10FACT health is­sues or FIC­TION

DO YOU RE­ALLY KNOW WHAT’S HEALTHY AND WHAT’S NOT? Elissa Do­herty SEP­A­RATES THE MYTHS FROM THE TRUTHS.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - Health -

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).

8

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?

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