5 Common Health Myths: Doctors tell the truth about adrenal fatigue, gluten free eating and more

1) Because I am stressed out and exhausted all the time, my adrenals have overproduced stress hormones and run out of them, so I must have “Adrenal Fatigue”.

This condition is being used to explain every symptom under the sun. However in the medical world it is universally called into question. The situation and the symptoms are real, no doubt, but the the concept of your adrenals wearing out from overuse is not physiologically correct. The truth is more likely that if you are very stressed out, your adrenals have produced lots of cortisol and it is this excess of cortisol that is making you feel terrible (causing you to gain weight, lose hair, break out and feel exhausted). The solution is therefore not to give you more of these stress hormones (as is touted by many Adrenal Fatigue champions) but rather to undo the stress, practice better sleep habits, regular exercise, mindfulness and meditation. Also treating certain nutritional deficiencies can be key to getting your body tuned up and back in working gear.

2) Eating Gluten Free is better for everyone.

While it may be all the rage, this fad is not always fabulous. In fact it can be quite the opposite. Many products touted as gluten free are full of chemicals and additives including very high calorie alternatives to gluten.  There are some people who truly should be gluten free, namely those with Celiac Sprue, a condition where gluten causes the intestines to get inflamed.  There are people with genuine wheat allergies as well (who get hives, wheezing and other typical allergy symptoms from wheat) but this is rare.  Some people just feel better when not eating gluten and that is OK. Some with arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions swear by it. Eating a nonprocessed variety of naturally gluten free foods can be a healthy diet and a means for some people not to overindulge in carbs.  Many people feel better from a GI standpoint when they eat a gluten free diet. However those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome who don’t have celiac may actually do better avoiding a group of foods, called FODMAPS ( a funny acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols which is a mouthful but is essentially a bunch of different sugars found in certain foods). These sugars from some very unexpected food sources can cause unwanted gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Avoiding the FODMAPS (such as high lactose dairy, certain grains and certain fruits and vegetables and not the gluten can be very helpful for some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

3) Getting yearly mammograms is not a good idea.

While certain news sources have recently called the usefulness of mammography into question, it is still far and away the most useful screening test we have for the general population of women to detect early breast cancer. It is the Gold Standard in diagnosing breast cancer and there is good data to show that early detection does improve mortality in this disease. However, it is important to understand that screening mammograms should be used in the proper context– generally women 40 and over, approximately once per year.  We are all high risk for breast cancer (1 in 8 women will get this disease during their lifetime and only 15% of those will be women who have a family history of breast cancer!). Certain higher risk groups of women (such as those with known genetic mutations or very strong family histories) should also consider alternating mammography with MRI and having regular very careful physical examination of their breasts.  Newer recommendation also includes screening whole breast ultrasound for women with very dense breasts in addition to mammography. All women starting in their teens should practice monthly self breast examination and learn what is normal for their bodies. We should be quick to see professional help if we feel a lump has appeared or changed no matter how old we are.

4) I can still have a thyroid problem if my thyroid tests are normal.

It is very rare if not unheard of to have a low thyroid when your TSH (a hormone made by your brain that is exquisitely sensitive to circulation levels of thyroid hormone) is in the correct range. This number should typically be under 2.5. If it is lower than 2.5 it means your brain is sensing enough circulating thyroid hormone and you are not deficient in the hormone. It is common however, to have many symptoms of a low thyroid– fatigue, weight gain, constipation, thin hair— which are actually due to vitamin deficiencies. Typical people who have these complaints are low in certain key nutrients such as Iron, Vitamin D and certain B vitamins.

5) You should not take a multivitamin.

The question about whether to take multivitamin is not whether you should or shouldn’t, but rather what you should be taking and how much.  We are all different and have individual vitamin needs based on our diets, lifestyles and health histories. Finding the right balance of nutrients is the challenge. Most of us do need some additional nutrients since our food supply no longer has the vitamins and minerals it once did and many of us, even those of us who eat very healthful diets, are low in certain key nutrients such as iron, iodine, magnesium and other things. For this reason a Personalized Multivitamin(take our personalized vitamin quiz) can be a great solution. www.vousvitamin.com

Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health.  She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients.  After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take,  Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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