Reading Amazon reviews is one of my favorite pastimes. True story: I just spent a half hour reading customer reviews of DIY side table kits and I was riveted. Not only are they a wealth of practical information but reviews are a great source of human drama. You can learn all kinds of things about people and the way they think just from reading about how well they can follow directions written only in Chinese and how well they aim their hammer when they throw it. Plus, you know, you get stuff like the Flamethrower-Toting Murder Bears.
More than once Amazon reviewers have saved me from myself — the most recent example being with the Divergent young adult book series. Everyone thought the first book was amazing. Everyone loved the second book. And then the third, and final, book in the series was so universally panned that the comment voted “most helpful” said that it would make you wish you’d never read any of the books in the first place as they’re all building up to the big reveal in book 3 which turns out to be a massive disappointment. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know because I took them at their word and didn’t read the books. (Would love to hear your thoughts though if you’ve read them!) But Hollywood doesn’t care about book 3 because they just made a movie of book 1 which they are hoping will be a blockbuster on the scale of Twilight. I’m not planning on seeing the movie either (which opens March 21 in case anyone is less judgmental than I am).
ALL of which is the set up to tell you that I have no clue who Shailene Woodley, the star of the Divergent movie, is. Before yesterday I’d never even heard of her but now she’s my favorite celebrity ever, thanks to one of the most interesting, honest and entertaining “health tips” interviews I’ve ever read. Shailene – and I feel like I can call her by her first name because we’re about to talk about her lady business and that makes us besties – did an interview with Into The Gloss about her best healthy living advice. You know how most celebrities regurgitate the same tired tropes of “wash your face before bed”, “drink green smoothies” and “exercise”? Oh not this girl!
Somehow Shailene ended up an actress but her heart lies in nature. She doesn’t wear makeup unless she’s doing media appearances (for which she says it’s only “respectful”, as if she were talking about visiting a small tribe in the Amazon and trying to adopt their strange-yet-beautiful customs), she doesn’t have a cellphone (say wha?) and her hobbies include making her own weapons. Oh and farming. If she weren’t an actress she says she’d be “Finding seeds, planting seeds, watching them grow, harvesting the fruits, cooking the fruits, eating them, seeing how my body reacts, and even digesting. I’m fascinated with the entire process.” ME TOO SHAILENE! CALL ME. I love someone who is as intensely interested with the minutiae of the digestion process as I am! She adds, “I would open a place like Moon Juice and have an elixir bar where people could come in and say, ‘My tooth aches,’ or, ‘I have a sinus infection,’ and I would be able to help them.” Okay, so I don’t want to own an “elixir bar” (whatever that is) but I like her whole mother-earth-healer vibe.
As part of her self-experimentation with herbs, foods, hunting and agriculture she came up with some pretty fun health tips:
Tip: Eat dirt.
“Clay is one of the best things you can put in your body. One of my friends was making a clay toothpaste that you swallow instead of spit out. But I first heard about the benefits of eating clay from a taxi driver. He was African and was saying that, where he’s from, the women eat clay when they’re pregnant. Seriously—ask your taxi drivers where they are from and about their customs. You will learn a lot. So, I’ve discovered that clay is great for you because your body doesn’t absorb it, and it apparently provides a negative charge, so it bonds to negative isotopes. And, this is crazy: it also helps clean heavy metals out of your body. My friend starting eating it and the next day she called me and said, ‘Dude, my shit smells like metal.’ She was really worried, but we did some research together and everything said that when you first start eating clay, your bowel movements, pee, and even you, yourself, will smell like metal. You should obviously be careful about your source. Bentonite clay is good, but Mountain Rose Herbs has a great clay source.”
First, I have to say I agree with her 100% about talking to your taxi drivers. I’ve had some of my favorite conversations ever with drivers and they’ve given me some great tips. Never about diet, unfortunately. But good life stuff! And one time a driver from Bahrain gave some eerily prescient fashion tips. But as for eating clay, I first heard about it in an article about a man trying to heal himself of ulcerative colitis. It was killing him and he tried everything – including illegal fecal transplants! – to try and heal his gut. He bought $200 vials of “pure dirt” to eat as part of his efforts. It was years ago but as I recall he found them quite helpful. At the time I filed it away under “Things to remember if I ever get ulcerative colitis” which thank heavens I’ve never had to use. But Shailene’s poop story got me thinking about it again because you guys KNOW how I love a good poop story.
But does it work?
