(Originally seen in Bustle) September 2017 | CAROLYN STEBER
If you take a look at the history of medicine, it's kind of scary what we used to think and believe, as well as what we tried to do that totally didn't work. So let's take a moment to thank science for progressing and making most old-fashioned beliefs about women's health, and health in general, a thing of the past.
That said, the moms and grandmas of yesteryear kept us all alive — even without modern medicine — so it may be worth tapping into old health advice that's been passed down for generations. Whether they were offering up natural PMS cures, touting the benefits of a daily apple, or suggesting ways to de-puff tired eyes, it turns out many old wives' tales are actually true.
"If we dig deeper, old wives' tales may actually contain some nuggets of wisdom when it comes to our health," board-certified naturopathic physician Chanté Wiegan tells Bustle. "Traditional medicines from various cultures and ancient times were often based on practical function. Plants, herbs and the use of dietary therapies were coveted for their ability to actually work long before the science was there to back it up. Today, we see research proving the mechanisms of many of these ancient practices and remedies." Sound interesting? Then read on for some age-old tips that still hold true today.
1. Chocolate Can Help Ease PMS
If you're lusting after chocolate in the days before your period, there may be a science-y reason why. "Chocolate contains mood-boosting chemicals that can help you feel happier during your time of the month," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "This may explain why many women crave chocolate close to their period." And why many moms and grandmas, the world over, always recommend it.
2. It's Possible To Predict Your Baby's Sex
Part of the fun of a pregnancy — whether your own or a friend's — is predicting if it'll be a boy or a girl. But are any old-fashioned guessing techniques accurate? "There are many myths about predicting [the sex of your baby], but one that may actually be true is paying attention to your baby's heart rate," Hershenson says. "A heart rate over 140 beats per minute may be an indication you're having a girl." There's also evidence to suggest intense morning sickness may mean you're having a girl, too.
3. Chicken Soup Can Cure A Cold
We've all heard the classic old wives' tale that claims chicken soup can cure a cold. And while the word "cure' may be a little over the top, this type of soup certainly can help move things along. "It hydrates and encourages drinking due to salt content and contains the perfect well-balanced meal at its essence," Dr. Michele Barton, director of clinical health at Psychology Life Well, tells Bustle. It replaces any depleted nutrients, is full of nostalgia, and helps warm you up, too.
4. Toothpaste Will Help Clear Up A Zit
This one may sound too good to be true, and yet some dermatologists swear by the ol' toothpaste zit cure. "Yes, toothpaste actually can help eliminate your zits and acne bumps," says Bobby Buka, a leading dermatologist and owner of Bobby Buka MD Dermatology. "The bacteria that cause acne are aerobic, which means they need oxygen to grow. When you squeeze toothpaste out on your acne, you're essentially starving that bacteria of its life source. However, there's not anything inherent in toothpaste that dries out those pimples better than conventional methods. In fact, it can also cause unpleasant irritation and redness, so use with caution."
5. You Need To Get Your "Beauty" Sleep
The idea of "beauty sleep" may sound a bit antiquated, but this tip goes well beyond improving your looks. "A good nights sleep or 'beauty sleep' is definitely a thing and can not only improve you skin's glow, but also does wonders for mental and physical health," says Barton. "The list [of benefits] is endless: brain function, neurotransmitter and hormone balance, electrolyte balance, posture, alertness, memory, and so on." All of these things can be improved with more sleep.
6. An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
Obviously, you need to eat a balanced diet to keep the doctor away. But adding in an apple certainly won't hurt. "Apples really can keep the doctor away, at least when it comes to cardiologists and oncologists," says Dr. Pamela Marcus, a radiologist and co-owner of Westchester Imaging. "Fruits and vegetables are extremely healthy, and apples in particular are rife with antioxidants, which are responsible for preventing free radical damage. The result? Apple consumption has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer."
7. Early To Bed, Early To Rise...
As I said above, there is such a thing as "beauty sleep." And yet, despite all the benefits, so few of us actually get to bed on time. "Most people don't get enough sleep, and that's a big problem when it comes to fighting off disease," says Marcus. As the saying goes, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." So try getting to earlier, practicing good sleep hygiene, and shooting for at least eight hours.
8. Cucumbers Can De-Puff Your Eyes
It's a classic image: someone lying by a pool with cucumber over the eyes. But do these vegetables actually do anything to de-puff tired skin? The answer, thankfully, is yes. "If you have bags under your eyes, it's a good guess that you're suffering from poor 'tissue turgor.' When your skin is dehydrated, it loses some of its normal elasticity and gives you that saggy or puffy look," says Buka. "Cucumber slices are a great home remedy because they flood water to your under-eye sockets to hydrate your skin tissue. You could use watermelon too, though that might leave you a sticky mess."
9. Go Outside To Heal Your Acne
OK, so you don't want to bake all day in the sun, since that can increase your risk of sun damage and skin cancer. But that doesn't mean you can't use the sun's ultraviolet light to your advantage when it comes to curing acne. Many dermatologists, including Buka, offer special lamps in their offices that emit this light. "If you don't have access to these lamps, my recommendation is to soak up the sun for five to 10 minutes, and then apply sunscreen," Buka says. "That’s enough time to slow down bacterial growth and get a healthy dose of vitamin D in the process."
10. Ginger Helps Ease Morning Sickness
Remember sipping on ginger ale whenever you were sick as a kid? Well, there's a reason we all want that bubbly goodness when our stomachs are upset. "Ginger actually has proven benefits for reducing nausea, including pregnancy-induced morning sickness," says Wiegand. "This spicy herb contains gingerols, which affect gut motility and help to calm and ease those unwanted swells. For maximum relief, reach for a more concentrated Ginger extract supplement."
11. Greasy Foods Will Make You Break Out
Have you heard about the greasy food/greasy skin connection? Well, sadly, it may be true. "Although some claim this is nonsense, your skin really is a reflection of what you put in your body," Wiegand says. "Acne can be a sign of systemic inflammation. And guess what foods are inflammatory? Sugar and hydrogenated oils used for frying! Sugar spikes your insulin levels, and this can lead to skin inflammation and increased susceptibility to unwanted breakouts." So if you're skin is riddled with breakouts, you might want to eat fresher foods and see if it makes a difference.
While some may be out of date, quite a few old wives' tales are actually true. So if you want better health, clearer skin, and fewer PMS symptoms, it's definitely worth it to listen.