Archive for June, 2007

Sweat and Smell Good!

Mariam Al Moatassem Bellah

I woke up one summer morning, took a cold shower, put on my clothes and prepared myself for a new day at work.

I ran to catch the bus and when I had sat down, I noticed that girl nearly my age sitting next to me wearing fine and neat clothes. She looked beautiful, but … what was that smell?

How come someone so pretty and attractive had that awful smell that repels people away and makes them feel disgusted?

I tried to breathe fresh air, then I gave up at last, pushed the window wide open, and got my head out like kids until the bus arrived to the underground station where another kind of suffering was about to begin. I think those who are used to taking the underground in Cairo everyday know exactly how I felt!

What are those awful odors, people? Haven’t you heard about soap and water?
I finally arrived at work feeling very weary, not only from the sun and heat, but also from people who smell too!

Let Your Body Breathe

I thought many times if there’s a way we could stop people from sweating, but after a long search on different medical websites I found that what I was thinking of may bring all people’s life on this planet to an end!

As our lungs breathe oxygen, our skin breathes through the sweat we secrete everyday so as to lower the body’s temperature and get rid of toxicants. A healthy person secretes an average of 1 liter of sweat daily. Here’s why we sweat:

1. The rise of body temperature in general.

2. Exercise and involvement in different kinds of sports.

3. Consumption of hot and pungent food (e.g. Jalapeno and chili pepper).

4. Physical or mental exhaustion, stress, or nervousness.

Sweat Is Odorless

Sweating (also called perspiration) is the production of a fluid that mainly contains water as well as a smaller amount of salts, excreted by the sweat glands in the skin.

The strangest thing is that sweat itself doesn’t have a smell! Yes, believe me: it’s odorless. There are two kinds of sweat glands responsible for hidrosis (the formation and excretion of sweat):

* Eccrine glands : These are small sweat glands distributed over the body surface that produce mainly water and various salts devoid of odor and color). They are important in regulating body temperature. They are particularly abundant on the palms of the hands, soles of feet, and the forehead.

* Apocrine glands : These are multicellular glands that produce sweat containing fatty materials. They are present in the armpits and around the genital area. Their activity is the main cause of odor, due to the bacteria that break down the organic compounds in the sweat from these glands.

So now we know that sweat itself doesn’t cause the bad smell, but it’s the bacteria that secretes an acid formed in the places that sweat the most.

Sweat As You Like

The best thing about sweating a lot is that it’s very useful and keeps you clean from inside, so now it’s your role to keep yourself clean from outside.

Many youth go through many embarrassing situations because of their bad sweat smell, although they take many precautions in order to stay clean. That problem appears the most when we spend long hours outdoors in the sun and the heat or when we’re in a damp or a closed place with many people. The big problem of sweat is that you can’t smell yourself, only others, and vice versa.

There are lots of ways we can apply to get rid of the sweat bad smell and they’re very easy:

* Take a warm shower daily using a natural loaf and strong-smelling soap or pamper yourself with a beautiful scented shower gel. You can take a shower more than once a day according to your skin nature. You could also use anti-bacterial soap or cleanser with a moisture.

* Drink large amounts of water and fresh juice everyday.

* Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables everyday and avoid food that contains caffeine like chocolate, tea, coffee, along with pungent food, pastrami, and hilbah (fenugreek) seeds.

* Change your clothes when they get dirty, greasy, and full of sweat and wash them immediately; that includes what you wear indoors and outdoors and your sleeping gown/pajamas, and of course change your underwear daily.

* Remove your underarm hair on a regular basis.

* Use suitable kinds of deodorant directly after shower. They come in different forms, such as powder, cream, splash, and roll-on. First You have to be sure that it doesn’t contain alcohol so as not to blacken your underarm. For girls especially, you can use natural fruit deodorants. They smell good and at the same time they are not very strong scented.

* Avoid synthetic clothes that are purely made of nylon and polyester. Exchange them with clothes made of cotton as it absorbs the sweat and does not cause dermatitis (skin inflammation). Or at least you can wear cotton underwear as it is the closest thing to your skin.

* Spraying perfume under your armpits won’t hide the bad smell. Instead, It will react with sweat salts causing dermatitis, black and dark areas in the skin. Plus, alcohol evaporates real fast!

* If you’re allergic to regular deodorants or don’t like them, there’s quite a wonderful natural option: crystal deodorant rock. It’s very cheap and odorless, and it doesn’t have any side effects. It can be found in herbal shops.

Good Muslims

Finally, if none of the above worked out for you and the bad smell still exists, you can seek a dermatologist’s opinion. You might need medical treatment.

Always remember that Muslims must be clean and should care for their hygiene. Instead of being a good person who smells so bad, be a good Muslim who always smells good.

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Ten Myths About Exercise

Deepa Kandaswamy

One of the longest and toughest battles in history was the Battle of the Bulge. The daily battle against bulging body forms is not less hard, if not as bloody. Many people are getting increasingly obese, and obesity is stepping in early nowadays.
Before, women used to lose their figure after their first or second baby. Men used to develop beer bellies or become obese due to inactivity. Nowadays, however, obesity develops at a young age, as young as 10 sometimes.

