There are seven popular medical myths circulating among the general public today.
Unverified facts have a way of spreading.
Research studies are particularly easy to misinterpret, even by those people with a sincere interest in medicine and science.
Often, such stories circulate because they seem like they should be true, not always because they are factual.
Becoming aware of these medical myths beforehand will help you at your next yearly physical exam – when you work with your own medical doctor to form the self-care strategies that will most benefit your health.
In his compelling new book Unconventional Medicine, functional-medicine advocate Chris Kresser clarifies the biggest challenge our culture is facing today – chronic disease – and sets out to separate fact from fiction.
Functional medicine is a style of medical treatment that first addresses the “why?” behind symptoms.
For example, if a person has blood work done in the lab that reveals high cholesterol, the functional-medicine practitioner would seek first to discover why the cholesterol is high before prescribing prescription drugs to lessen symptoms.
While genetics might be a factor in that high cholesterol, the larger reason is perhaps attributable to lifestyle habits – or other reasons such as poor thyroid function, infections, or intestinal permeability, for example.
“Group-Think is a problem in medicine,” says Kresser. “We have a tendency to get stuck on the status quo, even though a core principle of science is: uncertainty. We have to be willing to challenge our most cherished views.”
Below are a few of the medical myths currently rampant in our culture.
For more information regarding each of these myths – including research studies – see the Additional Sources section toward the end of this article.
Please consult with your own doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes.
Medical Myth 1: Every Problem Can Be Solved by Medication Alone
What is a human body trying to communicate to its owner when it creates a symptom?
Taking a synthetic pill to mask a symptom can sometimes be problematic, especially if taking the pill prevents a person from discovering why the symptom is presenting in the first place.
Not every problem can be solved by medication alone.
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Medical Myth 2: Cholesterol Intake from Food Always Directly Correlates to Serum Cholesterol
Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the US government no longer include suggested restrictions on cholesterol intake, as of 2016.
There is no longer a reason for every single person to aggressively limit cholesterol intake from their daily menu.
Cholesterol intake from food does not always correlate directly to serum cholesterol.
Medical Myth 3: Medical Doctors Are Always Impartial
Doctors are people, too.
Conflicts-of-Interest abounds in modern medicine.
Lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industries wield significant impact – both in Washington, D.C. and on the local level.
Though most medical doctors are kind people with good motives, they are human, too – and are influenced unconsciously just like the rest of us.
Medical Myth 4: Every Person Should Severely Restrict Intake of Saturated Fat
Some people possess unique genetic markers that make them particularly sensitive to saturated fat, resulting in elevated cholesterol and weight gain. Many people, however, do not possess these genes.
Increasing intake of healthy fats can be beneficial to some people, for a variety of reasons – including blood-sugar stabilization, hormone production, and satiety.
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Medical Myth 5: Each Specific Symptom Requires the Same Intervention
In doctors and health practitioners with a functional-medicine mindset, recommendations are moving from general blanket-recommendations that apply to every single person, toward more personalized recommendations that depend on genetics, goals, lifestyle, health status, age, and the unique chemistry of a person’s body.
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Medical Myth 6: Doctors Hold Back on Purpose
It might seem like doctors don’t care, but the vast majority of doctors are smart, kind, and interested in being helpful.
No doctor wants to see himself as a shill for drug companies.
Explains Kresser, “Think of everything that has to change to reflect a new understanding. Medical textbooks have to be rewritten, primary-care guidelines – it’s just massive. And so the average health provider might not get the new information for years, even decades.”
Primary care physicians are in a tough spot right now. They’re trying to help people and they’re doing their best, but they might have 2,500 patients on their roster with an average visit time of 8 to 12 minutes – especially if, in order to get reimbursed from insurance, they have to see a certain number of patients each day.
Medical Myth 7: Chronic Inflammation Refers to Swelling Only
The phrase Chronic Inflammation can refer to swelling of specific tissues and joints, but often it means much more – referring to the body’s overall confused immune-response.
Though the human body is designed beautifully to handle the occasional irritant, when it is exposed to a relentless onslaught of irritants day after day – year after year – it can become fatigued, and then start to attack healthy cells, too.
In other words, if a body becomes too tired and overwhelmed to run a complete diagnostic on each cell beforehand, it might try to shoot-down a healthy cell if it thinks there’s even a chance it might be harmful. The system becomes less nuanced.
Though there are many factors to the aging process, inflammation is possibly the number-one reason for disease and premature aging. Knowing this beforehand can help you adopt lifestyle habits that help combat inflammation – such as an anti-inflammatory diet, improved sleep patterns, and strategic exercise.
For more strategies on debunking medical myths and how to navigate modern medicine in a way that proves helpful and healing, pick up Kessler’s Unconventional Medicine through your favorite bookseller. Additionally, you can listen to a recent, scintillating interview with Kessler on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Chris Kessler and the Revolution to Reinvent Healthcare – https://unconventionalmedicinebook.com/
Joe Rogan Experience Podcast with Chris Kessler – http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/chris-kresser-2
Multiple Drugs in Older Population Can Exacerbate Ailments – http://www.nbcnews.com/id/27645077/ns/health-health_care/t/epidemic-overmedication/#.WhsMpbQ-e8U
United States Government Agency Issues Dietary Guidelines – https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
Sugar Industry Attempted to Blame Dietary Fat as the Culprit – https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html
Dietary Cholesterol Necessary for Hormone Production – https://metabolichealing.com/cholesterol-your-body-is-incapable-of-making-hormones-without-it/
Gifts to Doctors from Pharmaceutical Companies Correlate with More Expensive Prescriptions to Patients – https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-pharma-gifts-result-branded-expensive.html
Research Outcomes of Genetic Sensitivity to Saturated Fats – https://athletigen.com/truth-fats-and-genetics/
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Studies – http://thepaleodiet.com/anti-inflammatory-paleo-studies/
Harvard Medical: Mounting Evidence Suggests Inflammation as Common Underlying Cause of Major Degenerative Diseases – https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Inflammation_A_unifying_theory_of_disease