-packaged fare and general squeamishness toward bowel-related talk, would be turned off by the thought of indulging in an effluvial snack.

But still it exists, an entire subculture of individuals who willingly (and eagerly) consume breast milk, urine, semen and/or placenta as part of their regular diet. What was once a common ritual in Hoodoo folklore has become an increasingly common approach to contemporary cuisine… at least within the category of “health food.” Many swear by the nutritional content and purported medicinal properties of these fluids. Others would scarcely touch vegetables for their nutrition, never mind something that comes out of a human orifice.

The practice is controversial at best and hazardous at worst, if you consider the host of sanitation issues that accompany these organic delicacies. Still, conventional foods often carry the same risk of contamination and still we eat them. So the questions remain: should breast milk be treated any differently than cow milk? Is eating semen really that much worse than other indigenous delicacies? Is this “trend” of consuming human bi-products perhaps the future of natural, eco-friendly and cost-effective dining?  We’ll give you the facts, and you decide whether they’ll make your menu.

Breast Milk

This was undoubtedly your first favorite dish. It was readily available and filled with all of the unrefined nutrients that you needed to develop. It is an excellent source of calcium, iron and protein, as well as a host of fat- and water-soluble vitamins. These nutrients can be easily digested in the baby’s tummy and can protect against infections and health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

In this culture, breastfeeding is accepted and encouraged to a certain end, and eventually mothers are advised to wean their babies onto formula or a combination of bottled breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively for 6 months and receive no formula until one year. The World Health Organization recommends that infants nurse for a minimum of two years. Other experts say that mothers should nurse for as long as they and their babies enjoy it. We’ve heard the joke that if children can ask for a drink, they are too old to breastfeed; but some mothers have been known to breastfeed into their baby’s early childhood, and will only wean for the sake of school or, in some cases, public censure.

Society is quick to judge those who are too open or enduring with their nursing. It is as if breastfeeding is only socially acceptable under certain conditions: during infancy and behind closed doors. This is perhaps because it is meant to be an intimate and transitory experience, or it is perhaps because we have been conditioned to react to the human body with disgust or embarrassment. Like other natural acts such as sex or menstruation or masturbation, we acknowledge the necessity of breastfeeding but “prefer” that it remain private.

So you can imagine the public’s shock when an ice cream shop in London debuted their flavor-du-jour: breast milk, with a hint of vanilla and lemon zest. They sourced their milk from donors who were screened according to hospital and blood donor requirements, and plugged the fact that the product was organic and free-range. The ice cream, affectionately called “Baby Gaga,” sold out at $22.50 per serving and had to be discontinued pending more donations. Whether for health or curiosity (or perhaps a hefty bet) the community seemed surprisingly willing to taste test the dessert.

The FDA was weary to endorse this use, saying that drinking breast milk could expose the consumer to undetected diseases or various illegal and prescription drugs. The FDA does, however, support the consumption of human breast milk through the handful of milk banks across the country. These banks specifically distribute human milk to adults and children for health purposes. As of late, the most common reason for individuals to visit these milk banks is to help treat cancer.
 
Cancer patients like Tim Browne of England have taken to drinking breast milk as part of their treatment regimen. They believe in the milk’s healing properties, and scientists agree that there is promising research supporting breast milk as a preventative solution and possible cure for cancer. Still, the product is expensive when sourced from a bank and requires prescription. What’s more, this alternative therapy could be taking valuable resources away from premature infants who rely on its nutrients.

While I don’t anticipate that humans will replace cows as the world’s leading milk source, this interest could have the world asking Got (Breast) Milk?

Urine

You’ve seen this on just about every survival realty show on television: some extreme mountaineer willing to drink his own pee, in part for hydration in the wild and in part for the entertainment shock value. Regardless of the reason, many of us brush this off as an act we would never perform in a real-world situation.

Not so for a growing number of people who regularly drink or apply their own urine for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.  Urine makes an excellent antiseptic, making it an ideal treatment for bacterial conditions like athlete’s foot or gingivitis (yes, this would require a hearty gargle). Some say urine therapy is also an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis, colitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, hepatitis, hyperactivity, pancreatic insufficiency, psoriasis, eczema, diabetes, herpes, mononucleosis, adrenal failure, and allergies. The fluid can be topically applied or ingested depending on the need.

Professional athletes like UFC boxer Juan Manual Marquez have publically admitted to drinking urine after intense workouts to restore nutrients and electrolytes. This is a more natural alternative to Gatorade, taste aside. Ancient yogis would often drink their morning urine, called amaroli, as part of their daily practice. They felt it maintained balance and wellness within the body. Even the former Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, said he thought drinking urine was the key to longevity and exuberant health.

Coen van der Koon, author of The Golden Fountain: The Complete Guide to Urine Therapy, defends the “ew” factor of the practice, insisting that drinking your pee is less harmful than canned soda and "less distasteful than gelatin made from hooves and tendons.”  Considering it is mostly water, ingesting the “body tonic” will have few harmful effects. Drinking too much urine may lead to diarrhea or fever, and it should not replace clean drinking water, but aside from those cons, the worst result may be a disgusted reaction from what friends and family you choose to tell.

Semen

This one usually evokes the strongest reaction of all, even though it’s widely practiced in intimate situations. The consumption of seminal fluid is a relatively natural occurrence, but rarer is its use as a nutritional supplement or cooking ingredient. Semen is not particularly high in nutrition, primarily because it is only available in small doses (approximately one teaspoon per ejaculation). That teaspoon contains 5-10 calories, 150 mg of protein, 11 mg of carbohydrates, 6 mg of fat, 7% of the US recommended daily value of potassium and 3% of the recommended daily value of copper and zinc. It also contains several vitamins but the amount is largely contingent on the male’s diet.

More surprising than the nutritional content might be the cooking properties inherent in human semen. Some take advantage of these properties by incorporating the substance into recipes. One man, Paul “Fotie” Photenhauer has even published an entire recipe book of semen creations in hopes of persuading the public to embrace the excretion as a food. He explains that, compared to delicacies in other cultures, semen is relatively normal and he relates its complex taste to that of a good-quality wine. He covers courses from appetizer to dessert, including arguably delicious dishes like glazed pink salmon and “Tiramisu Surprise.” The recipes are compiled in a book entitled Natural Harvest.

These are just some of the most prevalent examples of individuals partaking of their own biological buffet. The benefits seem ample, if unproven, and the only drawbacks may be personal distaste and a generally disapproving society. Like Veganism or Macrobiotics, this type of diet is not for everyone; but some would argue that it is as valid an option.  Ultimately, it must be a personal decision, made with health and sanitation in mind.

My own personal decision: while I’m all for recycling, I’m not sure that extends to my own bodily emissions.


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