There’s a lot of advice out there for people who want to be healthy. Not all of it is true. Here are 5 myths you need to stop believing.

Good health. We all want it and we’re willing to try anything to get it. We’re in an age of Youtubers and Instagrammers who constantly share their health, wellbeing and fitness secrets. It seems like it’s never been easier to get the body you want, doesn’t it?

There’s just one problem though. Some of these pieces of ‘advice’ are health myths. Here are 5 that you need to be wary of.

1. You must detox your body

Juices - health myths

If you have a working liver and kidneys, then good news, you’re currently doing a detox! The liver and kidneys work to remove the toxins in our bodies, and no amount of green juices will ever be able to accomplish what these organs do every day.

If you’re still planning on starting a cleanse, particularly a juice cleanse, you should know that you might find yourself lacking essential fibre, carbohydrates and electrolytes. This might leave you feeling moody and a tad lightheaded. Worst of all, if you do lose any weight, you’re likely to put it back on if and when you return to your normal diet.

2. Gluten is sand paper for the gut

Gluten and the gut - health myths

There are a lot of healthy eating gurus who advocate a gluten free diet. But unless you have coeliac disease, which only affects 1% of the population, you probably don’t need to cut gluten out.

Humans have been eating gluten rich foods (made from wheat, rye and barley) for thousands of years without devastating effects, unless of course you have coeliac disease, which can cause abdominal pain, constipation, tiredness and even nerve damage.

If you want to make a change to healthier carbohydrates, start small by switching to wholegrain versions and complex carbohydrates.

3. Our stomach pH means we should be vegan

Stomach pH - health myths

There are many reasons to try veganism. Animal welfare concerns. Environmental impact. Personal preference.

But, when I recently watched a Youtuber explain several reasons to go vegan, she stated that carnivores have a stomach pH of 1-2. Humans, she explained, have a pH of 4-5 which means that we’re better suited to a plant based diet.

This information is wrong. Humans have a stomach pH of 1.5-3.5 and in this journal article, the researchers looked at the pH levels of 68 species (25 birds and 43 mammals) with different diets*. Here’s a snapshot of what they found:

Baseline pH levels

Humans (omnivore) = 1.5

Rabbit (herbivore) = 1.9

Dog (scavenger) = 4.5

Llama (herbivore) = 7

Cat (carnivore) = 3.6

Horse (herbivore) = 4.4

Rat (omnivore) = 4.4

What you can see here is a whole range of stomach pH levels amongst different species, with different diets. Now obviously, everyone is different, so our individual pH levels are going to differ (babies and the elderly have less acidic stomachs) but at the end of the day, your decision to become vegan should not be based on myths. It should be based on what feels right for you (and valid information).

4. Body pH needs to be balanced with an alkaline diet

Alkaline diet - health myths

If you’re interested in health and wellness, you’ve probably heard of the alkaline diet.

In theory, you replace ‘acidic’ foods with ‘alkaline’ foods to stay healthy and prevent the body from becoming too acidic, which makes you less likely to suffer from diseases like cancer and osteoporosis.

But…the body doesn’t have an overall pH. It doesn’t work like that. As you just read, the stomach has a pH of 1.5-3.5. Blood usually stays around the pH of 7.4 (so, slightly alkaline anyway). Different parts of the gut range from 5.7 to 7.4.

Everything is maintained at these levels because of homeostasis, which is the body constantly adjusting itself to stay at the same level.

Now there is a medical condition called acidosis, but this is usually caused by organ failure or conditions like diabetes. The effects are quick and you can feel confused, breathless, tired and even become jaundiced.

There is one thing that you can alter the pH of with diet. Your urine.

5. There’s ‘clean’ food and ‘unclean’ food

You may have seen some backlash against the term ‘clean eating’ lately, and watched as people like Deliciously Ella started to distance themselves from the term. Despite this, clean eating is still popular. On Instagram, there’s nearly 32 million #cleaneating posts.

It’s a simple enough idea. You have a diet that’s full of natural, unprocessed food. That’s great. But the reason clean eating is on this list is because of what it means to define something as ‘clean’. It means that some foods risk being dubbed ‘unclean’ or even worse, ‘dirty’.

This is not a healthy mindset.

Nigella Lawson, the queen of having a little of what you fancy, is famously against clean eating:

“The notion of ‘clean eating’ is an implication that any other form of eating is dirty or shameful. I think that food should not be used as a way of persecuting oneself and I think, really, one should look to get pleasure and revel in what’s good rather than either think, ‘Oh no, that’s dirty, bad or sinful’ or that ‘eating is virtuous.”

It can lead to control issues too, such as orthorexia. It’s an eating disorder where sufferers obsess over the ‘purity’ of food, which often leads to the cutting out of whole food groups like carbs and dairy because they’re ‘unclean’.

You need to find balance

This is a short list of myths. Health and wellbeing is a vital part of our lives and Pandora’s Health was created to debunk myths like these and provide straight forward, common sense advice.

The most important piece of advice, especially with eating habits, is to never punish yourself for having something that you craved, that tasted good or made you happy.

Health takes time, and as always, it’s about balance.  So, if you want to have a salad for dinner. Have a salad. If you want something sweet, here’s some advice from Emma Stone:

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*It’s important to point out that the herbivores of this group have different digestive systems with foreguts and hindguts (which is another important point when trying to compare humans to true herbivores). The researchers have also stated that there needs to be more research in this area as there’s surprisingly little out there.