Woman With Gum Blowing Bubble
1 / 16

Myth: It Takes Years to Digest Gum

It might seem like gum could stick around in your gut for a long time. After all, it doesn't dissolve in your mouth like other foods, and your stomach can't break it down if you swallow it. But there's no truth to this claim. Gum doesn't gum up your insides. Your digestive system moves it along just like everything else, and it comes out in your stool in a few days.

Swipe to advance
Man Biting into Hot Red Pepper
2 / 16

Myth: Spicy Foods Cause Ulcers

Hot sauce lovers, rejoice! People used to think that too much spicy food would give you an ulcer. But we now know that most of these sores in your stomach lining happen because of an infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or because of pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Foods with a lot of heat may make ulcers worse for some people, but they don't cause them.

Swipe to advance
Couple Moving Red Couch
3 / 16

Myth: Heavy Lifting Causes Hernias

It's one, but not the only, cause of these injuries. You might also get them from long-lasting constipation or a cough. Hernias happen when there's both pressure and an opening or weakness in muscles lining the inside of your belly. An organ or fatty tissue then bulges out through the opening. They're most common in the groin, belly button, or upper part of the stomach.

Swipe to advance
Shot Glass with Liquor Bottle
4 / 16

Myth: Only Alcoholics Get Cirrhosis

It's true that alcoholism is the most common cause of cirrhosis, a condition in which healthy liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue. But there are other causes, too, such hepatitis B and C. And although drinking too much almost always causes some liver damage, it doesn't always lead to cirrhosis. 

Swipe to advance
Woman Eating a Cashew Nut
5 / 16

Myth: Nuts Lead to Diverticulitis

In the past, doctors told people with this condition, in which pouches in the wall of the colon get inflamed and infected, to avoid nuts, corn, popcorn, and food with small seeds, like strawberries. The fear was that pieces of these foods would lodge in the pouches and cause pain. But new studies suggest the opposite -- that people who eat a high-fiber diet have a lower risk of the disease.

Swipe to advance
baked beans on toast
6 / 16

Myth: Beans Cause the Most Gas

Beans may not be the "magical fruit" you thought they were. Dairy products cause more gas than other foods, particularly as we age and our bodies are less able to absorb the sugar in milk (lactose). To ease the problem, look for lactose-free products or take the over-the-counter medicine lactase before you eat dairy foods.

Swipe to advance
Spoonful of Yogurt with Raspberry
7 / 16

Myth: No Dairy for Lactose Intolerant

People with lactose intolerance differ in how much dairy they can handle. While one person may get symptoms from one glass of milk, others may be able to drink up to two. Some people can enjoy yogurt or ice cream, but never straight milk. Aged cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar, are often better choices. It's usually a matter of trial and error to find out which dairy foods -- and how much -- are "safe" for you.

Swipe to advance
Old Phillip Morris Cigarette Advertisement
8 / 16

Myth: Smoking Relieves Heartburn

Another reason to kick the habit. Smoking may actually add to heartburn. Nicotine can relax the muscle at the top of your stomach that keeps acid from splashing back (reflux) into your esophagus. More acid reflux means heartburn.

Swipe to advance
Old Man about to Bite into Apple
9 / 16

Myth: Aging Causes Constipation

People are more likely to have constipation as they get older, but the aging body itself is not to blame. Older adults often take medications that can make the digestive tract sluggish. They're also less likely to get enough exercise, eat well, and drink enough fluids, all of which help keep things running smoothly.

Swipe to advance
Bowl of Cereal with Fruit
10 / 16

Myth: Fiber No Help With Diarrhea

At first, it doesn't make sense that fiber, which is so well-known for improving constipation, could also aid with the flip side: diarrhea. But it's true. The nutrient helps keep the stool from being too hard or too loose. It works by either pulling more water from the colon to loosen stools (for constipation) or absorbing some of the fluid in the intestine to firm them up (for diarrhea).

Swipe to advance
Man With Raw Steak on Plate
11 / 16

Myth: You'd Know If You Had Cancer

Colon cancer often has no symptoms until its later stages, which makes early detection so important. In general, most people at average risk should start getting tested at age 50. Routine colorectal checks should include fecal tests each year, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, a CT scan of the colon every 5 years, or a colonoscopy every 10 years. Talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.

Swipe to advance
woman putting on gloves
12 / 16

Myth: Colonoscopies Are Terrible

The dreaded colonoscopy is actually not as dreadful as you might think. The procedure, which doctors use to diagnose and treat problems in the colon and rectum, typically only lasts about 30-60 minutes, and you get medicine to put you to sleep while it happens. But it's the prep for the test that might make people squirm. You have to empty your colon with the help of a liquid diet and a laxative drink a day or so beforehand. Talk to your doctor to see what your options are.

Swipe to advance
Man Sleeping in Chair in front of TV
13 / 16

Myth: Heartburn? Sleep Sitting Up

There's no medical backing to the claim that people with heartburn must sit up in bed to avoid symptoms. You might get some relief by raising your head and chest 4-6 inches with blocks under your bedposts. But that's as upright as you need to go.

Swipe to advance
Woman Reading Menu in Restaurant
14 / 16

Myth: IBS Is All About Your Diet

Although foods can trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, changes to the diet are generally not enough to stop the condition. Sometimes just the act of eating can cause the pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation the disease is known for. And stress and anxiety can add to the problem, too. A food and symptom journal can help you identify your specific triggers.

Swipe to advance
Businessman Holding his Stomach
15 / 16

Myth: Stress Causes IBD

While stress can make many health conditions worse, the cause of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is unknown. IBD includes both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, conditions in which the lining of the small or large intestines gets inflamed. Genes seem to play some role in who gets the disease, as do changes in the body's immune system, possibly from bacteria or a virus.

Swipe to advance
Man Breaking Bread
16 / 16

Myth: Celiac Means Ongoing Pain

The best known celiac disease symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea, but many people with the condition never have any of these problems. Doctors can misdiagnose the condition -- an intolerance to the protein gluten -- when they look only for the classic signs. Other symptoms can include: anemia, osteoporosis, depression, growth problems, and a skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Medically Reviewed on 08/29/2017 Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on August 29, 2017

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on August 29, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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.