What do the Loch Ness monster, juice fasting and Heracles have in common? They’re all myths, and while some are more hotly debated than others, health myths like juice fasting can have serious consequences for unknowing college students.
The use of expensive herbal detoxes or juice cleansing to flush out bodily toxins is not an uncommon practice on college campuses. But in reality, the best detox is a satisfying poop, said Lauri Nandyal, a UC Health physician. She has a reputation for talking about the benefits of pooping and compares it to a responsibility like taking out the garbage.
“It’s in the food already, we don’t need herbs necessarily to detox,” Nandyal said. “We need to give our bodies the nutrients to be able to make those things happen in the liver that allow us to get rid of crap. So again, let’s get people pooping!”
Since technology has permeated most aspects of students’ lives, implementing a digital detox by enjoying some quite time in nature can also go a long way.
“I know it sounds a bit regressive, but I think this is a part of our modern angst and students are at such risk for that when the system encourages you to go-go-go all the time,” Nandyal said. “We need to slow that down. It’s actually so critical it loops back to nutrition because, again, if we’re in that fight or flight state all the time, then we can’t digest well, and we can’t even grab the nutrients if we do choose healthier things to eat.”
Similar to detoxes, some people use homemade enemas to clean the lower end of their intestinal track. Something that is usually unnecessary if the right amount of fiber and fluids are consumed, Nandyal said.
“Those are more medical treatments and definitely get your doctor in the loop,” Nandyal said. “I would never suggest it as a preventative measure for someone who is otherwise healthy.”
Another myth is that vitamins, while good for use as a safety net, can’t supplement bad eating habits. Reliance on vitamins, in addition to not getting the appropriate amount of sleep, can lead to a suppressed immune system and a greater risk of infection.
“We need to take ownership of our bodies, the way that we live and how we influence our health by our lifestyle choices,” Nandyal said. “It is not something that we can fix by trying to take a pill. When we try to shave the edges off our good quality sleep, there is such a thing as sleep debt, and we cannot make up for that with a pill or coffee.”
Claire Erny — a third-year UC student studying digital media — agrees with Nandyal, but has found herself relentlessly on the go, lacking sleep and, consequentially, sick.
“I recently started a new internship on top of classes and a second job I already have, so my sleep schedule is horrid,” Erny said. “I have a pounding headache and my throat is killing me.”
Erny’s mother suggested she gargle saltwater to sooth her throat, a technique her whole family uses, but one that Nandyal hasn’t seen reports about actually being effective. Getting a cold because of cold weather is also unproven, though many people like Erny’s friends and family believe it to be true.
“It’s not the cold specifically, but it is something in that season that may make people more vulnerable,” Nandyal said. “I think it may be that we’re typically in more confined quarters. We’re not out and about getting better air quality.”
When it comes to staying healthy on campus, getting sleep, exercise and avoiding sugar are essential, Nandyal said. And, since mental health and physical health are linked so closely, ensuring students stay connected to their passions should also be a top priority.