On tonight's episode of My Strange Addiction we meet Michelle, a 29-year-old woman who's been drinking blood -- human and pig -- for more than 15 years. Michelle drinks up to seven liters a week, and enjoys drinking, cooking and even, you know, Bloody Marys.
She prefers pig's blood to cow's blood, but won't shy away from even drinking human blood. "I feel it going down my throat. It's like having a cold and drinking a Hot Toddy." She says she can't go without it, and feels irritable and angry if she doesn't get enough. While Michelle's revelation is more than a little squirm-inducing, we wondered: Is it actually physically unsafe?
According to Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, it's not totally unheard of. Blood is considered a perfectly acceptable delicacy in many countries, and can be found in recipes as varied as blood sausages, blood soup and blood soup. While Islam and Judaism both prohibit blood consumption, it's a staple item in a lot of cultures.
Does it matter if you're drinking blood that's not the same type as your blood type? Not really, says Sepkowitz. "We ... have digestive systems accustomed to processing foods far more elaborate than blood."
But what blood drinkers do have to watch out for is infections. While most infections don't travel through the bloodstream, three do: HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, though it's unclear if ingesting infected blood would result in transmission of infection. Drinkers can also suffer from an iron overdose and Toxic Porphyria.
So the short answer is: it's unlikely to cause major health problems. But that doesn't mean that it still doesn't give us the heebie jeebies.
Check out My Strange Addiction, Wednesdays at 10/9 c.