A quick guide to good health

9 07 2013

When it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing there are no short cuts, but you can prevent myriad infections and conditions by simply keeping yourself clean and adhering to a strict but workable personal hygiene regimen.

Smelly feet, bad breath, strong pungent smell of sweat upon raising your arms can be quite annoying and irritating. The good news is that these conditions can actually have a quick fix! Yes 24 hour quick fix. Remedy? Good body hygiene. Personal health is the overall health of the body and the mind. Bodies need to be cleaned and well groomed in addition to a healthy diet, exercise and enough sleep in order to perform well. Some fundamental elementary school teachings include body hygiene. It is therefore understood by many to be common knowledge, though it may not be so. Sometimes when we neglect our personal hygiene we may cause problems that we may not even be aware of, for example, pungent body odour or bad breath to the point of nauseating those around you.

Some good grooming routines include:

Hair: Hair should be washed at least once a week with soap and mild shampoo. Those with Ghanaian lines and braids, one should try to wash it at least once in two weeks so as not to ruin the hairstyle. The scalp must also be oiled for women at least an hour before hair wash. This will prevent dandruff which can also be quite embarrassing. Dandruff is flaking of dry skin from the scalp. It is usually white in color and very prominent.

Skin: Despite the many skin beauty products on the market, what remains fundamental is soap and water. One should have a bath at least once or twice a day. One should wash off soap properly and dry with a clean towel. (Towels should be cleaned at least twice a week). If one has had some sport activity they should take a bath after the activity. The genitals and anus also need to be cleaned or will cause irritation in unwanted areas. Cotton underwear is best, as the natural absorptive capacity of cotton prevents sweat build up. Ladies should wipe from front to back after using the toilet in order to avoid urinary tract infections (UTI’s), bacterial vaginal infection and other infections caused by faecal contamination. Some cultures advocate a wash with water, which could have more health benefits.

Teeth: One should endeavor to brush teeth at least twice a day. If one is eating artificial sugars often, they should ensure that they brush their teeth before going to bed. The tongue and inner surface must also be brushed and at least for sixty seconds. Bristles of the brush should be resilient. A neem twig can also be used as an alternative; it works by mechanical scrubbing of the teeth.

Hands: The Dettol advert with the four critical times of hand washing couldn’t have said it better: before eating, after eating, after visiting the toilet and after changing the baby’s nappies and in addition to other activities. Hands must be washed thoroughly with soap and water and rinsed well and attention paid to areas between fingers, nails and back of hand. The hands should thereafter be dried with a clean towel and the towel washed every day. When handling food hands should be clean and one should avoid scratching or touching the ears, nose, mouth and any other body orifices.

Nails: The key word here is “short”. Short nails are simpler to maintain and less trouble. If the nails are kept long, they should be clipped along their shape (but not deeply at the sides) so that they do not pinch the skin. For ladies, the nails shouldn’t be painted continuously as they will end up with split look. Brittle nails are a sign of deficiency or disease condition. Once in a while nails can be given a treat and soaked in warm water for ten minutes, oiled and massaged.

Feet: should be scrubbed with sponge or pumice stone that isn’t very abrasive. In between the toes should be dried after a bath and the toenails should be well clipped. Cotton socks are deemed ideal, as they are properly absorbent. Leather shoes allow the foot to “breath”, thereby avoiding build up of moisture. If possible one should change their pair of shoes and not wear them every day. Allowing daily “airing” of the feet, avoiding sweat build up and keeping clean will prevent athlete’s foot (fungal infection). An offending smell from the feet is likely to suggest athlete’s foot (or dirty socks).

Menstrual hygiene: washing must be done and cleanliness is very important during this period. Pads or tampons depending on the preference of the woman must be changed at least once in six hours to prevent odour, infection or septic shock in case of tampons — a condition normally marked with fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Pads can cause soreness in the thighs. Dusting powders are not recommended in the genital areas.

Sexual Health: A healthy sex life is known to promote good health benefits such as ensuring better sleep, reducing tension headaches, improving immunity, reduces stress, promotes longevity, increases blood circulation, increases the levels of estrogen in women which protects them against heart disease and testosterone in men. Good sexual hygiene involves staying faithful to one partner or otherwise using condoms in order to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as genital herpes, gonorrhea, HIV and many others.

Food: One should ensure to eat a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, adequate fruits and vegetables and plenty of water that helps to flush out toxins from the body and also prevent UTI’s. A good diet prevents malnutrition and prevents diseases. Excessive consumption of alcohol predisposes one to diseases such as liver cirrhosis in in the long term. It is also important for one to drink clean water. One should ensure that water is boiled or treated in order to avoid water borne diseases such as cholera or dysentery. If not certain of the source, one should endeavor to get a clean proven source of water for consumption.

Exercise: Physical exercise is also important when it comes to promoting good health. One should have a good work out at least three times a week averaging at least 30- 45 minutes. There should be a degree of exertion, which one should increase with time. Walking, jogging, swimming is all good activities to engage in order to promote good circulation of blood in the body and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Sleeping: This is the best ways to boost your mental health. Daily sleep should be enough at about six to nine hours. Children should definitely sleep for nine to 12 hours including their mid-day naps. Lack of enough sleep leads to irritability, lack of concentration, memory loss, and lack of vibrancy.

Bad habits: In also promoting good personal health one should avoid habits such as cigarette smoking and substance abuse. These lead to a myriad of health problems such as addiction, dependency and abuse, as well as lowered immunity with various infections and cancers.

Mental Health: Positive mental health also involves having positive energy, positive thoughts and having good coping mechanisms and emotional management in order to avoid depression and stress. Stress and pressure can cause weight loss, lack of appetite or over-eating. Positive mental health should thus be nurtured just as much as other forms of health. Good personal hygiene gets you looking good and feeling good and confident. It is just that simple.

This article has been written by Dr Torooti Mwirigi.

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