10 common health myths you seriously need to stop believing

Health confusion seems to be at an all-time high nowadays: On Instagram, Twitter and blogs there are “expert” opinions on everything, from diet to fertility to sex. Here, we dispel 10 health myths so you can make your decisions with confidence, whether you’re trying to cure a UTI or overhauling your diet.

Drink eight glasses of water per day
There’s so much talk about water these days that leaving the house without your Swell bottle can induce a state of panic. People who drink gallons of water are often guilty of humble bragging about it, too. But those hourly trips to the bathroom could be in vain: According to Dietitians Canada, women should be drinking about 9 cups (2.2 litres) of fluids per day, which includes milk, tea, coffee (yes, coffee!), broth and juice. Of course, water is always the top choice, and most people aren’t at risk of drinking too much water. If it’s a hot day or you’re exercising, have some extra H2O.

Lie with your hips elevated for over an hour after sex if you want to get pregnant
The topic of pregnancy is one fraught with confusion. Now you can rest assured that you don’t need to lay around after sex to get pregnant. “Sperm that have been ejaculated into the vagina are in the Fallopian tubes within seconds,” says Dr. Fay Weisberg, a Toronto-based gynecologist and infertility specialist, and owner of FemRenew, “and lying after intercourse does nothing to enhance fertility and may lead to bladder infections.” So pee promptly after sex, ladies, to ward off those dreaded UTIs.

Drink cranberry juice to treat a UTI
This is one made headlines again when Ocean Spray (you know, the juice company) sponsored a study about the face-puckering fruit claiming that it did, indeed, help prevent UTIs. The problem with this study is the shady research methods, according to Vox. Some people claim that cranberry juice or pills do indeed help prevent the annoying infections, but keep in mind it’s not a treatment for an infection—at that point, it’s likely too late to treat by chugging sugary juice. Go to your doctor instead of the grocery store.

Use vitamin C to prevent the common cold
In the winter we often up our intake of vitamin C to ward off the common cold, but does it really work? According to research, not really, though it could reduce the duration of the symptoms. Because many fruits and veggies are rich in vitamin C (peppers, oranges, strawberries), it might seem like the nutrient itself reduces your risk of getting sick. But it’s probably because eating a healthy, balanced diet is plain old good for your immune system, so that could help reduce your chances of catching a cold. To prevent the common cold, practise good hand-washing hygiene.

You can’t get pregnant while you have your period
Probably not, but this all depends on the length of your cycle. For most women, according to the Mayo Clinic, menstrual cycles fall between 21 and 35 days long, and for some women irregular periods make their fertile days completely unpredictable. Since sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to 5 days, a woman who has a short or irregular cycle could hypothetically get pregnant if she has sex on the latter days of her period, that is if a resilient sperm hangs out for a while. Yes, a lot of factors are at play here but bottom line is if you don’t want to get pregnant, use a method of birth control—even during your period. Sorry.

Go outdoors without sunscreen to get vitamin D
You might be holding on tight to this old excuse, but it’s just that: an excuse. While being deficient in vitamin D is a legit health concern, a study out of Australia—where rates of skin cancer are highest in the world—showed that there was no significant difference in levels of vitamin D between those who wore sunscreen and those who didn’t. The researchers say this is probably because sunscreen doesn’t completely eliminate the rays from coming in, and we’re never 100 per cent covered from head to toe, so some rays make their way through. So if you want to go out without sunscreen to get a tan, just admit to it; don’t blame it on vitamin D.

Cure a yeast infection with a clove of garlic
When you’re suffering from a yeast infection, most people will try pretty much anything to stop the itchy, burning, horrible discomfort. But stick a garlic clove up your hoo-ha? Not so sure about that. While some people swear by it, Dr. Weisberg says it could do more harm than good. “Believe it or not, there was actually a study that looked at garlic and yeast. There is no evidence that inserting garlic into the vagina will cure a yeast infection. In fact, it may enhance the irritation and burn.” Plus, who really wants to smell like garlic?

Do a juice cleanse to rid your body of toxins
There’s no doubt that drinking a nutrient-packed green juice is good for your health—nowadays, many of us aren’t consuming enough fruits and vegetables, so any way to increase our intake is a good thing. But when people start saying that a juice can help you rid your body of toxins, that’s cause for concern: According to a recent article in the New York Times, there’s no scientific data that proves this. Also, our liver, kidneys and lungs do a fine job already at detoxifying our bodies. Many nutrition experts advise just eating the whole fruit or vegetable, rather than juicing it, so you can get the benefit of fibre, which is not only good for your digestion, but also helps slow down the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream. We love our rainbow-hued juices as much as you do, so incorporate one into a balanced diet. And maybe don’t treat it like a magic potion.

There are no extra health benefits to the Pill
The Pill is often slammed for all kinds of things like causing blood clots and breast cancer. But according to Dr. Weisberg, “These risks are very small. There are, however, some wonderful extra benefits to the pill that are often forgotten: It regulates irregular periods, decreases blood flow in women with heavy periods, helps decrease painful periods and can decrease the chances of both ovarian and uterine cancer significantly—40 to 60 per cent decrease in ovarian cancer and 50 per cent decrease in uterine cancer.” If you still don’t feel like the Pill is for you—which could be the case for some—it’s worth talking to your doctor about other options, like IUDs.

To achieve a lean, toned body, you should avoid heavy weights
Wrong. It’s easy to picture ourselves walking around like bodybuilders if we so much as pick up a heavier weight, but it’s just not easy to get to that point because females have lower testosterone than males, as well as different body compositions. In fact, when we lift heavy, over time we build muscle mass, which can boost our metabolisms and blast fat (read: leaner bodies). For best results, make strength training a part of a balanced fitness plan, which includes cardio and mobility training. You can design your own customized plan on the revamped Nike Training Club app.