On being healthy…

Hello my dear readers, how have you all been? I know I should be more dedicated to educating you guys through this health blog, but I must confess that its not been easy, and I hope to improve with time♡.

We all desire to be in perfect health all the time. As in, who wants to spend vacation money on hospital bills? Although we have heard of people who pretend to be ill so they can obtain sympathy and monetary compensation from family and sometimes, their places of work. As much as we try to keep ourselves from getting sick, some of us bring such illnesses upon ourselves.

We are engaged in many practices that are downright unwholesome. You don’t have to earn a university degree to discover that a lot of habits we have are unhealthy and can lead to many diseases.

Take hand-washing,  for example. Dettol and Safeguard, among other antiseptic soaps and liquids,have hammered the importance of hand-washing to the general public. Most of us still fail to wash our hands before and after we use them to handle things that are obviously laden with germs. Actions like shaking hands, handling car steerings, doing house chores, shopping especially in open markets, and using the toilets should be followed by hand-washing, before handling food or touching sensitive organs of he body like the eyes. I was at the bank last week to deposit some money and while the cash handler was counting the money, he stuck a finger in his mouth, wetting it to enable him count the money well, despite the money-counter mahine staring at him in the face. So imagine him repeating that action several times a day and he spends about 9 months in that department. When he is struck with ulcerative gingivitis or some other mouth infection, he begins to think he’s been bewitched by a customer.

What about those individuals who find it easy to urinate or defecate anywhere?  It is a bad practice especially for women who have more than one opening into their bodies, unlike the men. Some people have turned the toilets of fast-food outlets as their personal conveniences. Seeing the amount of customers who pass through popular fast-food outlets daily, it is only logical to avoid using their toilets, unless in unavoidable circumstances where other options have been exhausted.

That reminds me of how some of us behave towards food. It’s not every ‘owambe’ that you are invited to that you must eat the food served. Most times the quality of foods served at such gatherings are questionable because of the amount of guests to be catered for. My mother had us growing up with these words ‘To avoid embarrassment my daughter, always eat at home before you attend any function’. I try to abide by that rule and it has been very helpful.  It was a widespread gist in Nigeria a few years back that some guests at a wedding had severe food poisoning with a handful of them hospitalized.  What about a family that was wiped out in eastern Nigeria after consuming a local made delicacy? It’s not every ‘mama-put’ (canteen) you get wind of that you must visit. You visit some canteens and houseflies are competing for breathing space with you. The servers are shouting at one another and at the buyers,  delivering saliva and sweat into the pots containing those meals we drive miles to arrive at and still stand on long queues for.

Personal hygiene can never, ever be overflogged. Some people have no regards whatsoever for hygiene. Several diseases have been shown to stem from lack of good personal hygiene. Once while I was in the university,  I went to a salon to do a pedicure. A well-dressed woman walked and asked that her toenails be repolished. She had artificial nails on the toes, by the way. As the lady doing her toes was about to yank off the old artificial nails,  the woman told her to forgo the normal process of cleaning and filing the nails before applying the polish and immediately cover up her natural nails with the artificial ones. I was curious to find out why she said that, and glanced over to where she was seated. My friends, her toenails were decaying,  and had a greenish-brown colour so I presumed she was ashamed. That is an obvious nail infection that stemmed from carrying artificial nails for more than the normal time (maximum 2 weeks) and/or constant nail fixing without allowing natural nails to breathe. Instead of treating it, she chose the easy but dangerous way out-to cover it up. Some of us don’t wash newly bought clothes especially underwears before wearing, which isn’t good. This is more important to those who buy ‘vintage’ a.k.a  ‘okrika’ clothes. You talk to some people and you are overwhelmed with a terrible stench, making you wishing you were doing anything than talking to such a person, just because there is lack of oral hygiene.  Conditions such as halitosis and skin infections are not hereditary so we are solely responsible when we become infected.

