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We live in a complex world, but most of us lack expertise in more than a few subjects or disciplines, if that. We hear a lot of claims, some of which seem strange and have been passed down from one generation to another for decades or even centuries. They’re usually products of hearsay, superstition, tradition, false assumptions, advertising, and other dubious sources.

Unfortunately, we rarely investigate these statements, some of which have become mantras and axioms that we believe because, it seems, everyone else does. This list of ten misconceptions about our bodies gives examples of the myths that many of us still believe even today.

Related: 10 Common Misconceptions Regarding Natural Phenomena

10 Lost Eyelashes Mean Bad Luck

Michael Van Der Ham begins his article about lost eyelashes with an interesting, if odd, rhetorical question, wondering whether his readers have ever heard the superstition that “if your eyelashes fall out, it means someone is speaking ill of you.” If not, the reason isn’t that the misconception is new; “This old wives’ tale has been around for years,” he says. It’s true, too, that we lose our eyelashes.

They fall out, from time to time, due to genetics, age, certain medical conditions, rubbing one’s eyes, or using “harsh makeup removers or mascaras.” But the occasional loss of eyelashes doesn’t mean we will go blind, receive what we wish for (as long as we blow the dropped eyelash away), or the missing lash won’t be replaced by a new one. In short, lost eyelashes don’t mean bad luck.[1]

9 We Can Sweat Out Toxins and Sweat Off Fat

Many of us have heard, and may still believe, that we can sweat out toxins and sweat off fat. We can’t. We all sweat—it’s a natural reaction, after all—but its main purpose is to cool our bodies down. In fact, our sweat is made up of 99% water. So there’s not much room left to draw out all those bad things from our bodies that those health retreats and saunas claim.

The idea that we could do either is nothing more than a misconception. Only our livers, aided by our kidneys, can accomplish the first feat, and all we sweat off in a sauna or while exercising is water weight. As Dr. Pariser, a professor of dermatology, points out, “The next time [we] drink a glass of water, that weight will all be back.”[2]

8 Fluoride Is Hazardous to Our Health

Even today, some people are convinced that fluoride is hazardous to their health—and everybody else’s, too. In fact, during the 1940s and 1950s, when water fluoridation was being introduced across the United States, conspiracy theories denouncing this practice as “a communist plot” or as “a government mind-control trick” flourished.

According to an American Council on Science and Health article by Susan Goldhaber, who has a master’s degree in public health, lawsuits have now replaced conspiracy theories. When opposing parties could not reconcile their opposing positions, a judge postponed a trial pending the publication of the National Toxicology Program’s report on the “Neurotoxicity of Fluoride.”

While the report did find that evidence showed a possible link between fluoride and lower IQs, Goldhaber asserts that correlation differs from causation and notes that not all studies found a link between fluoridation and lower IQs and that “many additional factors need to be considered before causation can be determined.”

Matthew Solan, the executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, dismisses the notion that fluoride is hazardous to our health, stating that “numerous studies refute claims that the usual level of fluoride in drinking water causes heart disease, allergies, genetic abnormalities,” and a host of other problems. However, he admits that fluoride can be dangerous when ingested excessively, but only if a person drinks “5,000 to 10,000 glasses of fluoridated water in a single day.”[3]

7 Only Women Develop Varicose Veins

Although more women than men may get varicose veins, men are also affected by this condition. Thanks to their genes, over 20 million Americans have varicose veins, according to the American Society for Vascular Surgery. Since heredity, not sex, determines whose veins become varicose, men, as well as women, have a chance to acquire these swollen or knotted blood vessels.

Fortunately, it’s also a misconception that surgery is the only solution to such veins. According to Piedmont Healthcare, varicose veins can be managed by such noninvasive procedures as wearing compression hose, exercising daily, reducing the amount of salt in one’s diet, elevating the legs, and losing weight. [4]

6 Cracking Knuckles Causes Arthritis and Enlarges Them

Okay. Eyelash loss doesn’t cause bad luck, and fluoride is a safe water additive, but surely, cracking one’s knuckles causes arthritis and enlarges the knuckles themselves. Right?

Wrong. This is another persistent misconception about our bodies that many of us still believe. After all, cracking or popping knuckles can sound alarming (and painful). When the knuckle is popped, a vacuum is created as the capsule covering the knuckle stretches. This vacuum causes gases in the synovial fluid, a lubricant inside the capsule, to rush in, filling the void.

The habit may be annoying, but as the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center points out, there is no evidence that”cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in the joints,” nor does the practice worsen existing arthritis. Cracking knuckles can also feel good. “Cracked knuckles feel looser and enjoy more mobility for a while after cracking.”

Although some recent tests suggest that popping knuckles may weaken grip strength, other recent tests indicate that “chronic knuckle cracking could cause [an] increase [in the] range of motion in the fingers.”

