A myth develops when an idea or ethos is assumed to be “natural” or the way things are. It’s a way of naturalizing something that is not. Society and culture are built on our ability to create myths. It creates a consensus reality. Myths aren’t just about gods and goddesses. It’s not only the ancient Greeks and Romans, or tribal cultures in the Amazon that live by myths, all societies do. They are presuppositions we have which we take for granted as given.
Unfortunately what we assume to be true isn’t always the case. Instead of unquestionably believing something, it’s better to look at the evidence, to uncover the truth. We can go our whole life acting on assumptions that are wrong and suffer because of it. A good example of going beyond accepted knowledge is “Freakonomics” (S. Levitt & S. Dubner). The authors took commonly accepted truths and overturned them by researching the facts and uncovering the evidence.
Because we rely so much on the media and the Internet for information, myths are spread not only by word of mouth, but as fast as viruses. The downside of a mediated world where information spreads instantaneously is that misinformation also moves as quickly! It’s hard for the general public to separate what is true from fiction. When it comes to health and medical issues the situation is even worse. Most people rely on the biomedical establishment and government agencies for guidance. But there are often institutional and economic forces that keep them stuck in the status quo. They change slowly. It can take years before scientific research and new treatment approaches make it to doctors and health practitioners. They may also be uneducated about available effective alternatives.
Many people now use the Internet to look for answers. The Internet is a double-edged sword. You can find just as much misinformation as reliable answers. Anyone can publish anything and there are no editors or authorities to certify for accuracy. It’s more important then ever to use reliable sources and critical thinking before you accept something as a “truth”.
Here is a list of commonly accepted health myths:
1/ You need to eat dairy products to get enough calcium. False. Vegetables, like broccoli and kale contain the highest source of calcium.
2/ You can’t get enough protein if you don’t eat meat. False. Plant sources have the full range of amino acids and are an excellent source of protein (beans, legumes, quinoa, seeds, nuts). They are also low in fat. They only lack B12, which is not a protein.
3/ Taking antibiotics for a cold or flu can help. False. Antibiotics have zero effect on viruses, which are the cause of most colds and flu. Over-prescribing antibiotics has created stronger more resistant bacteria, which is a real danger.
4/ You need drugs, like statins to lower your cholesterol. False. An appropriate diet can work faster at lowering cholesterol. It’s also safer because statins have adverse side effects.
5/ Mental illness can be treated best using drugs and/or psychotherapy alone. False. Depression and other psychological problems can be treated more effectively using an integrated approach that includes lifestyle changes.
6/ Auto-immune diseases like arthritis, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), fibromyalgia and MS are not treatable. False. Many auto-immune diseases like psoriasis and arthritis can be treated successfully naturally, and others can be slowed and managed better.
7/ Many common allergies you are born with are only manageable with medication. False. Most airborne or seasonal allergies to hay or pollen and some food allergies can be successfully treated naturally.
8/ Type 2 diabetes is not curable. False. Unlike type 1 diabetes, adult onset type 2 is treatable naturally and in many cases is reversible.
9/ Taking antacids for heartburn and acid reflux solves the problem. False. They suppress the stomach’s ability to produce acid, which is needed for digestion. By suppressing the symptoms they damage the stomach lining.
10/ Calorie counting in order to lose weight is effective. Calories are not the only factor in weight management. If the body cannot absorb nutrients and eliminate waste effectively, and if you don’t exercise sufficiently your weight may be difficult to control.
These do not cover all the health and medical “myths” but they do cover many of the most common health issues people face. The bottom line is that the medical and health field is changing quickly today, and you can no longer take for granted what you and your parents took as truths. It’s good to question “truths” that have been taken for granted because many of them may no longer be valid. Your health and wealth may depend on it.