Medical Myths: Debunked!

November 30, 2022
Medical Myths: Debunked!

1. Cracking your knuckles is bad for you.

We always hear that cracking your knuckles is bad, but it turns out that it is relatively harmless. The “cracking” sound that you hear is actually bubbles in the synovial fluid bursting from the pressure. While cracking your knuckles will not harm you, remember to still be gentle so as not to cause a ligament injury or dislocate your fingers if you are too rough.

2. A woman cannot get pregnant during her period.

Bottom line: Yes. Having unprotected sex even if a woman is on her period can result in pregnancy. Women are most likely to get pregnant before and during ovulation, which happens in the middle of their menstrual cycle. However, every cycle is different for every woman and it could be shorter or longer. This does not mean that the rest of the time she will not get pregnant. The best way to avoid pregnancy is to use protection every time you have sex.

3. Turkey makes you sleepy.

While turkey does contain tryptophan, whose byproduct is melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleeping and waking, the turkey is not to blame. In fact, turkey contains the same amount of tryptophan as other meats, eggs, and even dairy products. There are other reasons why you could be more tired and sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal that did include turkey. This could have to do with the overeating of carbs, alcohol consumption, and even seasonal affective disorder.

4. The flu shot gives you the flu.

This is a myth that tends to resurface around the colder seasons. The flu shot cannot give you the flu. Many people believe this myth because they think they are putting the active virus in their bodies, but this is not how it works. The flu shot is given in the arm, and it will either have inactivated viruses or a single protein from the flu virus, neither of which can cause the flu.

However, why do some people still feel flu-like symptoms sometimes after?
Your body might be reacting to the vaccine. This could be a headache or slight body soreness, but nothing quite like fighting off the actual flu virus. Also, keep in mind that there is a two-week window for the flu shot to take full effect, so if you are exposed during that window, you might still be at risk of catching the flu.

5. “Starve a fever, feed a cold.”

This is actually a dangerous myth. You might have heard of this old rhyme that helps you remember what to do, but this is in fact false. Your body needs to eat in both cases because it needs the energy to fight off illnesses.

A cold needs energy to fight off the illness and also create body heat. When you have a fever, your body is just telling you that it is fighting off an illness, but the increased heat can burn calories faster, so you want to counteract that by taking in more calories. Of course, a fever can contribute to a loss of appetite, so don’t force yourself to eat. Remember that fluids are also super important, which is why we recommend chicken soup when you’re sick. Soup isn’t a magical “cure-all” but it contains a good mix of calories and fluids that helps the body keep on fighting.

6. Hair and nails grow after you die.

While hair and fingernails may appear long after death, this doesn’t mean they’re still growing. After death, your body dehydrates, making your skin and soft tissues shrink, however, hair and nails remain the same length. This creates an optical illusion in the body which has made this myth as old as time.

7. Gluten is bad for you.

Gluten-free diets have been becoming increasingly popular but that leaves us with the question, is gluten bad for you? The answer is no. Gluten can be harmful to people who have celiac disease or certain types of gluten intolerance or even wheat allergies. However, other than these medical conditions, your body can break down gluten, just remember to keep it balanced with a healthy diet!

8. Cold and wet weather can cause a cold.

This is a myth that parents and grandparents have repeated over centuries, but the truth is that this is false! The only way to get sick is by being exposed to viruses or bacteria. In fact, the cold weather makes people stay indoors, where bacteria and viruses can spread faster because of the closed spaces.

9. Pulling out gray hair makes more grow back.

Another myth told to us when we’re young is to keep in our gray hairs or it will spread! But hair doesn’t work like that. We get gray hairs because a follicle’s pigment cells die. However, this doesn’t mean that pulling out a gray hair will spread to other hair follicles. In fact, if you pull out that hair, another gray hair will grow back just like the original one. Of course, more follicles will lose their pigment as you get older, but this is a normal part of aging.

10. If you swallow gum, it stays in your system for 7 years.

I’m sure that as kids we were all told not to swallow gum or it will stay in our bodies for 7 years! This made kids scared to swallow gum and to this day this old myth keeps little kids from swallowing gum. However, is this actually true? Of course not. Your body may have a harder time digesting gum, but nothing indicates that it will stay in your system for many years. It will move through your digestive system just like any other food and it will be extracted the same way.

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