But what about the perception that popping one’s knuckles makes them bigger? Research shows that it’s not likely, plastic surgeon Lara Devgan assures us. However, the practice could cause swelling of the hands as a person ages.[5]

5 Our Ears Need to Be Cleaned Out

To ensure good health, we may believe we need to clean out our ears now and then. That may be the case for 5% of us, but for the rest, the idea is a misconception. “For 95% percent of the population,” registered nurse Lisa Hellwege informs her readers, their ears clean themselves. As she explains, skin follicles lining the ear canal perform a “conveyor belt function, moving dirt, earwax, and other particles to the front of the ear. Over a period of time, typically a few months, [this debris] either falls out or washes away.”

There is no need to clean out our ears unless excessive earwax accumulates. In this relatively unlikely event, our bodies will let us know. Signs and symptoms of this include “hearing loss, a feeling of fullness or blockage, tinnitus, itching, pain, discharge, odour or a cough,” Hellwege says.[6]

4 Dandruff Is Caused by a Dry Scalp

Dandruff is flaky, both literally and figuratively. Nobody, except maybe shareholders in a company that sells dandruff shampoo, wants to see it sprinkled over anyone’s shoulders. Usually, the labels on dandruff shampoos state that they are designed to clean and moisturize dry scalp. They may well be. However, dandruff, although it can be associated with dry scalp, is not caused by this condition.

As the Cleveland Clinic points out, dry scalp, which can become itchy and flaky, can be caused by contact dermatitis (possibly as a result of the shampoo being used), low humidity, cold climate, aging, or more serious ailments. These include psoriasis, scalp ringworm, or actinic keratosis, a precancerous condition that should prompt a visit to a dermatologist. Such symptoms as “constant itching, red rash, [or a scalp that is] swollen [and] warm or painful to the touch” also warrant a trip to the dermatologist’s office. The type of treatment for dry scalp is indicated by its cause. To alleviate itch, using a gentle, moisturizing shampoo, shampooing less often, managing stress, increasing water intake, quitting smoking, and using a humidifier are recommended.

So, what causes dandruff? Too much oil and too little moisture could cause skin cells to pile up. As the Clinic notes, “Your scalp may appear red, oily, and scaly. The scales quickly flake off, and then dandruff appears.” In short, a non-medicated, gentle shampoo for dry scalp can help stop the dryness and flakes, reducing flaking and alleviating itching.[7]

3 Fat Is Unhealthy

Certainly, we all know that fat is not good for us. Fat causes heart disease. It also elevates blood glucose, raises cholesterol, and fattens us up. In a word, fat is unhealthy. Each of these beliefs is, in fact, a misconception. As The Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes article “Debunking Myths About Fat” points out, part of the concern that many of us still have concerning fat is based on the fact that there is not just one type of fat, but four: saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fat.

We do need fat in our diets, in fact. As the article notes, fats provide energy, “essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t make.” They help us to regulate hormones, body temperature, immune function, reproduction, insulin signaling, and nutrient absorption. To prevent fat from raising blood glucose, replace carbohydrates or saturated fat with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which do not elevate either total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).

While it’s true that trans fats do raise cholesterol, it’s unclear whether saturated fat does so; the latter may elevate LDL cholesterol. For this reason, it is recommended that trans fats be eliminated from one’s diet and that saturated fats be limited. Finally, people whose diets include moderate or high consumption of fat were found to lose just as much weight or more than people who eat a low-fat diet, indicating that “dietary fat doesn’t automatically convert to body fat.”[8]

2 Wounds Won’t Heal without Air

We’ve all probably heard it: “Wounds won’t heal without air.” Many of us are likely still to believe this counsel. Unfortunately, it’s just as much a misconception as the other mistaken beliefs on this list. Tim Newman’s Medical News Today website article explodes this myth. In fact, the opposite is true.

As Hywel C. Williams, professor of dermato-epidemiology, explains, “Wounds heal better with a clean, moist environment.” Especially during the early stages of healing, Williams’s colleague, dermatologist Dr. Beth G. Goldstein, adds, “Cells migrate better to initiate and continue healing in a moist environment.” Keeping a wound covered with Aquaphor or similar ointment and a bandage is ideal, provided no infection is present.[9]

1 We Have Only One Nose

“Everything I Thought I Knew About Nasal Congestion Is Wrong,” Sarah Zhang confesses in the title of her Atlantic article. One of the things about which she was in error was her belief that she has only one nose. In fact, she discovered that she, like the rest of us, actually has two noses. She learned her lesson from Ronald Eccles, a nose expert who ran the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in Wales.

Viewed from the inside rather than from the outside, it’s clear that each nostril opens into its own nasal cavity, which does not connect with the other directly. They are “two separate organs, as separate as your two eyes or your two ears,” and they “work in an alternating cycle that is somehow connected to our armpits.”

The nose is also rather like the penis, Zhabg reveals. Our noses contain erectile tissue that can engorge with blood, and infection or allergies can “amplify the swelling” so much that the “nasal passages become completely blocked.” It is the swelling of this tissue, she adds, not mucus, that is the primary cause of a stuffy nose. By “shrinking the nose’s blood vessels, decongestants open the nasal passages for temporary relief.[10]

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