Would You Try These Latest Strange Health Fads?
Not all “health trends” are healthy. In fact, humanity’s journey of medical progress has taken some interesting detours. A strange medical practice of drilling holes into the skull, called trepanation, survived into the 20th century in some regions of the world. Not all health trends that sound weird are dangerous, though, and some even have the support of science. Several medical treatments we may think of as antiquated or obsolete are still practiced safely. Medicinal leeches, for example, serve multiple valid purposes, including treating and cleaning infected tissue. Check out the latest strange health trends.
1. Cold Showers and Cryotherapy
Various cold treatments, ranging from cryotherapy in cold booths to daily cold showers, are spreading like wildfire. People have used cold to treat inflammation for centuries, and the cold therapy trend is just an extreme expansion of this remedy. So does it work? Yes and no.
The more extreme claims of cryotherapy enthusiasts — that it prolongs life, thwarts the aging process, or prevents cancer — have never been proven. Cold therapy does, however, constrict the blood vessels, helping with inflammation and some forms of chronic pain. If you have cardiovascular problems or a history of poor circulation, talk to a doctor before giving it a try. And don’t even think about using cryotherapy with very young babies. Proponents have argued that even newborns can benefit from the cold, but babies can’t fully regulate their body temperature. Cold therapy could be fatal to them.
Inspired by Wim Hof, the so-called Ice Man, some health enthusiasts have turned hyperventilation into a sort of religion. Hof’s method blends meditative hyperventilation with breath-holding and cold showers. The technique has enabled Hof to accomplish some impressive feats, such as sitting in an ice block or holding his breath for minutes at a time.
Researchers have studied Hof, and are unsure how he can do these things or whether they are attributable to his method. Some research supports the notion that Wim Hof’s hyperventilation improves immunity, but experts are torn. His followers claim that hyperventilation and cold showers can cure just about every human ailment. Hof has remained silent on this matter, and there's no scientific evidence to support the curative value of his method.
For now, Wim Hof’s approach may be an elaborate and harmless form of meditation. Talk to your doctor about whether you can safely hyperventilate before giving it a try.
3. Mushroom Lattes
Mushrooms are high in many nutrients. Some research links their consumption to a reduced risk of diseases such as breast and prostate cancer. Mushroom latte proponents argue that putting mushrooms in coffee is not only delicious but life-changing. They claim mushroom tonics can improve immunity, balance hormones, and spur a broad range of other health benefits.
There’s no evidence that a mushroom latte will change your life. These flavorful drinks do offer additional nutrients, making them a nourishing choice if you’re on the go. If you like mushrooms, mushroom lattes are perfectly safe to try.
4. Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof coffee blends regular coffee with butter or high-fat oils, such as coconut. Drinkers swear by the stuff, arguing that it helps them burn fat, gives them more energy, and helps them consume healthy oils. Research increasingly supports the health benefits of some oils, but there’s little evidence that mixing them with coffee increases their potency. Coffee blended with butter does tend to offer a longer-lasting energy boost. The blend is also higher in calories, serving as an appetite suppressant. So if your daily cup of Joe isn’t cutting it, try adding butter.
5. Snail Facials
If you think snails are just garden pests, you haven’t spent much time in high-end spas. Snail facials are de rigueur, with adherents to the bizarre trend claiming miraculous benefits. Snail mucus purportedly contains antioxidants that slow the aging process, offering a youthful glow. Even if this is true, you can get the same benefits with a topical vitamin C or vitamin E antioxidant. Antioxidants work over time, not with a single dose. That means you’d need consistent, frequent snail treatments to see lasting change.
An enema is more than just a way to relieve constipation. Some health enthusiasts claim that enema concoctions can support weight loss, reverse aging, and even cure chronic illnesses by detoxifying the body. No research supports these results.
Enemas may help with bloating and constipation, though, temporarily producing a sense of wellness. Steer clear of caffeine enemas and other unusual formulations. Treatments administered rectally tend to be more fully absorbed, potentially causing to toxic, and even lethal effects. Stick to isotonic solutions at reputable clinics. A doctor’s office is the safest bet. If you have a history of electrolyte imbalances or are dehydrated, you should be sure to consult a physician before trying an enema.
Health trends, like makeup fads, come and go. But the principles of good health — eating right, staying active, and getting regular checkups — remain consistent. Before trying any health trend, talk to your doctor first. Beware of miracle cures, and remember that people can and will make wildly inflated promises just to make a quick buck.
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About the Author
Zawn Villines is a writer who specializes in health journalism. She has also extensively written about legal topics, politics, and parenting. She has published work in dozens of print and online publications, including Psychology Today, Medical News Today, GoodTherapy.org, LegalZoom, Daily Kos, Chron.com, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In addition, she writes medical content for hospitals, doctors, fertility clinics, and other medical providers. She graduated from Georgia State University, where she studied psychology and philosophy.
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- BBC: Why our ancestors drilled holes in each other's skulls
- Mehdi, Leech Therapist: About Leeches
- Forbes: What Are The Cold, Hard Facts On Cryotherapy?
- Rich Roll: "The Iceman" Wim Hof on Why Breath Is Life, Cold Is God & Feeling Is Understanding
- Pepijn van Erp: Wim Hof’s Cold Trickery
- Bulletproof: Recipe: How to Make Bulletproof Coffee … And Make Your Morning Bulletproof
- The Guardian: Snails slither their way on to the beauty scene as the next big thing in facials