Health Myth or Fact?

Who Do You Trust?
Can you catch the flu from the flu shot? Is gluten bad for you? Can you skip sunscreen on a cloudy day? Who knows the truth? Is it your mother or the neighbor who likes to give advice?

There are few things in our day-to-day life as loaded with misinformation or made-up facts than personal health. It is one of those common areas where scientific fact and emotional response find themselves overlapping. It’s not a surprise that some things get misstated or misinterpreted in the translation from one person to another and another. Compounding the misinformation are the ad campaigns for new products, headline-catching fad diets and inevitably questionable tips and alternative facts about diet and exercise.

Trust your healthcare expert
When it comes to health information, your best bet is to talk to your healthcare provider. Kelsey Allen, MSN, RN, RNP-BC, a nurse practitioner with Shore Physicians Group’s primary care practice in Margate, added her expertise to the health “fact or fiction” debate.

Will the flu shot give you the flu?
The answer is no. Allen said the flu vaccine is made from and inactivated or killed form of the flu virus and it cannot give you the flu. Should you get sick after the flu vaccine, Allen said that you were likely going to get sick anyway and it had nothing to do with the vaccine itself.

Should you starve a cold or feed it?
The old adage, “feed a cold and starve a fever” has been around for centuries. But is it true? The truth is, according to Allen, eating stimulates a kind of immune response to combat viral infections. So that bowl of steaming hot chicken soup will help warm you up as well as help you fight off that bug.

Is starving yourself an effective tool for weight loss?
This received a strong “No” from Allen. “While starving yourself may result in weight loss initially, it is not an effective tool for long term weight loss. Sometimes starving yourself to achieve a weight loss may lead to a weight gain.” This kind of diet, without a sustainable plan other than to just eat very little is too difficult to maintain. A few days of extreme food restriction can then lead you to overeat and undo the calorie deficit you created. Dramatic changes in eating habits to achieve a quick fix weight loss can also lead people down the path of eating disorders.

Will eating before bed make you overweight?
Allen said the consensus is that the time of day you are eating doesn’t matter, it is what you are eating. If your daily calorie intake does not exceed the calories you expend, you will not gain weight. Typically, eating at night occurs after dinner, and usually involves snacking on higher calorie foods, which would lead to weight gain.

If you are hungry before bed, don’t starve yourself. Instead, have a small protein-packed snack that could increase your metabolism. As long as you are on track for the day with calories and expending more than you take in, then eating something before bed will not hamper your goals.

Is gluten bad?
The whole gluten-free lifestyle is mainstream, with grocery store shelves filled with foods that are gluten free. But is gluten really bad for you? Allen said, no, gluten is not bad. “With the exception of people who have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, there is no evidence to suggest you should avoid gluten for health reasons if you tolerate it well.”

Individuals who have celiac disease require a strict gluten free diet because gluten causes an adverse reaction in the body which damages the intestines and can lead to serious health problems.

You only need sunblock when the sun is out
This is another myth busted. Allen said, “Ultraviolet rays are always present during the day, whether it is cloudy or not. Sunscreen is necessary year-round. The only time sunscreen is not necessary is at nighttime. To decrease exposure to UV rays, use a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum SPF value of 15 or higher and take other precautions like limiting your hours of exposure and wearing a hat and sunglasses.

Are veggie chips just like eating vegetables?
“Veggie chips are a misleading snack that convinces people they are eating healthy,” said Allen. “The vegetables in the chips lose most of their nutritional value when made into chips and are definitely not a substitute for fresh vegetables.” That myth is busted and it is a much better choice to reach for fresh broccoli over green chips made with broccoli that are also packed with salt and saturated fat. For some real veggie chips consider making your own by slicing vegetables, drizzling some olive oil over the top and baking them.

Tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy
Myth! The verdict is in and the turkey has been found not guilty. Just because you want to take a long nap after that huge Thanksgiving dinner, don’t blame the tryptophan. Allen said the turkey is not the only source of tryptophan as it is also present in other meats as well. The drowsiness felt after a big meal is likely caused by the high carb stuffing and mashed potatoes that sit innocently alongside the turkey.

Is sitting too long the new smoking?
Smoking has been associated with increased risks of chronic disease and premature death, said Allen. “While leading a sedentary lifestyle does have risks, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle are two very different things and cannot be equated. However, regular exercise can help decrease many risks of chronic disease.”

To make an appointment with Kelsey Allen MSN, RN, RNP-BC or another member of the Shore Physicians Group team at the Margate office located at 9501 Ventnor Avenue, call 609-822-4800.