Medical Misinformation – V: All the ‘myths’ that you’ve heard of are TRUE.

-Written by Dr. Ankit Sharma

I’d be wrong to criticize my nation on the basis of a few so-called medical practices rampant in public. I’m a believer in Ayurveda as far as lifestyle goes, but not stupid enough to think overdosing on Ashwagandha tablets will make you a superhuman. So, in terms of believing in alternative medicine therapy, I lie somewhere between ‘ignorant’ to ‘frankly  hypocritical’. But this post is not about alternative medical therapies. Instead, it is about certain medical myths that bypass the scientific thread of any medical therapy and the logical basis of known human biology.

I’m here only to spread misinformation. That too, medical. So, if you decide to follow the words written here from the next paragraph onwards, the joke (and the legal liability) is on you. Take the ‘advisory’ with a pinch of salt (unless you’re hypertensive, in which case, rub Aloe Vera on your elbows – it doesn’t do anything to your BP, but at least you’d have shining elbows when you’d have a stroke). So, here are a few myths that I’ve read about or seen in person over the past few years, and because I’m a 33-years old grump not interested in any arguments against WhatsApp uncles or aunties, I’ll be simply joining them to prove all of them correct.

1. Fruits, esp apple, is a must in diarrhoea.

Of course, we’ve all heard of the age-old saying of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. If you have diarrhoea, an apple can help you skip the OPD visit. Although it will help you meet the ICU doctor sooner, but I’d be damned if I attempt to bore you with minor technicalities. WHO, for all its criticism, has worked very well to promote ORS, but it’s not ‘natural’ enough I guess (it’s salt and sugar but why should you trust WHO to tell you exactly how much salt and sugar in a litre of water), so I’d join you in bashing them.

2. Pomegranate juice increases your haemoglobin level.

Pomegranate has iron (part of heme) and vitamins (to help absorb iron better). Although haemoglobin has other parts as well, I’d say let the doctors worry about minor details and simply gorge on about 20 pomegranates a day, because that is the amount needed to fulfil your daily iron needs. Add to that about 30 avocados a day, and you have your protein needs fulfilled as well. But you know what also increases your Hb levels? Chronic Carbon Monoxide poisoning. So, if you ever get bored of pomegranates…

3. Chilli paste on dog bites helps heal the wound and prevent Rabies.

I am a glass-half-full person, so I am going to take it on some old, wise Panchayat-head-knows-all’s word. Yet, I am not going to recommend doing that to any person with a dog bite or even suggest a Randomized Controlled Trial to prove or refute its benefits. In terms of unbelievably stupid fiction, I place it right at the top, alongside the possibility that a bite from a radioactive spider can make you a Spiderman. It may have other effects though, like sepsis killing you faster than Rabies itself. But I don’t think one would add the word ‘beneficial’ before the ‘effect’ for it.

4. Milk is a miracle drink for all age groups

Yes, we are an agrarian nation, and have been beneficiaries of cattle milk for our protein and calcium needs. Lactose intolerance is also a real thing, and it is not exclusively hereditary. Such a condition may cause minor inconvenience such as bloating, or may make the use of a seat belt mandatory while sitting on the commode. So, I’d say you should take all such information with a pinch of salt. Except milk. Do NOT take milk with a pinch of salt.

5. Bone-setting

Bone-Setting is the art of massaging the body with medicinal oil with the objective of speeding up the healing process. Now while this may seem normal, the concerned person is not a doctor, nor is he a chiropractor. Although Chiropractic practice is disputed itself, the bone-setters are definitely more dubious – the real-life equivalents of a Twitter/WhatsApp gyaan uncle with slightly better muscles due to repeated workout sessions including multiple reps of making your muscle and bone injuries worse and more painful. Google Myositis Ossificans, or may be get a first-hand experience at one of these centres.

6. Medicines with Silver/Gold in them

This is an elitist mentality as far as intake of minerals is concerned. You know, the “we don’t want Zinc and Selenium, we can afford better” thing. Bollywood stars in chyavanpraash ads tell you that Gold gives you a stronger body and silver gives you a faster brain, although if the celebs practice what they preach, I only see these two giving us a stammer while pronouncing names starting with K. While minerals are essential, I doubt you’d get anything other than an earful from your mother if you tried to ingest her jewellery in a bid to become Superman.

7. Cow Urine Treatments

Yes. Cow urine has antineoplastic, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant activity. Like many other medicines, when used under specialist guidance in a controlled environment, it may well prove to be a useful adjunct in therapy. I can’t stress enough on the specialist guidance and controlled environment part. It also has… everything URINE has. So, while using it as an anti-septic – for example as an aftershave – may keep bacteria away, it will also keep other humans away from you. In case you are still hell-bent on ‘cow urine’ cleanse, I’d suggest finding a diabetic animal for a sweeter, more palatable drink.

8. Exorcism

If 80s Hollywood and Mukesh Bhatt movies have taught me anything, it is that mental health is a joke in India. Why should psychiatry professionals have all the fun when one can employ priests, torture, physical restraint and dubious, smoky rituals? I’ll be back with more information on this once Naagin season 7 releases on OTT.

Now I ask you. Any other practices that you need me to justify in the next part of Medical Misinformation? Please let me know. I’d love to become a WhatsApp uncle.

The best there ever was.

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