Friday, May 21, 2010

Native American Healing Clay

My friend from work recently called in sick for three days. The reason...he was ill from eating a teaspoon of dirt. Yeah, that's right, he purposely ate dirt! Well, clay to be exact. You know, the kind of clay that you find in some regions when you are digging a hole in the…uhhhh…dirt. After becoming ill, he called the woman that sold the clay and explained the reaction his body had to the substance. After explaining that he had a high fever and diarrhea, the woman exclaimed, “Isn’t that just wonderful!!”


Don’t worry, he was just as confused. I mean “wonderful” isn’t exactly the word of choice when you are shitting clay every 10 minutes. Apparently the woman believed that the sick feeling was the result of his body emitting toxins. Either that, or this is just what she tells people after they get sick from eating the dirt she sold them.

Now, the whole toxin thing wasn’t exactly a ball way out in left field, since the reason he ate the clay in the first place was to cleanse his body of toxins. What exactly a “toxin” is, and whether the body effectively discharges toxins via the liver and kidney, is another conversation. This conversation is about my experience with eating clay. Yes, I actually ate clay after my friend got sick doing so. No, I’m not too smart.

Photo of the dirt in question

Before eating dirt, the first thing I wanted to know was whether it was safe. My first piece of information was that this clay is called bentonite. This was a good sign, given that many people, including myself, have used bentonite in winemaking. Bentonite attaches to molecules that make a wine undesirably hazy. Once attached, the particles become heavy and sink to the bottom, where they are left behind when siphoning wine to another container.

It turns out that bentonite is believed to work very similarly in your body. The clay expands as it become saturated, and absorbs/attaches to molecules in your intestinal tract. Lastly, your body excretes the bentonite along with the absorbed molecules. But what exactly bentonite absorbs, and whether these materials are toxins that the body is unable to process through the kidney and liver, is something that you won’t find in most of the marketing materials for "healing clay". Why is this?

Unfortunately for alternative medicine, most claims are anecdotal at best and are not based on good scientific principles. Science would describe exactly what was being removed from the body and how. Science would also explain why these removed molecules are bad for your body. And lastly, science would share this research in peer reviewed journals so that others could critique each assumption and conclusion. Alternative medicine takes a different approach. They usually cite ancient cultures that used the substance for hundreds of years, implying that there must be wisdom in the practice. Unfortunately, last time I tried the rain dance it didn’t work…

Jokes aside, there is a bit of science that would suggest health benefits to eating clay. For example, during the early 20th century, soldiers in the German and Austrian armies used a type of clay called kaolin to combat cholera and dysentery1. More recently, Arizona State University professors Shelley Haydel and Lynda Williams have shown that some types of clay are able to kill certain undesirable strains of bacteria that cause skin disease and food poisoning. Their research involves the gathering of clays from around the world, testing each clay’s ability to kill or reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, and determining why some clay is more effective than others2. I’m sure pharmaceutical companies are lying in wait for the day when they isolate the compounds responsible for killing harmful bacteria.

In the meantime, good hygiene would likely be a better solution than eating a dirt sample in a nicely packaged “healing clay” container. Dirt can sometimes contain harmful minerals like arsenic and mercury. That and the fact that alternative medicines are not regulated by the FDA, it’s probably a good idea to go with a bacteria fighting method that requires a little more regulation on the sales and distribution side…like hand soap for example.

Oh, and my experience with eating healing clay every day for two weeks? Tastes like dirt. Gave me an upset stomach. And I used the restroom a few more times than normal. Perhaps I'm now "toxin" free though...

Works Cited
1. Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume64, Issues 18-26, page 1991

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Gay Scoutmasters

Over the last couple weeks I've been trying to pull together a team for what is claimed to be the the toughest one day endurance event on the planet. It's a 7 mile obstacle course where athletes traverse through a number of obstacles meant to test physical strength and mental grit. Obstacles like crawling though underground tunnels, climbing over 12-foot walls, traversing over wires and cargo nets, wading through extremely cold water, crawling through mud and course sand, climbing mud slides while trying to avoid the blast of a water canon, and finally running amongst ignited bales of hay. There is no race clock. You either finish or you don't. It's called Tough Mudder, and I'm excited as hell to give it a try.

My next task is to convince others that it sounds fun. Assuming I can organize a team, I'm now thinking about a team uniform for the event. I'm trying to stick to the theme of Tough Mudder, which is that it is for serious athletes that don't take themselves too seriously. I'd love to hear your ideas as well. Here are a few of mine.
  • The Gay Scoutmasters: this guy pretty much nailed the costume, except we'd switch out those green shorts for some light blue jean cutoff short shorts. I might even mend the shirt to be a crop top. And of course, we'd all get rainbow headbands. Let me be clear here though. This is not to make fun of gay people. It's to make fun of Boy Scouts. We all know they secretly love gays. They'll come around one day. :)

  • Lumber down Under: Lumberjacks are basically bad-asses. Of course, not real lumberjacks. They're fat shapely, drink too much, and smell funny. I'm talking about the fake ones. You know, the ones that are 50 feet tall and have a giant blue ox named Babe. Supposedly it was Mr. Bunyan that chopped off the top of a mountain near my hometown. It's flat and called Table Top Mountain. What a bad-ass!

    The suspenders definitely make the costume here. The second part of this costume would be growing a gnarly beard. I'd probably grow out the beard for a month or so, and then shave it into a completely embarrassing configuration of some sort.

    Oh, and the innuendo in the name definitely refers to our junk. Joking about how big your package is never gets old. Or you can stop joking and just stuff a sock down there. Hence...the next costume.
  • Day at the Country Club: this costume is inspired from one of my friends that dressed up like this for Halloween. The preppy outfit would provide a good contrast with the "tough" event. Take a preppy in white clothes and drag their ass through mud, underground tunnels, and submerge them in dirty water. See how the pretty boy looks when its all over.

    Now, about the sock. My friend tells me that the key to "sock stuffing" is to put just enough sock in there so that it draws attention, but that it's not so big that people will absolutely know that it's fake. So people gawk, their eyes register a surprised reaction, but then they hesitate to say anything because they aren't sure if it's real. Imagine calling someone out for having a fake bulge in their pants, only to find out that the bulge is in fact real. AWWWKWARD!

Let me know if you have any good ideas for the team uniform. At this point, I'll probably discover that convincing people to wear one of these uniforms will be more difficult than getting them to register for the event. More to come...