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#HealthCheck: Debunking Menstruation Myths

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A viral Whatsapp post reads:

WOMEN PLEASE BE CAREFUL

Share this message to any woman that you know. (If you are a man and you receive this message please help forward it to the women around you),

If a woman is seeing her menstrual period then please do not do these 4 things;

That is:

      1. Do not drink ice water, soda water, or eat coconut during menstruation.

  1. Do not apply shampoo on your head because the pores of the head are open during menstruation and it can cause headache (hit the wind head), it is very dangerous and this effect can be felt when young and later when aged .
  2. Do not eat cucumber during menstruation because the sap present in the cucumber can block some menstruation (blood waste) in the uterine wall and it can cause Barrenness!
  3. In addition during menstruation, your body should not be knocked or hit by hard objects, especially the abdomen because it can cause vomiting blood, the uterus can be injured. And these are the “ORIGIN OF UTERUS CANCER, CYSTS AND BARRENNESS

Research proves, drinking ice during menstruation can cause menstrual blood remaining in the uterine wall, after 5-10 years can cause “UTERUS CANCER OR TUMOR”.

Please this info is distributed to many women; mothers, wives, daughters, or girlfriends. Show concern for others. Love your woman. There is Beauty in Sharing … saving 1 woman, can get you an unexpected reward, this would be useful for women.

Uterus Cancer or Barrenness will not be your portion … Source: LPKI (Indonesian Cancer Extension Institute)

Please Share.

VERIFYING THE CLAIMS:

Menstruation (period or menstrual cycle), a normal process that is integral to the female reproductive system is shrouded by mythology and taboo, propagated by males and females alike.

Before verifying the post, it is important to note that although the message claims that its information source is the Indonesian Cancer Extension Institute, a repeated internet search shows that an Indonesian Cancer Extension Institute does not, in fact, exist.

Attributing medical advice during menstruation to medical authority such as a cancer institute to convince women to heed the advice is deceptive to say the least! What we found is that an Indonesian Cancer Extension Institute does not exist, what does exist is an Indonesian Cancer Foundation. The foundation has nothing to do with the information in this message. This is, therefore, fake news.

CLAIM 1: THERE IS NO RESEARCH TO PROVE THIS!

Not only is this message fake news but it is also medically inaccurate. The message conflates two bodily systems – the reproductive and digestive system.

When one drinks ice water or soda water or eats coconuts, as the post suggests, it is not physiologically possible for ice water or soda water and coconut ingested to make its way to the uterus.

More, the message states “research proves, drinking ice during menstruation can cause menstrual blood remaining in the uterine wall, after 5-10 years can cause uterus cancer and tumor”, without even pointing out the stated research.  However, there is no evidence from research which shows that drinking ice during menstruation is a cause of uterine cancer or a tumour and indeed ice water does not remain in the uterine wall 5 -10 years after being drunk.

CLAIM 2: YOU CAN APPLY SHAMPOO ON YOUR HEAD DURING MENSTRUATION BUT BE CAREFUL!

Pores are small openings on the surface of the skin that extends through the skin’s layers; the epidermis and dermis, the outer and inner layer, respectively. Some pores are openings for hair follicles to pass through as well. Hence for every hair on an individual’s body is a skin pore that houses the millions of body hair. The other pores produce sebum.

A change to the pores of a woman during an average menstrual cycle is typical. These changes in the skin are attributed to hormones. According to a study, “menstruation is governed by tightly orchestrated changes in the levels of ovarian estrogen and progesterone, which produce varying responses in diverse tissues and organs”.

While the influx of hormones may cause the pores to become clogged with sebum, resulting in the appearance of larger pores, this does not imply that the pores actually become larger as the claim makes out.

More over, the skin can actually absorb external substances and this does not only occur during menstruation. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that although some chemicals like the ones contained in shampoos “can be significantly metabolized during dermal absorption…”.

It is therefore important to examine the constituents of shampoo for their dermal toxicity levels but since most shampoos come in contact with the scalp for approximately 5 to 10 minutes during washing, the likelihood of dermal absorption is reduced. 

CLAIM 3: IN FACT, EAT CUCUMBER IF YOU CAN!

Barrenness or infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after a year of trying or 6 months in a woman over the age of 35. This can also apply to the inability to stay pregnant for various reasons. A study found that 31% of Nigerian couples fail to conceive a child 12 months after trying. Infertility in Nigerian women can be attributed to complications from sexually transmitted diseases, exposure to infections during previous deliveries or abortion and also infertile male partners.

Cucumbers are vegetables rich in nutritional value. Cucumbers contain potassium, fibre and vitamin C and are naturally low in their calorie, carbohydrate, sodium, fat and cholesterol content. In addition, cucumbers are 95% water-based making them the ideal part of a healthy diet. This makes cucumbers especially great to counter the skin problems that accompany periods. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an American academic medical center, cucumbers have an anti-inflammatory compound that in fact, removes waste from the body and are not bad for women during menstruation.

CLAIM 4: YOU SHOULD NEVER BE HIT WITH HARD OBJECTS AT ANY POINT IN YOUR LIFE! 

Being hit with hit hard objects can obviously cause vomiting of blood and injury but to cause cancer and cysts, that’s quite an overstretch. The American Cancer Society and several other medical authorities have even labelled this a common myth.

A cyst is a closed, sac-like structure that often contains fluid, pus or gas. Cysts are caused by tumours, genetic conditions, infections, a defect in an organ of a developing embryo, a cell defect, chronic inflammatory condition, a blocked duct, parasite and an injury that breaks a vessel. An injury which burst a blood vessel can cause a cyst. However, the majority of cases of ovarian cysts which occur, are caused by endometriosis (a condition where the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows to the ovaries and fallopian tubes) or polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal disorder that affects how a woman’s ovaries work).

In general, it is not advised that one takes a blow to the stomach, under any condition; menstruating woman or not. 

OUR CONCLUSION? 

Many of the claims here are false. A woman’s diet should remain the same regardless of if she is on her period or not. The only recommendation given to women regarding their diet as a result of menstruation is to increase their iron intake with iron-rich foods such as spinach. This is because women who have heavy blood flow can become anaemic (when the body does not have enough red blood cells.).

Zuwaira Hashim graduated with a first-class honours graduate in BMedSci in Health and Human Sciences at the University of Sheffield. What is more, she was awarded with the Kerry Ann Salt Memorial prize for her outstanding performance in the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Her successes in academia are matched by efforts in the field of public health. This is evidenced by yet another award- Global Engagement Award- from the Sheffield Council for her contributions to the Public Health Intelligence team of Sheffield. She is particularly interested in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and its policy implementation in Nigeria, having witnessed firsthand the perils faced by the health sector. She currently uses this passion and experience in the field of public health to educate the public via health articles and fact-checks.

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