At first glance, it has the ring of pseudoscience though so I had to fact-check it, starting with that whole negative charge thing. (Obviously if clay is negatively charged then it would bond to positive isotopes, not negative like Shailene said but she was speaking off the cuff so I’ll just assume she meant positive and not negative.) According to the Department of Agriculture, “Because clays have a large surface area and negative charges, they can attract and hold positively charged ions. This characteristic is important because many positively charged ions are plant nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.”
So she was right about the negative charge! But oops, I don’t really want to be pooping out my calcium, magnesium and potassium stores. (Especially since many people are woefully deficient in the latter two and all three are essential for basic heart function.) But methylmercury – one of the most common toxic metals that people worry about (it’s the one you always hear about in fish) – does carry a positive charge and so could theoretically bind with the clay and get pooped out? While I couldn’t find any solid research showing that eating clay can remove heavy metals from humans, I did find this Egyptian study (PDF) that showed that adding clay to soil polluted with copper and nickel led to a reduction of the metals. I also found this study (PDF) that showed it was possible to remove heavy metals, including the Big Baddies cadmium and mercury, from water by using bentonite clay as a filter. Without human research it’s hard to make conclusions – the human digestive tract is a lot different than a landfill or a river – but I have to say I’m intrigued! Although you’d have to be careful with it as it apparently binds to a bunch of healthy stuff along with the junk.
Also, there’s the whole eating dirt thing.
Tip: Oil Pulling
“You can do something called ‘oil pulling’ where you swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up and spit it out. It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter, because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth. I prefer sesame oil, but they’re both good.”
But does it work?
The jury’s still out on oil pulling for me. I’m in the midst of my personal experiment with it and have yet to see any benefit from it but I’ll stick out the 30 days and let you know what I think then. As for her assertion that dental plaque is fat soluble, I am not so sure about that. Plaque is a biofilm made up of bacteria that stick on your teeth. I couldn’t find any reputable source that said it was fat soluble nor any research that showed that soaking plaque in fat would remove it. Most sources pointed out that plaque (before it hardens into tartar) is fragile so any swishing, brushing or flossing would remove it and the liquid medium didn’t seem to matter. Part of me wonders if she’s confusing it with arterial plaque, which is made up of fat?
Tip: Sunbathing your lady bits
“Another thing I like to do is give my vagina a little vitamin D. [Laughs] I was reading an article written by an herbalist I studied about yeast infections and other genital issues. She said there’s nothing better than vitamin D. If you’re feeling depleted, go in the sun for an hour and see how much energy you get. Or, if you live in a place that has heavy winters, when the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine. “
But does it work?
This tip made me laugh out loud. Mostly because if she is really sunning her vagina then she is a lot more, um, flexible than most humans. I think she meant she was sunning her vulva (the external apparatus). At any rate, her point about getting more vitamin D from sunshine (anywhere on your body) is well taken and the health benefits have been verified by many research studies. But as for sunlight curing vaginal issues? Shockingly I found no research directly on this. Can’t imagine study participants lining up for that one. But I did find an interesting study that found that mice that had developed a fungal yeast infection after getting third degree burns (boy was THAT a bad day to be a lab animal) could be mostly cured by a UVC (ultraviolet-c) light. Although there is this study that found that UV light actually increases the growth and reproduction of yeast. But another study found that while the UV light increased cellular growth in yeast up to a point, prolonged exposure killed it off.
Of course all of this leaves out the practical implications: Like, exactly how much legs-akimbo sunbathing would you need for “prolonged exposure”? And how would you get the sunshine far enough up your yoohoo to get all the yeasties? I’m just going to say that if you enjoy a naked Happy Baby pose on your back deck in the summer then go for it (as long as your neighbors don’t mind) but if you have a vaginal infection then it’s probably best to go see a doctor.
Tip: Skip shampoo
Shailene says, “I basically have horse hair. It’s so low-maintenance. The less I put in it, the better. I only shampoo it like once a month—the oilier, the better.”
But does it work?
This one actually works for me. I have had good luck just rinsing my hair with water. Your mileage my vary.
Shailene is rad. I want to hear more from her. Oh and I kind of want to try eating clay now. One naturopathic site recommended mixing your bituminous clay in with your coconut oil for your oil pulling every morning. Swishing dirty oil for better dental health? Okay, that just gave me a full-body shudder. Dirt in my teeth-crevices was my pet peeve back when I used to ride dirt bikes (you know, before I had kids and a life insurance policy and all that).
Any of you try any of these tips? Anyone want to correct my science?? Lastly, anyone read the Divergent series and want to convince me to read them – or not read them??