10FACT health issues or FICTION
DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT’S HEALTHY AND WHAT’S NOT? Elissa Doherty SEPARATES THE MYTHS FROM THE TRUTHS.
1 Is it okay to drink alcohol in moderation while I am pregnant? 2 Will vitamin D save my life? Should I really be taking four times the recommended daily dose? 3 How often do I need to have my teeth professionally cleaned?
There are no known safe levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of problems in foetal development, but the level of drinking that causes significant foetal problems is not known.
Drinking may also be associated with miscarriage, prematurity, small and sickly babies, slow growth in pregnancy, stillbirth, learning problems and, for extreme drinkers, foetal alcohol syndrome.
It can also be associated with poor appetite and nutrition, which has a significant impact on your child.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that if you are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant, you should consider not drinking at all. If you choose to drink, make sure you have less than seven standard drinks over a week and no more than two standard drinks (spread over at least two hours) in one day. It won’t hurt, but there is no strong evidence that taking high doses of vitamin D will do any good either, says a government health spokesperson.
Vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults, and is now thought to increase the risk of many diseases, including some types of cancer.
Maintaining a normal level of this vitamin in the blood is therefore important, yet deficiency is widespread for many reasons: a lack of sunlight, widespread use of sunscreens and spending the daylight hours indoors.
Your GP can arrange a blood test to check for vitamin D deficiency, and any problems can easily be corrected with a dose of 800 to 1000 units a day.
This will protect against osteoporotic fractures, particularly when combined with calcium for elderly women.
Just use common sense. Make the most of sunlight in winter and limit your exposure to it in summer. It depends on the individual patient and can vary from three months to two years, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).
The better a patient’s oral hygiene, the slower the bacteria will build up in the teeth and gums.
Daily flossing and cleaning of other parts of the mouth, such as the tongue, are recommended.
“A history of gum disease puts a patient at risk of more rapid bacterial repopulation of the teeth and gums, and so [ they may] require more frequent professional cleaning,” says ADA president Dr Neil Hewson.
Your dentist can advise you on the appropriate spacing of professional cleans.
5 Are the new birth control pills that eliminate periods really safe?
4 Can diet soft drinks kill me?
Yes. Sexual health experts say you can even use the normal contraceptive pill to miss your period by skipping the sugar tablets. You have an artificial period when you are on the pill, known as a withdrawal bleed.
Not having a period won’t stop the side effects of menstruation, but it may curb some of them.
6 How many glasses of water do I really need to drink a day?
Drinking water is important for your health, but there’s no need to go overboard.
Kidney specialist Dr Chen Au Peh, from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, says 1.5 litres a day is plenty for healthy people with normal kidney function.
“There are no scientific reasons to drink more than this,” he says.
People working outdoors on a hot day or running a marathon will need more to keep hydrated due to their sweat levels. But Dr Peh says too much water, more than 20 litres a day, can actually lead to “water intoxication” and put your health in danger as it causes sodium levels in the blood to fall.
7 How long am I contagious when I have the flu or a cold?
The common cold is usually contagious from one day before symptoms begin and for the first five days of illness, according to Dr Katina D’Onise, a medical consultant in the Communicable Disease Control Branch at the South Australian Health Department.
Influenza, known as flu, is usually contagious for the first three to five days of illness in adults, but can be contagious for much longer in younger children ( up to 21 days).
Can I trust my tap water?
Yes, unless you are using a private well or other source. Safety is maintained by a comprehensive management system that assures water quality in line with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. This includes continuous monitoring of processes such as filtration and disinfection.
You can add a filter to your tap if you are concerned.
9 Is it okay to cleanse your body by fasting from time to time?
There is no such concept as “cleansing”, says the CSIRO. For healthy people, the system is well equipped to keep the body free of impurities and remove toxins.
Do your research before embarking on a short liquid fast or cleanse. Extreme fasting can backfire.
10 Is red wine good for you?