What are our attitudes towards illnesses that are deemed ‘petty’? Like catarrh, cough, unexplained headache or purging? With the rate which young and otherwise healthy-looking people are dying nowadays, it behooves on us to step up our game as far as healthcare is concerned. We should cultivate the habit of going for regular checkups,  seeing the dentists,  cardiologists, gynecologists and other medical specialists so that we are not caught unawares. Cancer screening is very important in our world now as almost everything around us can be said to be carcinogenic.

It’ s unbelievably true that some of us have never been screened for HIV/AIDS, and that is a sad condition as some statistics show that 1 in 18 Nigerians are infected with the virus. Hepatitis virus, especially Hepatitis B is another deadly microbe and screening is readily available, to confirm if one needs a vaccine to prevent,  or treatment to eradicate the virus if already infected. Ignorance is the greatest challenge facing most of us but there many health enlightenment and development programs arranged by government, non-governmental organizations and even individuals and we should endeavour to take advantage of these programs.
Most of us are internet-compliant but what some of us are ignorant of is baffling. There are tons of search engines ready to give you ideas about any questions you may have. Having a smartphone isn’t all about social networking and the likes. Let us learn to be health conscious and rely less on superficial products that mask what is really going on inside us.

Feel free to comment and ask questions…

Until my next post – which hopefully will be sooner than you expect- play safe!


The Nigerian Gospel according to Flagyl®

Hello Everyone, how have you been, especially healthwise? I hope everything is going on well. Keeping a blog isn’t easy, I must confess. Let me just blame it on the government (jokes). Actually, with the constant supply of no light in our country, high cost of living (internet bills), insecurities and what-nots, our hope is all we have got until we decide to change. Well, that’s not why I’m here today.

I believe many of us have had cause to use the drug popularly known as ‘Flagyl®’, although variants like ‘Flagin‘, ‘Flygyl‘, and ‘Vagin‘ (yes, I have seen someone spell it like that), exist. Most Nigerians believe they have a license to eat all sorts because their savior, Flagyl® is always on hand to rescue them from making a huge mess of themselves in public.

Take for example, this story. I was in my senior secondary school years, and was using a very popular bus transport service back to school, Ibadan to be precise. As a ground rule, whenever I am traveling by road, I don’t eat any solid meal after 6.30am because I develop very terrible motion sickness, plus there might be the urge to do the ‘big thing’ along the way. With these public transport services in Nigeria, you are on your own when it comes to such matters because if everybody is given permission, our journey may never be completed. Anyway, let me get on to the main story.

I was sitting behind two women in their fifties. As we boarded and settled, they had coolers of food which they started devouring before we even started moving. This particular transport service gives breakfast to passengers before traveling, and that day wasn’t any different. I noticed that these women on receiving the food, opened them immediately and started eating. I was taken aback but I thought maybe they were just released from a refugee camp, or they were ignorant that the bus just had facilities for urinating, and when it comes to stopping the bus for a passenger to defecate, the officials no ‘dey look uche face‘. I couldn’t help but to listen to their conversation (not just me though, they were so loud that 35 buses behind us could hear them), and I overheard one of them asking the other if she brought ‘Flagin‘ along, to which the answer was in a local western parlance, ‘Beeni now, mi o use Flagyl seere lai lai‘, meaning, ‘Yes now, I don’t joke with Flagyl for any reason‘. I wished them well and tried to make myself comfortable for the journey.

All the stops we made – buying fuel at Gwagwalada, picking up some passengers at Abaji (where they bought akara and it wasn’t even 10am yet), and stopping for lunch at Lokoja, these women feasted. As we approached Osun state, there was a slight traffic jam, and hawkers flocked the bus selling their wares, including a type of spiced diced plantain popularly known as “dodo ikire“. These women literally jumped for joy at the sight and bought quite a number. It wasn’t long before I heard muffled noises and as glanced their way, one of them was wincing in pain and began to make her way to the convenience in the bus.

Some 30 minutes later, the bus was filled with a stench that could only be described as a fulminating concoction of rotting eggs and fish garnished with bitter leaves. This woman, in her desperation and for want of avoiding public embarrassment, went ahead to defecate in the urinal obviously meant for urination only. As a result, it wouldn’t flush and the whole thing got out of control… its better imagined than spelt out. It was a scandal. The bus conductor, on finding out, made it a point of duty to call her all sorts of derogatory names, and threatened to expel her from the bus for endangering our lives. I, along with many others, did not feel sorry for this woman because she deserved every minute of embarrassment she got. Plus, she was disappointed by Flagyl®, her stomach savior and defender of her intestines.

