Healthy Living

Debunking 6 Health Myths Your Mom Warned You About: Gum Doesn’t Stay In Your Stomach For Years

Crossing the eyes
Your eyes won't get stuck if you cross them, basically. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

“If you cross your eyes, they’ll be stuck that way forever!” It was hard not to believe your mother when she warned you about these things. However, most of these old wives' tales about health have little to no evidence to back them up; below you'll find a few debunked.

Sitting Too Close To The TV

This myth might have held more truth in the 1950s and 60s, when television sets produced far more levels of radiation than they do today (as much as 100,000 times more than what was considered safe by federal standards). Currently, TVs are safe and have levels of radiation so low that they wouldn't negatively affect your eyes.

Staring at a TV screen won’t exactly destroy your eyesight, but your eyes could always use some focusing practice. Stare off into the distance, then focus again on something closer to your face, and do this several times for eyesight exercise. “Focusing difficulties and convergence issues can be improved with eye exercises,” Harvey Moscot, an optometrist in NYC, told ABC News, but “it does take a commitment and it does take time. In some adults those exercises are helpful, but not all and those are variable.”

Reading In Dim Light Will Ruin Your Eyes

No, reading in dimmer light won’t make you go blind. “There is no reason to believe nor evidence to support that any long-term damage to the eyes or change in the physiology to the eyes can be caused by reading in the dark,” Dr. Jim Sheedy, a doctor of vision science and director of the Vision Performance Institute at Oregon’s Pacific University, told the Wall Street Journal.

However, Sheedy notes that reading in dimmer light could actually make your eyes tired. Having an additional effort to change focus in lack of light, with dilated pupils, could wear out your eyes. But this won’t cause any serious long-term damage.

Stop Cracking Your Knuckles/Neck!

It seems so wrong, but it feels oh, so right… Cracking that stiffness in your neck is incredibly satisfying. And mothers are often distressed at the sound of their kids cracking various joints in their bodies as though they were hearing their bones snap in half.

But there is no evidence that cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis, according to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. In spite of this lack of connection between cracking knuckles and arthritis, some studies have shown that knuckle-cracking could lead to an increased risk of ligament injury – and some habitual knuckle crackers could have reduced grip strength, but the likelihood of these effects are quite small.

Don’t Cross Your Eyes, They’ll Stick That Way

“Fortunately, these tiny muscles that control eye function are like other muscles in the body: they may fatigue, but they are resilient,” Robert Shmerling writes on Harvard Health Publications. “Your body, including your eyes, evolved to handle a lot of daily wear and tear.” So you won’t do any harm to eyes if you cross them, and they certainly won’t get stuck that way.

You’re More Likely To Get Sick When You’re Cold And Have Wet Hair

You certainly may be in pain walking around in the winter time with wet hair (and your hair might even freeze a little), but studies have shown that you’re just as likely to catch a virus with dry hair. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, not by catching a “chill,” unless it’s bad enough to spur hyperthomia. “Scientists have studied this really well,” Dr. Rachel Vreeman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, told ABC News. “They’ve put cold viruses in the noses of two groups of people. One group was exposed to cold/wet conditions, and people who were chilled were no more likely to get sick than those who weren’t.”

Gum Stays In Your Stomach For Years

Fortunately, your digestive system is pretty efficient. It's built to break food down within hours, so it's highly improbable that a piece of gum would somehow remain "stuck" in the lining of your stomach for years. Gum is made up of four main components; flavorings, sweeteners, and softeners are easily broken down in the intestines, while the gum base is a bit tougher. But that, too, ultimately goes down the route to waste once the digestive system recognizes it as useless to the body. However, in very rare cases, swallowing several pieces of gum in a short time period could cause digestive blockages. But this is incredibly rare.

Now you can go ahead and crack your knuckles and swallow as much gum as you want, worry free! But your parents may have been right about one thing: touching your tongue to a frozen pole in the winter time will get it stuck. So yeah, don’t ever do that.

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