*Editor’s Note: No website is designed to, and can not be construed to, provide actual medical advice, professional diagnosis or treatment to you or anyone. Elephant is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional advice, care and treatment.
Chances are that if you’re interested in yoga or healthy living, you’ve received a lot of health tips.
I have, and the sources have included massage therapists, nutritionists, doctors—both mainstream and holistic—and midwives. (Then there are also the various books and articles I have read over the years.)
While some of the advice I have gotten has been good, for example: eat lots of green vegetables, get plenty of sleep, take Omega-3 fatty acid supplements—some hasn’t been good and often doesn’t have basis in fact.
Below are five common health tips most of us can ignore. We’ve probably all heard them before and some of us may even feel guilty for not having followed them. If you happen to fall into the latter, then stop. While most of these won’t hurt us, there isn’t any evidence they are doing much good.
1. Drink eight glasses of water a day.
There’s no denying that water is essential for health. Indeed without water, we would die. However, the popular “eight glasses of water a day” is a myth according to kidney and nutrition specialists.
In a 2012, Speros Tsindos from the department of dietetics and human nutrition at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia said, “”Humans need to maintain fluid balance and need to drink water when required, but should also consider fluid in unprocessed fruits and vegetables and juices. There is further evidence that water and a well-balanced diet does far more than water alone.”
Also, contrary to popular belief, caffeine-containing beverages such as soda and coffee do not lead to dehydration.
So, how do we know if we are getting enough water? The answer is to look at your urine: a dark color suggests the need for more water while pale, nearly clear or completely clear urine indicates too much water.
2. Avoid high heels in order to prevent bunions.
Ask anyone who suffers from these maladies, and they will tell you that bunions suck. There simply is no other way to describe these unsightly, painful bumps that form at the base of the big toes or in some cases, the pinkie toes.
While wearing high heels for long periods of time is generally not recommended for the strain they can cause on the low back as well as the tendency to cause shortening of the heel cords (and they certainly can make bunions ache more than usual) they have nothing to do with whether or not we get bunions.
According to Dr. Suzanne Levine in her classic book on footcare, My Feet are Killing Me, as well as other experts, bunions are genetic. Therefore, if you have ’em and want someone or something to blame, blame your genes rather than your footwear.
As Dr. Levine points out, bunions are found even in people who come from cultures that never or rarely wear shoes. Therefore, stop blaming yourself and seek expert care if you have bunions.
3. Take an antioxidant supplement.
We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us and one of the main reasons they are is because they contain antioxidants. Scientists who study aging have long touted antioxidants for their ability to protect the cells from free radical damage.
Thereby, it seems like it would make sense to take a supplement especially since they usually contain higher doses than what is naturally found in most fruits and vegetables.
After all, isn’t more better?
Well, not always.
Megadoses of some antioxidants like Vitamin A, E, and selenium can lead to problems. (For example, there is a possible association between the last one and an increased risk of skin cancer.)
Also, smokers who take high levels of antioxidant supplements may actually be at a greater risk for developing tumors.
Most experts agree that this is a good example of where it is best to skip the supplements and stick with the stuff found in nature.
4. Brush your teeth after each meal.
Confession time: I never did this and felt guilty.
Turns out, I may have actually been saving the health of my teeth by “only” brushing twice a day.
The fact is brushing leaves the teeth vulnerable to acid and can erode away enamel.
If you must brush after every meal, then wait 30 minutes to an hour, and always use a soft toothbrush.
5. Brush your hair 100 times a day for a healthy scalp and hair.
I can remember my grandmother telling me this, and I can also remember reading the Little House books as a kid and Ma Ingalls making Laura promise to brush her hair “at least 100 times a day” after noticing how dry it got from the summer sun.
It turns out that doing so probably harmed more than helped.
The fact is, over-brushing can weaken the hair’s cuticle causing the hair—especially damaged hair like Laura’s—to break more easily. Plus, while it is true that brushing can help distribute the hair’s natural oils, most of us are helped far more from commercial conditioners. In other words, over-brushing can also lead to greasy hair.
Therefore, brush less rather than more frequently and use a wide tooth comb to detangle wet hair than a brush since the latter can also cause hair breakage.
In conclusion, just like any other advice we receive, we should take health advice with a healthy dose of skepticism especially since so many “tried and true facts” like the ones above have been proven to be false. While most won’t harm us, some like the advice to take megadoses of antioxidants may.
When in doubt, ask someone who is an expert in the field. Doing so may ultimately save us time, money, and our health.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: David Drexler/Flickr