I was watching a new medical drama on Netflix called New Amsterdam and one of the episodes showcased a patient with broken heart syndrome. She had to get surgery done, but before the operation her family wanted to conduct an age-old ritual to help save her. This included making a small cut and rubbing dirt in the wound. The cardiac surgeon was obviously sceptical but eventually allowed it to happen. The operation went well obviously, and everyone lived happily ever after!
The world is home to a lot of people, 7.674 billion to be precise and all of them have their own beliefs and traditions. As medical students, we will have to deal with a wide array of people in the future, all of them carrying their own traditions and beliefs. It is our task to respect everyone’s beliefs while also not endangering the patient’s health.
This got me thinking: are there any rituals or traditions that have a scientific background?
If you have ever been to China or plan to go to China, you should know that they drink their water hot. According to traditional Chinese medicine everyone is made up of yin and yang elements. When these elements are balanced, a person remains healthy. If the yang gets too strong, the body’s internal temperature rises, and that person becomes susceptible to illnesses. To treat this, the person must get rid of the extra yang. The best way to do this is by consuming yin foods and beverages. Hot water is a yin beverage that will lower the internal temperature and restore balance, making the person healthy again.
This custom got cemented after a cholera epidemic. Many people in the north of China died, while the south of China remained untouched. It was well known that people in the south drank a lot more hot water than people in the north.
Now we know that cholera is a bacterium that spreads through water. We also know that boiling water kills bacteria, and this is exactly what the southerners did unknowingly. So, drinking hot water is beneficial for your health!
Another custom that is present in many religions is fasting. I recently learned in one of my lectures that there is a certain process called autophagy. Autophagy is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components in the cell, the cell also cleanses itself of toxins. It is not very clear which factors trigger autophagy, but there seems to be a connection with fasting. In conclusion, there is a big possibility that fasting really is good for your health!
There are a lot of customs in the world, some may have a scientific background, others may not, but people still believe that it works and sometimes that is enough. Everyone has their own traditions and superstitions; however small or ridiculous they may be. I, for example, always apologise to books when my feet accidentally touch them, and I never go outside if my hair is still wet because my mom says I will catch a cold if I do.
What are some of your practices or superstitions?