Top Scary Health Myths Women Can Stop Worrying About
No one is immune to a good myth, especially when it’s regarding our health and well-being, and with the advent of the internet, it’s even easier to succumb to the newest health myth and the hysteria behind it. It can be hard to make heads or tails of a health myth, and you may feel silly bringing it up to your physician, so we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are the top five scary (and some ridiculous) health myths women can stop worrying about!
Myth: Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, will give you cancer.
Artificial sweeteners have had an increasingly bad rap for years, especially aspartame. But science has cleared at least one accusation off its rap list—aspartame does not cause cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer has yet to be consistently linked to the general consumption of aspartame, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to back aspartame’s safety.
So most people who enjoy artificial sweeteners over regular sugar are out of the woods, but artificial sweeteners do pose a threat to those who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is a rare genetic disorder in which the body cannot break down phenylalanine, an amino acid found in many foods and artificial sweeteners. Before you self-diagnose, though, it’s important to know that PKU is usually detected in babies during routine blood tests shortly after birth; it is not something that can develop later in life.
Myth: Using deodorant can give you breast cancer.
Most everyone loves to feel and smell fresh, but when rumors started floating around about deodorants’ potentially cancer-causing ingredients, many people started second-guessing their favorite stick or spray. The idea is that since deodorant is applied so close to the breast area, its “harmful” ingredients, like aluminum and parabens, can contribute to the development of breast cancer. But according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there is no scientific evidence linking the use of deodorants or antiperspirants to breast cancer.
Since breast cancer is caused by multiple factors, from genetics to environment, experts say there is no one singular thing, like deodorant, that is solely responsible for its development. Instead, they suggest focusing on factors that are known to reduce your risk for cancer, like eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, maintaining a regular exercise routine, moderating your alcohol consumption, and getting regular screenings that fit with your risk factors.
Myth: Coffee causes cancer.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Even coffee has been pegged for causing cancer. The saying “there can always be too much of a good thing” definitely applies to coffee, between hyperactivity, headaches, insomnia and even gastrointestinal disturbances, but when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in the early ’90s that coffee was a “possible carcinogenic”, coffee earned an understandably bad reputation.
The average American woman drinks 1.6 cups of coffee a day, so coffee being carcinogenic can be a real concern, but thanks to a recent reversal of stance by WHO, coffee-devotees can sip their favorite beverage with a little less guilt now. After reviewing over 1,000 studies on coffee’s effects on humans and animals, researchers could not find enough evidence to consider coffee a carcinogenic.
As with anything, though, there is a catch. If you like your coffee—or any beverage—piping hot (at or above 158 degrees Fahrenheit), you may be increasing your risk of developing esophageal cancers. So enjoy your coffee and the many health benefits it offers, but you may want to let it cool down a bit before consuming.
Myth: Gluten is the cause of almost every ailment.
Almost everywhere you go, you will see an advertisement for “gluten-free” items. In recent years, gluten has been blamed for causing anything from depression and anxiety to eczema and indigestion, but unless you have celiac disease, which affects roughly one percent of Americans, it’s unlikely that gluten is causing your symptoms.
The more likely culprit, according to experts, is fermentable, poorly-absorbed short-chain carbohydrates called FODMAPs. Since FODMAPs are found in gluten-heavy foods like bread and pasta, it can be easy to blame gluten.
If you believe you might have a gluten sensitivity or have celiac disease, it’s best to get tested by your doctor first before cutting gluten out of your diet. If you do not test positive for a gluten allergy, but still have concerns, a health care professional can work with you to help figure out what’s really causing your symptoms.
Myth: Birth control and antibiotics cancel each other out.
For decades, women have had to choose between their birth control pills and clearing up a bacterial infection. Well, research suggests that the only antibiotic proven to impact the efficacy of birth control pills is rifampin, which is typically prescribed to treat tuberculosis.
According the American Academy of Dermatology, hormone levels remain unchanged when certain popular antibiotics are taken along with birth control pills. These antibiotics include:
That being said, birth control pills may make other drugs less effective, such as blood pressure medications and certain painkillers. Birth control pills may also increase the effects of certain drugs, like antidepressants, bronchodilators and tranquilizers. It’s always important to read the instructions and interactions pamphlet that comes with your medication and to speak to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you may have. To quell any pregnancy concerns, you can always use an alternative form of contraception until you finish your course of antibiotics.
With everything the modern woman has to keep track of, worrying about every myth that pops up on your social media feed is the last thing you need to add to your plate. If you come across a myth that seems too absurd to be true, it probably is, but doing a little bit of research can usually debunk it before it consumes your thoughts. And if you’re ever in doubt, by all means, bring it up to your doctor. Odds are they’ve already heard the myth before and can give you some clarity.
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