Eating right before a swim is “not a risk factor for drowning” and “can be dismissed as a myth,” says the American Red Cross.
VERIFY asked our readers about some of the food myths they’ve heard over the years that they’d like to see fact-checked.
A common question we got was related to a warning almost all of us have heard: You should wait at least 30 minutes after eating before going for a swim.
According to this advice, it’s dangerous to swim right after eating because your body needs to pump blood to your digestive system and your muscles at the same time. So you’re at risk of drowning, either because you’re reportedly getting severe cramps or because your limbs aren’t getting enough blood to keep you afloat.
Is it dangerous to swim within 30 minutes of eating?
No, it’s not dangerous to swim within 30 minutes of eating.
WHAT WE FOUND
In 2011 the american red cross reviewed 50 years of scientific literature on eating and swimming and concluded that “eating before swimming is not a contributing risk to drowning and can be dismissed as a myth”.
The American Red Cross added that it has found no reported cases of people drowning or nearly drowning because they ate just before entering the water. Also, no major medical or safety organizations were found to recommend waiting to swim after eating.
While your body needs to pump blood to your stomach for digestion and to your limbs for physical activities like swimming, there is plenty of blood to circulate around.
“Those concerns are unfounded because your blood is simply not being diverted enough to cause any real problems.” dignity health, a California hospital provider, said. “There are no documented deaths attributed to someone swimming with a full stomach.”
Bwalya Lungu, Ph.D., professor of food science and food folklore at the University of California Davis, explained that the body and brain know how to balance their processes to send everything you need to where you need it , including blood for digestion and muscle activity.
“The body understands that it has to digest food, right? And if so [the myth was true], then every time you eat would mean you couldn’t do any other activity at all, as all the blood is diverted to the stomach,” Lungu said. “So you can’t go around and eat. you can’t run You just can’t do anything. And yet we can engage in a range of other activities while we eat — because not all of the blood is diverted.”
If you get a muscle cramp while swimming or doing anything else, it’s likely caused by dehydration, overuse of a muscle, muscle strain, or simply holding a position for a long time, not because the blood is flowing from multiple places at once, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are conditions that can cause cramps due to insufficient blood supply to your legs and feet, but people who get these types of cramps get them because the arteries that supply blood to their legs are too narrow, not because their bodies don’t enough blood is pumping in that direction.
That University of Arkansas for Medical Services says you can get “some cramps” — not severe, debilitating cramps — if you do strenuous exercise in the pool immediately after eating, but it says this applies to eating before any strenuous exercise and that swimming in the Free time immediately after eating should not pose any problems.
So, if there’s no evidence of any risk from swimming right after eating, how did this myth start?
Both Dignity Health and Lungu point to a 1908 Boy Scout Handbook as the first recorded example of this myth.
“Never bathe in deep water very soon after a meal, it is very likely to cause convulsions that will make you double up and drown,” says the original British version 1908 scouting for boys manual said.
This warning then made its way first handbook of the Boy Scouts of America 1911, which stated: “Many young swimmers make the mistake of entering the water too soon after eating. The stomach and digestive organs are busy preparing food for the blood and body. Suddenly they are asked to take care of the swimmer’s work. The change is too quick for the organs, digestion comes to a standstill, congestion can follow and then paralyzing cramps.”
Until the first Girl Scout Handbook Published in 1918, the myth had been solidified: “If you bathe within an hour and a half of eating a meal, before your food has been digested, you are very likely to have cramps. Cramps, in extreme pain, make you double up so you can’t move your arms or legs, and you fall down and drown.”
Reprints of the original manual, incl one released in 1954 and another was released in 1963, also warn that you should wait an hour and a half after a meal before taking a bath, adding that “it’s your own fault” if you drown. This is the version cited as the original a series of articlesstarting with a Snopes article from 2001but it was not what the Boy Scouts would have read in 1908.
“Where the Boy Scout handbook got the idea from isn’t known, but it certainly wasn’t accurate,” says Dignity Health.
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https://www.kvue.com/article/news/verify/food-verify/swimming-30-minutes-after-eating-not-dangerous-drowning-risk-cramps-digestion-blood-flow/536-aa7cb9eb-072d-4d5f-a41b-c12d2c42b5d6 Swimming within 30 minutes of eating does not increase risk of drowning