Malaysia

Medical ‘facts’ granny told you that were lies

Sometimes the 'lies' your elders told you were borne out of good intentions but rarely carried an ounce of truth.

Accidentally swallowing gum does not mean it will stay stuck in your gut forever. (Reuters pic)

Perhaps, the term “lie” is a bit harsh. We’ve all been there. Your elders, not just your grandmother (sorry nenek for singling you out), have all told lies that just don’t hold water as far as medical science is concerned. Same goes to your friends and that overly friendly stranger on the train, who just had to impart her pearls of wisdom.

Sure, some of the advice does make sense if you think about it, but there are just so many myths out there that even doctors have fallen for the lies hook, line and sinker.

The following list explains the myths that just won’t seem to die.

Lie #1: “If you swallow chewing gum, it will never leave your body”

There are many variations of this myth. There are versions that specify the number of years it remains stuck in the body. There are those that say the gum gets stuck to the walls of your digestive system.

FACT: The gum will pass through your system and be excreted. Since it cannot be digested, it will come out whole as it was when it was swallowed. The chemicals that you cannot digest are those that give the gum its rubbery quality. But having said that, it’s not a good idea to swallow large amounts of gum anyway as there are cases of kids suffering from severe constipation after having swallowed too much gum.

Lie #2: “If you sit on a pillow, a boil will grow on your butt.”

This one is a Malaysian staple. In Bahasa Melayu it goes: “Kalau duduk atas bantal nanti punggung berbisul”.

This doesn’t make sense at any level but because it’s a scary enough thought, we still avoid planting ourselves on cushy pillows. A hundred years ago someone probably had some very nice pillows she didn’t want anyone sitting on and thought, “Why not scare the crap out of kids to stop them from squishing my pillows?”

FACT: A boil is an infected hair follicle. Technically, sitting on filthy pillows could cause boils but only if you did it buck naked.

Lie #3: “If you shave, your hair grows back thicker”

Nope, it doesn’t. It only looks that way. This might be right for the pubescent boy but only because puberty is making him more hairy. The act of shaving however, doesn’t contribute to thicker hair growth.

FACT: What might explain this phenomenon that many still swear by is that after shaving, stubbles appear which give the appearance of thick hair. However, once these stubbles start to grow out, it will be the same thickness as the hair before it.

Lie #4: “Eating watermelon seeds can cause appendicitis”

Appendicitis occurs when you have an infection of the appendix, which can be caused when debris is lodged in the tube-shaped sac. So, this “lie” should make sense, right?

FACT: Well, the answer is maybe. Some studies show there is a negligible correlation between swallowing fruit seeds and the onset of appendicitis. However, these studies do have their shortcomings as well. Therefore, it may be best to err on the side of caution and refrain from swallowing seeds. They don’t taste nice anyway. And definitely, don’t swallow durian seeds!

Lie #5: “Don’t give that kid candy or he will get a sugar rush.”

This is the biggest myth as many parents swear sugar is the culprit behind the hyperactivity of their toddlers.

Lie #6: “Chocolate gives you acne.”

Although this is a lie, don’t go grabbing that bar of Cadbury just yet. While previous studies have shown chocolate doesn’t cause acne, dermatologists point the finger at the sugar and fat content of chocolate, saying these ingredients can cause pimples. But this too has come under heavy criticism although subsequent studies show there just may be a link.

FACT: The jury is still out. Common sense says that if you experience a breakout after indulging in way too many Kinder Buenos, it’d be best to avoid them.

Lie #7: “Men don’t get breast cancer.”

This is a relatively modern myth. While the pink ribbon campaign to increase breast cancer awareness among women has been a success, men still often ignore early warning signs and are diagnosed only when the cancer is at an advanced stage.

FACT: Men also have breast tissue and after puberty develop ducts, lobules and connective tissues just like their female counterparts. The only difference is that women develop far more of these than men ever do. Even so, the male species can still get the same disease.

Lie #8: Vaccines can cause autism

This is a dangerous lie.

FACT: Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines not only protect the person who is vaccinated, but through the effect of herd immunity, has the power to eradicate diseases. No one who has been vaccinated has ever contracted polio and it would be a serious failure on the part of medical science if polio ever came back.

Lie #9: “Humans only use 10% of their brains.”

There’s a reason why people like this lie so much – it gives them some comfort that they actually have hidden potential.

FACT: Brain scans show that we use our whole brain pretty much most of the time. In fact our brain as a single organ consumes a high amount of energy given its relatively small size.

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DoctorOnCall is Malaysia’s first online clinic that allows chat, phone, and video calls directly with a registered Malaysian doctor at www.doctoroncall.com.my

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained here with other sources, and review all information with your physician. Please do not disregard professional medical advice or delay treatment because of something you have read here. FMT is not responsible and liable for any damage caused through information obtained here.

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