Eight Health & Wellness Myths—BUSTED!
The myth: MMR vaccines cause autism
The truth: Evidence-based studies show that symptoms of autism are already present in children when they’re in their mothers’ wombs, long before they get the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Still, the amount of fake news surrounding vaccines have caused vaccination rates to decline. And because parents refuse to vaccinate their children, deadly diseases that have previously been preventable are on the rise again. This puts vulnerable individuals such as babies too young to be vaccinated and immunosuppressed kids at serious risk.
The whole anti-vaxxers argument began with a study in 1997 that suggested the MMR vaccine was related to an increased incidence of autism in the United Kingdom. That study has long been declared “utterly false” by the paper that published it due to ethical violations, as well as undisclosed financial conflicts of interest (the writer, Andrew Wakefield, had submitted a patent for a rival vaccine to the MMR vaccine before he went on the warpath).
The anti-vaxxers movement is therefore based on nothing more than a failed business venture in the 90’s, but it still takes a deadly toll today.
The myth: Maintenance medicines are “the new addiction”
The truth: A mistaken belief about maintenance medications is that once you feel better, you can stop taking them to avoid getting addicted to their effects.
First off, addiction works like this: when you take an addictive substance, the brain releases chemicals that communicate a desired effect to the body. Over time, the body develops tolerance to the substance, and you’ll need larger and larger amounts of the substance to reach the same effect – remember how you once only needed a sip of coffee to wake up and now you’re still sleepy three cups in? Addiction happens when the body craves the state of constantly being on the substance, and not being on it brings on the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.
Maintenance medications are, in the first place, not addictive. The amount prescribed for you to take every day is carefully measured and remains constant. The idea is not to achieve a euphoric state of mind, but for your blood pressure or sugar levels to stay within a healthy limit. If you feel well, that’s great! That means the meds are working. However, if you stop taking them, the unpleasantness you experience isn’t withdrawal. It’s your blood pressure or sugar levels shooting up to dangerous levels again without the meds to keep them down.
The myth: Kicking addiction is a matter of choice
The truth: Speaking of addiction, the popular belief that addiction is a choice is false. While people hooked on these substances may choose to use them at first, the process of quitting isn’t as simple as making a choice.
In reality, although addiction is notorious for its physiological effects, the root of it is a very complicated psychological process. Often, addictive substances change pathways in the brain, telling the body it needs the substance to function. This changes the individual’s perception of what is logical and hampers decision-making.
It is possible to kick a substance abuse problem. But, these psychological changes make it harder for a individual who’s deep in addiction to quit the habit compared to someone who only has a mild dependence on the substance. Willpower isn’t going to be enough. It’s going to take professional help – and a correct understanding of addiction by the people supporting the individual.
The myth: Cutting calories equals losing weight
The truth: Michelle Adams-Arent, sports nutrition consultant, says: “Your body is built for survival. It doesn’t care what you want to look like.” What she means to say is, when you drastically slash your caloric intake, your body thinks food is hard to come by and goes on starvation mode. The body slows down metabolism; instead of burning fat, the body clings to it to preserve energy stores.
If you’re trying to control your weight, it’s more effective to decrease caloric intake slowly by eating small frequent meals rather than depriving yourself of food cold turkey. Eat balanced portions of nutrient-dense whole foods to decrease hunger and snacking. It’s also much healthier to increase exercise – this way you signal your body that you’re on the go so it boosts metabolism.
Of course, you need to remember that your weight isn’t a good measure of your health – but that’s a whole other urban legend!
The myth: Wearing bras keep your breasts perky
The truth: Bras provide support, so the girls aren’t jiggling all over the place when you’re dancing, running, or simply going down the stairs. As with other body tissues, breast connective tissue breaks down when you age. Specifically, the breasts are held up by ligaments called Cooper’s ligaments, which are composed of collagen and elastin. Just as weakening collagen and elastin makes your face develop wrinkles over time, breast ligaments loosen too. Further, after menopause, glandular tissue that produces breast milk is replaced by fat. With a little help from gravity, these factors together cause your breasts to sag.
So wear a bra – or don’t, up to you – but bras have nothing to do with breast anatomy changing with age.
The myth: Vaginas loosen with sex
The truth: Like breasts, vaginas aren’t going to stay the same way forever! Vaginas do become a little looser with age or with multiple child births, but for the most part, the vagina is mostly elastic. It expands to accommodate things passing through the canal (like babies or penises) but always bounces back to its usual state.
The epithet “loose woman” was coined to shame a woman who has had multiple sex partners by saying her vagina has loosened up. The reality is that, before some good loving, the muscles of the vagina relax and lubricate themselves naturally in anticipation of penetration! If you’re having sex with a woman whose vagina is “tight”, she probably isn’t aroused, or isn’t ready to have intercourse yet.
The bottom line is, loose or tight, having sex often or with multiple partners doesn’t have any effect on vaginal muscles and connective tissue at all.
The myth: Mental illness is just an excuse for being lazy, weak, or stupid
The truth: Mental illnesses are caused by a number of physical factors: chemical imbalances in the brain, genetics, and previous trauma or life experiences that literally rewire the brain. People with depression experience a lack of energy that can make them seem “lazy”. Victims of trauma have been conditioned to take the option that will keep them safe from danger, which gives the impression that they’re “weak”. And those with anxiety tend to have unusual reactions to situations, which may make others think they’re “stupid”.
But, as someone with a broken leg might be unable to run a marathon, a person with mental illness may make poor choices or act in ways that may be strange or inconvenient to others. Would you call a broken leg, asthma, or cancer “just an excuse for being lazy, weak, or stupid”? The sooner we understand that mental illness follows a pathologic pathway in the brain, the more mental illness becomes easier to grasp as a valid condition.
The myth: Natural remedies fix everything
The truth: Herbal supplements like to boast that they don’t have side effects because the ingredients are all-natural. But you can never quite be certain of what’s really in that herbal tea mix you’re taking because their manufacturers aren’t subject to the same stringent safety standards as pharmaceuticals. Their ingredients might also interact with medications you’re taking, especially if you take them without your doctor’s approval.
They may not even be effective, as natural supplements don’t have to submit proof of efficacy before they hit the market. Natural remedies can work, but you have to put them into context too. The drug naproxen and the turmeric herb, for instance, are both painkillers. But you’ll need to consume an enormous amount of turmeric to get the same level of relief as a tablet of naproxen. Turmeric in your meal might work for a small headache, but it’s the naproxen you’ll want for chronic migraines.
It’s always best to do your research and consult a qualified medical professional before you believe anything.