When we asked our readers to send in health advice their mothers used to give them in their childhood, we received answers that spanned the full gamut of health and wellness concerns. We also received answers from all four corners of the globe.
Here are health tips from the mothers of some of our international readers. You may recognize some of these; others may shock you. Doctors Harriet Hall (TheSkep Doc), Raphael Darvish (of Presidential Physicals), and Bryan Stuchell (ofMedExpress Urgent Care) helped us sort out whether these health tips were accurate or not.
Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise.
S.R. recounted this classic health aphorism that he first heard from his mother, Ranga-nayaki. We always thought that this line was just a ruse to get us to get to bed earlier so our parents could have the house to themselves, but now that we’re older and wiser, things look pretty different. While we can’t really comment on whether going to bed early will make you any richer or smarter, it definitelycan be an effective way of ensuring that you get adequate sleep. However, as Dr. Hall reminds us, “It doesn’t matter what time you go to bed or get up; all that matters is the amount and quality of sleep.” According to Dr. Stuchell, “consistent good sleep at regular intervals” can also be a boon to a person’s good health. Obviously, going to bed and getting up early worked for S.R., who’s now 85 and healthy as ever.
After bathing stay indoors for at least half an hour.
Hussein grew up with his three brothers and five sisters in a refugee camp in Lebanon. His mother, Hedyia, was a Palestinian with some pretty sound health advice. “Your immunity can dip if you are especially cold,” says Dr. Darvish. “So staying indoors for 30 minutes for your hair to dry is not a bad idea.” Truth be told, as long as you dry yourself off properly, a 30-minute wait isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. It’s also important to note that going out in the cold with wet hair doesn’t mean you’ll catch a cold, which is transmitted by the spread of bacteria. However, if you let you yourself get chilled to the point of shivering, your immune system could drop its guard, making you more susceptible to cold-causing bacteria.
Eat up your carrots, and you will see in the dark.
Getting eight children to eat their vegetables isn’t an easy task, but Valerie’s mum, Ethel, was able to make dinner time fun with little sayings like this that made eating more interesting. But do carrots give you night vision? Not quite. However, a severe vitamin-A deficiency can worsen your eyesight — especially affecting your ability to see in the dark. Carrots are high in vitamin A, so if you have a serious deficiency in that nutrient, carrots could potentially keep your ability to see in the dark at normal levels. But before you go crazy on the carrots, be warned. “Eating too many carrots can be harmful; it can cause carotenemia, where your skin turns yellow,” says Dr. Darvish. And of course, carrots are not going to give you super-powers: as Dr. Stuchell reminds us, “no human, regardless of carrot intake, can see in total darkness.”
Take two spoonfuls of cod liver oil a day.
What Mary remembers most from her youth is that she and her five siblings would do all that they possibly could to avoid the daily cod liver oil ritual administered by their mother Sheila. Why cod liver oil? It’s high in vitamin A, D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are currently the hippest thing in preventative care, and many nutritionists and doctors believe that taking omega-3 supplements might enhance longevity. “Omega-3 fatty acids are a great strategy for healthy circulation,” says Dr. Darvish. However, there’s really no need to subject yourself to forcing down two spoonfuls of something that’ll make you gag. “You can get all the omega-3 you need from your diet without taking supplements,” adds Dr. Hall. “It’s plentiful in fish and many vegetable and fruit sources.” Talk to your doctor before you go on an omega-3 regime: Dr. Hall reminds us that “too much omega-3 can be harmful to patients with certain diseases,” such as congestive heart failure.
Never sit on a cold step because you will end up with a chill in your kidneys.
With average highs of 71 degrees Fahrenheit and lows of 57, Kim’s hometown isn’t exactly known for frigid weather. However, you can’t blame Kim’s mother for worrying about Kim getting sick from the cold. Luckily for Kim — and for us — her mother’s worries were probably for naught. “There’s no such thing as a chill in your kidneys,” Dr. Hall says. “And exposing your buttocks to cold temperatures won’t chill the kidneys, which are well insulated and are located partly under the lower ribs in your back. And even if you could directly lower the temperature of the kidneys, that wouldn’t cause infections. As far as I am concerned, the ONLY reason not to sit on a cold step is that it is uncomfortable.”
Go play with your sick friends; it’s best to catch the common infectious diseases when young and build up immunity.
Gerry told us his mother Ida (who herself was actually a native Dutchwoman) would take him on visits to the houses of his sick friends in order to build up his immunity. Dr. Stuchell believes this common misconception “stems from the practice in the pre-immunization era of having ‘chicken pox’ or ‘mumps’ parties.” This practice began because of the fact that these diseases are fairly innocuous if contracted as a child, but can be much more serious if contracted as an adult. However, now that we have immunizations for these conditions, these “disease parties” are no longer a good idea. “Vaccines are much safer ways of building immunity against illnesses than intentional exposure to the disease,” says Dr. Stuchell. Dr. Hall seconds that: “It is far safer to build up immunity by vaccination,” she says. “And worse, exposing more kids to infected ones will contribute to prolonging outbreaks in the community and will thereby harm others.”