I have had the experience of coming in contact with patients in the community Pharmacies and even in the Hospitals where people are assumed to be more enlightened, and on interaction, most of them believe that Flagyl® is the one-stop solution for stomach upsets. Well, that is wrong. If you are part of that bandwagon, you are not only wasting your time, you are also increasing the likelihood of obtaining adverse effects and promoting the development of organisms resistant to Flagyl®.

What is Flagyl®? It is just a brand name by Sanofi-Aventis, a notable pharmaceutical company. Its active component is Metronidazole, which simply put, is a nitroimidazole antibiotic medication used particularly against infections caused by anaerobes and protozoa. An anaerobic organism or anaerobe is any organism that does not require oxygen for growth. It could possibly react negatively and may even die if oxygen is present. Anaerobic microbes include Bacteroides fragilis spp, Fusobacterium spp, Clostridium spp, Peptostreptococcus spp, while Protozoal species include Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, and Trichomonas vaginalis.

There are several causes of stomach ache, including Indigestion, Constipation, Stomach flu, Food poisoning, Menstrual Cramps, Food allergies, Gas and Lactose intolerance. The surprising news is that none of these conditions can be treated with Flagyl®, except for food poisoning caused by anaerobic and/or protozoal infections. Therefore in most cases, the use of Flagyl® is not warranted. As I mentioned earlier, its unnecessary and incessant use can cause a plethora of adverse effects including development of neutropenia, increased risk of peripheral neuropathy and/or CNS toxicity.

Metronidazole is listed by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. A carcinogen is any substance that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. Although some of the testing methods have been questioned, oral exposure has been shown to cause cancer in experimental animals. Metronidazole is listed as a possible carcinogen according to the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). All these medical jargon point to the fact that Flagyl® is not an antidote for any sort of stomach pain.

If you are experiencing some sort of stomach ache, it’s important to know the cause, at least try to. It could be something unwholesome that you ate or drank, and it is wrong to assume that taking Flagyl® is the solution to the problem. Rather than continuing to ingest such substances, because Flagyl® is available in your bag, its best to stop at once.

If you are feeling constipated, you could drink extra water (more than your normal intake), drink warm liquids, and eat more fruits and vegetables. If you believe you have food poisoning, self treatment is not the best. Most cases of food poisoning go away on their own in several days, but if the condition is persistent or severe you should see a doctor. If a particular food you are eating is causing you repeated stomach pain or discomfort, you may have a food allergy. There is no way to cure food allergies, so the best way to avoid a reaction is to strictly avoid the allergy-causing foods. What of a feeling of excess gas?
Traditionally, one of the top recommendations, including from the American College of Gastroenterology, to keep gas to a minimum is to identify gas-forming foods in your diet, then avoid or reduce them. Foods that are considered to be increase gas discomfort include Beans and Cabbage. Do away with or reduce the frequency of these foods in your diet, and save yourself from producing biological weapons of destruction.

 You mean to tell me I just farted? Oh my…                      

After all said, eating should be done in moderation, especially when out of the convenience of a home. Your date took you to a Chinese restaurant and you have never eaten Chinese before? Instead of choosing Sesame Chicken mixed with Lettuce Wraps, in collaboration with Peking Duck dipped in Wonton Soup, all stirred in Hot and Sour soup, respect yourself and stick to good old rice and fried chicken or something familiar. Apart from the embarrassment your running stomach may cause you, you also risk being dumped because you would have succeeded in wasting some poor dude’s money. Better still, suggest that he takes you to Mama Delta or Jevenik restaurant, or somewhere you would be comfortable in. Don’t dull yourself.

Well I hope you have learnt a thing or two…on a lighter note, have your stomach caused you any embarrassing moment(s)? I would love to hear about it. Still feel free to ask questions and drop comments.

Until my next post, stay safe.