You take care of yourself -- you eat organic, you do yoga, you take supplements of exotic minerals that may not have ever even existed -- you're going to live forever, right? Wrong, person who forgets the titles of articles two sentences into the intro! Some natural health trends do worse than make you insufferable at parties; they straight kill you.
The theory behind the juice cleanse is simple -- drink nothing but bottles of juiced fruits, vegetables, and herbs for a few days, and you will be cleansed of everything from toxins to fat to mortal sins. In reality, all you'll actually be cleansed of is about $200 worth of juice. First, "detoxing" is a myth. Unless you are kicking a drug addiction, you will never need to detox your body. In fact, your body can detox itself using those fancy kidneys and liver your doctor always raves about.
Second, juice cleanses don't help you lose weight -- at least not in a healthy, long-term way. Most juice cleanse programs have you consume about 1,000-1,200 calories a day; way less than the 2,000-3,000 calories an average adult should be consuming. So yes, you will lose weight on a cleanse, but you'll also be starving (something that you can do just as well by not eating). And when you go off the cleanse and start eating normally again, you'll quickly regain the weight. Ugh, now you feel all gross and fat. Which means it's time for another juice cleanse!
The "energetic rush" people feel on a juice cleanse is likely just a sustained sugar high. "Cleansing juices" typically have 75-190 grams of sugar per serving, whereas a can of Coke "only" has 39 grams of sugar. The juices are also low in fiber and protein, which means a lot of the weight loss people experience is actually muscle loss, rather than fat. Honestly, if you want to stop eating food, lose a bunch of muscle, and burn money at the same time, just take up meth. At least your house will be clean.
Natural cleaners are a $600 million industry, and they're sold in most major grocery and drug stores. The only problem is, most of them are hoaxes. There's no guarantee that those cleaners are actually natural. It's true that the Federal Trade Commission has set standards for the use of the words "natural" and "green" on product packaging, but even the EPA says that these policies are poorly regulated and rarely enforced. Since companies are in the business of making money, rather than the business of telling you the truth, there's a very good chance that your "natural" Himalayan Yogurt Soap is actually just Clorox with a picture of a yak on it.
And if you do find a product that's truly natural, it most likely doesn't do much in the way of cleaning. Sure, it may remove dirt and dust from surfaces, but so do spit and friction. A lot of times, when you're cleaning a surface (especially one covered in deadly germs created by raw meat or sneezing toddlers), what you want a cleaner to do is sanitize or disinfect; meaning it kills 99.99 percent of germs when the cleaner is applied.
Products that claim to do this are actually required to register with the EPA, which is why most major natural cleaner brands -- Seventh Generation, Method, Ecover, and Green Works -- aren't recognized by the EPA as sanitizers or disinfectants. Remember: Germs are natural. E. Coli is alive too, man.
Raw juice and dairy products have been big the past few years. Raw is healthier. Raw is more natural. Raw is better. If you're cooking stuff, you're an asshole. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2 percent of Americans consume raw milk (despite it costing as much as $12 per gallon), and raw juice has become a $100 million industry. Celebrities and health nuts alike are shelling out a lot of cash for drinks that haven't been ruined by preparation.
The rest of us are drinking pasteurized milk and juice -- liquids heated to high temperatures, and then cooled again. Pasteurization is decidedly unnatural (unless you live on a swing over a volcano), but is also decidedly useful for not becoming very sick. That's because it's natural for bacteria to grow in these products and make you perform the very natural actions of vomiting, shitting your brains out, and possibly the most natural thing of all: dying.
As many raw-ligious people learn the hard way every year, that's one of the reasons Louis Pasteur -- the inventor of pasteurization and vaccination -- isn't spat upon in history books. We didn't start pasteurizing everything because it's fun to torture juice; we did it because it kills off bacteria that spoil food and can make you sick. Raw juice and dairy fly in the face of one of the biggest preventive care advancements of all time.
Although raw milk is banned by the FDA, legislators and special interest groups are trying to get the sale of unpasteurized milk legalized at the state level. It's the lamest "legalize it" campaign this side of Four Loko.
Meanwhile, raw juice is legally sold in stores and restaurants as long as it has a warning label -- which we all, of course, ignore. That's one thing both the health conscious and the cigarette smokers have in common: We don't like readin' stuff.
More and more mothers are giving birth at home, rather than in some impersonal, sterile hospital setting. According to the CDC, home births increased 29 percent from 2004 to 2009. But as calming and relaxing as giving birth next to your cat might be, that doesn't mean it's safer. A lot of our best data on this comes from Oregon, where birth certificates are required to list the location of the birth. Using that extra bit of data, researchers found that, in 2012, the death rate for babies born at home was seven times higher than the rate for those born in a hospital.
True, tons of home births go fine, provided there aren't any complications. But if problems do arise, the 45 minutes you saved by not going to the hospital are now 45 minutes you're going without hospital care. So while home birth may seem more natural, keep in mind that, for most of human history, so was dying during childbirth.
Essential oils are liquids extracted from plants that possess the original plant's odor or flavor, usually in a highly concentrated form. They can be used in a variety of ways -- for perfume, medicine, aromatherapy, and Christmas gifts for women that you don't know very well. But here's the thing about concentrated chemicals: They're concentrated chemicals.
Some can be applied safely to the skin: Rose oil, for example, can be used to clear up acne. Others, like thyme, oregano, and cinnamon bark, can cause irritation even in concentrations as low as 3-5 percent. Worse, citrus oils like orange, lemon, and lime can cause phototoxicity (severe burns or even skin cancer) if exposed to sunlight. Lavender and tea tree oils can block androgens and have been linked to breast enlargement in prepubescent boys. Now, prepubescent boys are notoriously big fans of boobs, but this probably isn't what they meant.
Even in seemingly small quantities, wintergreen oil can act like a large dose of aspirin: potentially lethal, especially to kids. Clove oil is mostly safe on skin, but when ingested, it can all-naturally slow blood clotting and cause all-natural seizures and all-natural liver damage in children.
The point is that just because something is natural doesn't mean it's safe. Lions are all-natural. So is hemlock. Next time you see "all natural" on the label, keep in mind that what's really unnatural is living past 30.
Alyssa Feller has a Twitter and is occasionally funny when she remembers it exists.
For more ways clean living is probably murdering, check out 12 Products Marketed As Healthy (Are Secretly Awful For You) and 6 Trendy Health Foods (That Are Being Sold To Idiots).
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