Debunking Health Myths

words Alexa Wang

We’re probably all familiar with old wives’ tales — as kids, if we didn’t eat our crusts, we wouldn’t have curly hair, or if you keep pulling that face when the wind changes, you’ll be stuck like that forever! Of course, these aren’t true, but what other sayings are there that we can sometimes believe? Here, we’ll take a look at health myths.

Cracking Knuckles Causes Arthritis

There is a common misconception that cracking joints can cause arthritis. Research has found that up to 54% of us actually do it – whether it’s pulling the tip of each until they crack, making a fist or bending our fingers away from our hand. Men are also more likely to do it. The popping noise and sensation is created by the spaces between the joints increasing, which causes gases dissolved in the synovial fluid to form microscopic bubbles. These bubbles then merge into larger bubbles and are popped by additional fluid that has filled the enlarged space.

While many people believe that cracking knuckles can be damaging to us, there isn’t enough research exploring the matter. However, a study from 2010 claimed that there was no difference in the prevalence of osteoarthritis between those who did or did not crack their knuckles.

Keep cracking… for now!

Soapy Legs

This health myth claims that if you put a bar of soap under your bed sheets while you sleep, this will alleviate muscle pain, particularly in your legs. While those who perform this method stand by it, there is no plausible or scientific explanation that has been given to suggest that this actually does work.

If you experience leg cramps, you can try other techniques. This includes reducing your caffeine intake on a night time, stretching your calf muscles before bed, or taking joint supplements to protect joint health.

Putting Onions in Socks

If you fall ill, rumour has it that putting onions in your socks is an effective remedy. The concept is that, because onions are slightly acidic, there can be antibacterial results when rubbed against things. Unfortunately for the believers, onions in your socks hasn’t been found to aid your recovery. As viruses require direct contact with a human being to spread, this wouldn’t allow an onion to draw the virus in and absorb it.

Unfortunately, this must act as a placebo.

Starving to Health

Although this is a myth, there is certainly good advice to be given. The folklore of starving a fever has been around for hundreds of years, with some medical historians linking it as far back at the 1500s. Back then, doctors believed that a fever was caused because your metabolism was in overdrive.  However, you shouldn’t starve your fever, modern-day experts have warned. Doing so means you’ll have a lower calorie intake, which can then make it more difficult for your body to fight off the flu virus.

According to research, eating less during the early onset of an infection can have detrimental effects towards your body.

Gum for Years

As children, we were all told not to swallow chewing gum. Some of us may have been scared off swallowing our gum as it will stay in our system for seven years. While it’s not particularly advisable to do so, you can relax – this is a decades-old bit of folklore, according to pediatric gastroenterologist David Milov of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando. He explained: “That would mean that every single person who ever swallowed gum within the last seven years would have evidence of the gum in the digestive tract. On occasion we’ll see a piece of swallowed gum, but usually it’s not something that’s any more than a week old.”

Carrot Vision

Myths have awarded carrots many supposed benefits — throughout the years, they have been associated with helping cure everything from snakebites to STDs. However, one of the most popular comments is that carrots can help you see in the dark.

As cool as it would be, carrots do not help us see in the dark. This was simply propaganda that first began in the Second World War following the British Royal Air Force creating the fabricated tale that the vegetable was attributed to fighter pilot Jon ‘Cats’ Eyes’ Cunningham’s great skills. This led to it being mandated for people to eat their carrots, as it would help them see better during the blackouts.

Carrots are certainly good for us, and although they can’t help us see in the dark, they’re particularly nutritious for our overall visual health.

It’s important not to base your health on myths and wives’ tales, if you want to check if something is good for you, check with your GP first!


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