6 Common Digestive Myths, Debunked

Nature's Way

A person stirring vegetables in a pan.

In your life, you’ve probably digested (pun intended) a lot of myths and old wives’ tales about food and digestion, from the “swallow your gum” myth we all heard as kids to common misconceptions about spicy food and stress. While some of these myths do have a nugget of truth in them, many are outdated or just plain wrong. Ready to shine a light on some of the biggest digestive myths? Let’s dive in to the digestive system and see what’s true and what’s a rumor.

MYTH: All probiotics are exactly the same.

TRUTH: No way! Probiotics are not a one-size-fits-all thing – and we’re talking about both the live organisms and the supplements. When it comes to supplements, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting a quality product with guaranteed potency and a high number of live probiotic cultures per serving. Look for products with a special coating to help them survive stomach acid. You can also shop for special formulas for men, women, and adults over 50.

MYTH: Cooking your food reduces nutrient levels.

TRUTH: Cooking veggies can sometimes lead to a loss of vitamins and nutrients, but not always. In fact, sometimes a little cooking can make nutrients easier to absorb. In general, try to avoid overcooking veggies. Rather than boiling for a long period of time (and dumping nutrient-filled water down the drain), try sautéing them in a little oil, which can help your body absorb nutrients like beta-carotene and vitamin K. You may be surprised to learn that one of the best ways to cook veggies and retain nutrients is by zapping them in the microwave – it’s so fast that there’s no time for nutrients to break down. Another benefit of cooking veggies is that it makes them easier to digest. Ultimately, raw or cooked matters less than whether you eat them or not. So, if cooking your veggies can make them more fun to eat, don’t think twice about it!

MYTH: Stress can make you have to go to the bathroom – NOW.

TRUTH: This one is actually true! Have you ever had to run to the bathroom when you’re stressed or upset? There’s a reason for that. Your gut and brain are in constant communication; certain neurotransmitters, like those associated with mood, are produced in your gut, as are some chemicals that have been shown to support brain function. When you’re stressed, these signals get all mixed up – and your digestion can suffer because of it.

MYTH: Digestion mostly happens in your stomach.

TRUTH: Not quite. Though the stomach is a definite power player in your digestive system, a lot of other organs and systems impact digestion, including your mouth, liver, and small and large intestines. It’s a group effort!

MYTH: Don’t go swimming for 30 minutes after eating.

TRUTH: This myth is almost more urban legend than anything; people feared that if you went swimming too soon after eating, your blood wouldn’t flow through your arms and legs fast enough and you could drown. However, you don’t need to worry about jumping into the pool right after lunch. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, you may have a little muscle cramping, but it’s not dangerous.

MYTH: If you swallow your gum, it stays in your stomach for seven years.

TRUTH: Where did this myth come from? It seems like everyone heard this on the playground, but there’s no truth to it. According to the Mayo Clinic, swallowed gum isn’t digested, but it moves through your digestive system and flushed out – literally – in your poop.