Let's be honest: We all have our fair share of unconventional habits that we secretly engage in and try to keep under wraps. But what if these little, seemingly eccentric things we do actually could benefit our health? According to experts, there are a number of surprising habits that are good for your health, so it turns out participating in them isn't so bad after all. And even if it's something you don't want to discuss with others, there's nothing wrong with letting loose and participating in these habits behind closed doors.
"There are a lot of health myths spread about certain hygiene habits, so it is difficult for some people to recognize which habits are actually good for the body," Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, physician and health and wellness expert, tells Bustle. "If you are simply unfamiliar with the health benefits that certain practices provide, then it comes as no surprise that some habits may be deemed 'gross' in your mind."
Sometimes what seems healthy to us is actually counterintuitive, as some habits that seem unconventional can actually benefit us when we least expect it. Here are 14 surprising habits that are actually good for your health, no matter how out-there they may seem.
1Eating Your Own Boogers
Most people won't admit to picking and eating their own boogers, but it's time to stop being ashamed — this can actually help prevent you from getting sick. Multiple studies show that booger picking and eating can strengthen your immune system. A study from the American Society of Microbiology found that components found in your boogers can help form a protective layer against the bacteria that causes cavities. Another study in Virology Journal also found that the immune-support offered from eating your boogers may help fight against HIV. Cringe, but also interesting?
Having a potty mouth is considered not the best habit by many, but according to science, you should curse away. According to research from Keele University School of Psychology, swearing can help lessen pain, and possibly increase our tolerance to it. As long as you're swearing the right away — AKA not yelling angrily at another person — your potty mouth can help you feel better all around.
3Living With Animals
For many people, the idea of living with many animals in the home can sound unappealing. But there's nothing wrong with sharing space with other living creatures. "There is some evidence that living with animals in the household, day to day, including livestock, is protective against developing allergies and asthma," family nurse practitioner Carol S. Thelen, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC tells Bustle. So maybe it's time to consider adopting a pet after all.
4Slathering Food In Hot Sauce
You might get questioning looks from friends and family when you slather all your food in hot sauce, but feel free to spice it up as much as you'd like. Research published in the journal The BMJ found that people who ate spicy foods three or more times a week had a 14 percent reduced risk of death. Capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers, can help reduce inflammation, improve metabolic status, and improve your gut health.
5Excessively Chewing Your Food
The sight of someone chewing their food endlessly may not be appealing, but taking care to chew your food all the way is actually a good thing. "The average person chews their food only three to five times with each bite," health coach Stephanie Wiscott tells Bustle. "We should be chewing our food up to 30 times each bite. Chewing is an important part of the digestive process. By chewing, we break the food down to an easier digestible morsel as well as create saliva which aides breaking down the food in the gut."
Farting is just releasing gas that has built up during the process of digestion and respiration. "It’s completely normal to fart," Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C. tells Bustle. "In fact, a mostly healthy person might 'pass gas' 14 to 18 times per day. And farting a lot throughout the day may even show that you are eating enough fiber. Farts aren’t always the loud, foul smelling ones that you notice, but they can be silent and odorless too."
7Biting Your Nails
Even though your parents probably nagged you incessantly about your bad nail-biting habit, it might not be the worst thing after all. Research published in the journal Pediatrics found nail biting can help boost people's immunity. They found that kids who nibbled their nails were less likely to get allergies and had stronger immune systems overall.
Not showering may not seem like the best idea, but skipping a shower every now and then may actually benefit your skin. "Daily showering can strip the skin of some its natural oils, leading to dryness, and it can disrupt the natural microbiome," dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Dr. Sejal Shah tells Bustle. "Obviously you shouldn't skip a shower when you've had a particularly sweaty day but if you're just staying in and relaxing and don't feel like showering, go for it."
9Not Washing Your Hair
Just like showering daily, washing your hair everyday isn't always necessary, and it can do more harm than good. "It may lead to very dry and brittle hair, as your hair can lose some of its oils with excessive washing," says Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe. So skip some washes every now and again, and do your hair a favor.
10Not Removing Your Pubic Hair
There are some people who prefer to have pubic hair removed, says Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe. "However, there are some benefits that pubic hair may potentially provide, such as buffering against friction during sexual activity and even offering some degree of protection against certain pathogens. It is also important to note that pubic hair removal does come with the risk of injury in the form of cuts, burns, etc."
When your hands have been in the dirt, you may rush to wash them with antibacterial soap, but touching dirt is good for your gut health. "The soil-based organisms that are found in dirt support your immune response and microbiome," says Dr. Axe. "These good bacteria help to crowd out harmful pathogens and fight off bad bacteria that bind to or puncture your gut wall."
Coughing and “hocking up loogies” is usually a sign that there’s something going on with your respiratory system. Although you may be hesitant to relieve your cough because it may not sound the best, it’s actually a common and preventive reflex. "When you hock a loogie, you’re helping to clear irritants that are in your airways," says Dr. Axe. "This in turn helps to prevent infections that would be caused by the foreign pathogens in your windpipe or lungs."
13Looking At Your Bowel Movements
"It might seem a little strange, but looking at your poop can actually flag any potential health problems or tell you a little about your health in general," says Dr. Axe. "Ideally, your poop is connected in one long, smooth 'S' shape, which signifies that you are eating enough fiber and staying hydrated. The color of your poop matters too, as it should be medium to dark brown, in most cases." To learn more about what your poop is telling you, Dr. Axe says to check out The Bristol Stool Chart, which is broken down into 7 categories. Keeping on top of your health this way may seem unconventional, but it's also a good idea.
14Slacking With The Dishwashing
If you don't own a dishwasher and find that your dishes aren't squeaky clean, that's OK. Research out of Sweden found that kids raised in homes with hand-washed dishes were significantly less likely to develop eczema and also enjoyed a lower risk of developing allergic asthma and hay fever compared to kids raised in homes with dishwashers. "This is more evidence to support the hygiene hypothesis, a theory that suggests we're over-sanitized and not being exposed to enough germs to build a healthy immune system," says Dr. Axe.
15Not Cleaning Out Your Ears
Letting all that ear wax build up may not be so bad after all. Ears have their own internal cleaning mechanism, and using a cotton swab to remove wax can actually cause damage to your ears. Ear wax helps keeps your ears dry and preventions infection, and rather than clean out your ears, swabs merely condense and impact the earwax further into the ear canal, Dr. Rob Hicks tells Real Clear Science. This can cause pain, pressure, and temporarily poor hearing.
These habits may sound unconventional, but engaging in them can actually do your body some good.