It may seem possible that gum could stay in your stomach for a long time, since it doesn't dissolve in your mouth like other foods and your stomach can't break it down like other foods, but there's no truth to this claim. Gum doesn't stick to your insides; your digestive system moves it along, just like everything else passing through, and it is eliminated in your stool in a few days.
Myth: Spicy Foods Cause Ulcers
In the past, spicy foods were thought to increase the risk of developing an ulcer. But this is no longer considered true. The majority of stomach ulcers are caused either by infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or by use of pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, (NSAIDs). Spicy foods may aggravate existing ulcers in some people, but they do not cause ulcers.
Myth: Heavy Lifting Causes Hernias
Lifting heavy objects is not the sole cause of hernias. Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness in muscles lining the abdominal cavity. An organ or fatty tissue then bulges out through the opening. The most common types of hernias are: inguinal (inner groin), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach).
Myth: Only Alcoholics Get Cirrhosis
We may associate alcoholism and cirrhosis -- a condition in which healthy cells in the liver become damaged and replaced by scar tissue. It is true that alcoholism is the most common cause of cirrhosis cases in the U.S., but there are other causes, too. And although excessive alcohol consumption almost always leads to some liver damage, it does not always lead to cirrhosis. Other frequent causes of cirrhosis are hepatitis B and C.
Myth: Nuts Lead to Diverticulitis
In the past, people with diverticulitis, a condition in which pouches in the wall of the colon become inflamed and infected, were told to strictly avoid nuts, corn, and popcorn, and food with small seeds, like strawberries.. The fear was that indigestible pieces of these foods would lodge in the pouches and cause pain. But a 2008 study suggests the opposite -- that people who eat a high-fiber diet actually have a lower risk of the disease.
Myth: Beans Cause the Most Gas
Despite the many jokes about beans and flatulance, beans are not the No.1 culprit of gas. Dairy foods actually have that honor, particularly as we age and our bodies are less able to absorb the sugar in milk (lactose). So if you find yourself "tooting" after eating dairy, you're not alone. Look for lactose-free products or take the over-the-counter enzyme lactase before you eat dairy foods.
Myth: No Dairy for Lactose Intolerant
People with lactose intolerance differ in their ability to tolerate dairy products. While one person may get symptoms from one glass of milk, others may be able to drink up to two. Some people can tolerate yogurt or ice cream, but never straight milk. Aged cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar, are often better-tolerated dairy choices. It's often a matter of trial and error to find out which dairy foods -- and how much -- are "safe" for you.
Myth: Smoking Relieves Heartburn
Contrary to the popular belief about a calming smoke, cigarette smoking may actually contribute to heartburn. Nicotine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle between the esophagus and stomach, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to splash back (reflux) into the esophagus. This increased acid reflux is the basis of heartburn.
Myth: Aging Causes Constipation
People are more likely to experience constipation as they get older, but the aging body itself is not to blame. Older adults are often taking medications to treat other conditions that can be constipating. They're also less likely to be exercising enough, eating well, and taking in sufficient fluids, all of which contribute to constipation.
Myth: Fiber No Help With Diarrhea
On the surface, it seems counterintuitive that fiber, which is so well-known for improving constipation, could also aid with the flip side -- diarrhea. But it's true. Eating fiber-rich foods helps regulate the stool so that it's not too hard or too loose. Fiber in the body works by either pulling more water from the colon to loosen stools (for constipation) or absorbing some of the fluid that is in the intestine to firm up stools (for diarrhea).
Myth: You'd Know If You Had Cancer
Colon cancer often has no symptoms at all until its later stages, which makes early detection so important. In general, screening of people at average risk begins at age 50. Routine colorectal screenings should include fecal occult blood tests annually, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, and a colonoscopy every 10 years.
Myth: Colonoscopies Are Dreadful
The dreaded colonoscopy is actually not as dreadful as it's made out to be. A colonoscopy -- a procedure used to diagnose and treat problems in the colon and rectum -- typically only lasts about 30-60 minutes and the patient receives anesthesia or sedation. However, it's the colonoscopy preparation that might make people squirm, since the colon must be emptied, with the help of a liquid diet and a laxative drink a day or so before the procedure. Talk to your doctor to see what your preparation options are.
Myth: Heartburn? Sleep Sitting Up
There's no medical backing to the claim that heartburn sufferers must sit up in bed to avoid the symptoms of heartburn the next morning. You may find some relief in elevating your head and chest 4-6 inches, either with pillows under your head or with a block under your bed. But that's as upright as you need to go.
Myth: IBS Is All About Your Diet
Although certain foods can trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, changes to the diet are generally not enough. Sometimes just the act of eating can cause the abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation that IBS is known for. And stress and anxiety are other key components of IBS, often just as responsible for triggering symptoms. Keep a food and symptom journal to help you identify your specific triggers.
Myth: IBD Is Caused by Stress
While stress can aggravate many chronic conditions, the cause of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, remains unknown. IBD is a term that refers to both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, conditions in which there is inflammation in the lining of the small and/or large intestines. Genetics appear to play some role, as do changes in the body's immune system, possibly from bacteria or a virus.
Myth: Celiac Means Ongoing Pain
Although the best known celiac disease symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea, many people with the condition never have any of these symptoms. Celiac disease -- an intolerance to the protein gluten -- is frequently misdiagnosed when a health professional only looks for the classic symptoms. Other symptoms, which are just as prevalent, but unrelated to the gut, include: anemia, osteoporosis, depression, growth problems, and a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.
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WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: "What Is Peptic Ulcer Disease?"
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Peptic Ulcer Disease - What Increases Your Risk."
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Celiac Disease - Topic Overview."
WebMD Feature: "Secrets to Gas Control."
WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Hernia - the Basics."
WebMD Feature: "Diarrhea and Diet: The Facts About Fiber."
National Heartburn Alliance: "Nighttime Heartburn."
WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: "Prevent and Manage Heartburn."
Irritable bowel syndrome: Controlling symptoms with diet
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Inc.: "IBS Myths Interfere With Treatment."
WebMD Medical Reference: "Stress, Anxiety, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)."
WebMD Health News: "Nuts Don't Up Risk of Diverticulitis."
WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth: "Constipation in Adults."
WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Cirrhosis - Basic Information."
WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: "Cirrhosis of the Liver."
WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: "What Is Lactose Intolerance?"
American Cancer Society web site.
WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: "Screening Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer."
KidsHealth: "What Happens to Swallowed Gum?"
American Gastroenterological Association: "Inflammatory Bowel Disease."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.