Increasingly, kids are taking to junk food and television dinners, and they rarely play in the evenings – unless it is computer games. As for today’s adults, both men and women lose their health and shape due to overwork. The worst jobs are desk jobs, such as working in administrative, IT, and customer service positions. This has become a form of occupational hazard.

Do you know people can gain weight if they continuously miss on sleep? According to a University of Chicago research study by Eva Van Cauter and her team, which appeared in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, sleep deficiency causes a fall in secretion of a hormone called leptin and an increase in another called ghrelin. Leptin is responsible for telling the brain that a person is full and does not need to eat. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for triggering hunger. The decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin together cause a person to crave food even when the body does not really need it. They also tell the body to store the extra calories eaten for later use. No wonder obesity starts early and is on the rise!

One of my cousins was stuck in an executive job that required her to be seated for over nine hours a day. She decided that the easiest way to lose weight was to skip breakfast and go jogging two kilometers on the beach early in the morning everyday. As a result, she would end up eating a bigger lunch than she used to eat before she started her “lose weight” program. After a month of this, she not only gained weight but also stopped jogging because she decided exercise was useless!

Starving yourself or skipping a meal is neither practical nor sensible. Many people cringe at the thought of dieting and exercise. This is either because they don’t understand what it means or because they take drastic measures when they decide to lose weight. Some fitness fiction like “no pain, no gain” still exist to this day.

In addition, there is a constant background of products that advertise losing weight on television, such as miraculous drinks for a slimmer body in 10 days and other similar outrageous product promises. People buy these due to a lot of popular misconceptions that are still widely prevalent. Here are 10 of the common myths about exercise as well as the not-so-commonly-known facts based on current exercise research.

Myth #1

Exercise Your Weight Away

Like all the different results which one can get from exercising, weight gain or weight loss is due to many factors. These can range from food intake and dietary programs to genetics. Not all individuals will lose the same amount of weight on the same exercise program. In fact, it is possible to be active and overweight! So if you are active and still overweight, do not lose hope. Exercise being the only sure way to lose all the weight you want is a myth. While exercise alone cannot guarantee you ideal weight, regular physical activity is one of the most important factors in building up stamina and in the long term helps with reducing weight.

Myth #2

You Burn More Fat by Exercising Regularly at High Intensity

The most important aspect in exercise is not how fast or vigorous the workout is but rather how much calories are burned during an activity. While it is true that you burn more calories by running, walking, or stepping quickly, it is often not possible to sustain the pace of a high-intensity exercise routine. This is the reason why most people give up their fitness programs after eagerly joining the local gym. It is trying to do too much too fast. It is safer and more practical to exercise longer at a lower intensity, especially when you are starting out or returning to your exercise routine.

Myth #3

Exercise Is a Waste of Time If Not Done Regularly

This kind of thinking keeps people away from even starting an exercise routine or joining an exercise program. Research continues to show that a little exercise is better than no exercise at all. Therefore, if you missed some days of your exercise program, don’t give up but rather go back to it. So, exercise whenever you find the time, or try to do it by not using the usual gadgets. Go over to the television and try to manually change the channel each time instead of using the remote control. Walk over to the telephone instead of picking up the cordless phone. Don’t get into your car to visit your neighbor who lives down the street, take a refreshing walk instead.

Myth #4

Overweight People Are Unlikely to Benefit Much From Exercise

This myth discourages many obese people from ever getting into an exercise routine because there is way too much fat to get rid of. The truth is both men and women of all different sizes and weights can improve their fitness levels with modest increases in activity or exercise. Studies have repeatedly showed that obese people who participate in regular exercise programs have a lower risk of mortality than lazy individuals, irrespective of weight. (EuroAspire Study Group)

Myth #5

Yoga Is Completely Gentle and Safe

Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline. It is an excellent exercise system and has huge benefits due to its holistic nature. However, some asanas, or poses, are quite rigorous and demanding, both physically and mentally. As with any form of exercise, a qualified instructor and close supervision are essential for a safe and effective workout. It is true that yoga is a safe program but not without a yoga master. One cannot perform all the asanas just by watching the video instructions on the yoga DVD. Therefore, try not to undertake yoga on your own without supervision.

Myth #6

Only Gym Workouts Help Reduce Weight

Despite all the hype about the gadgets, trendy exercise facilities and routines, it is not true that you will lose weight only if you go to the gym. Research shows you lose weight if you perform an exercise routine consistently. For most people, home-based workouts are fine as they are easier to stick to, rather than a trip to the local gym. The keyword is “consistently.” The location is irrelevant.

Myth #7

Benefits of Mind-Body Programs Are Questionable

A research study by Dr. Michael Irwin recently published at Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, shows that the health benefits of mind-body programs Tai Chi and Yoga continues to grow. Tai Chi, for example, has been shown to treat lower back pain. Yoga has been shown to cure asthma and other diseases. Both these routines result in improved flexibility, balance, co-ordination, posture, and strength. They can also reduce stress and promote weight loss.

Myth #8

(Reuters)
Water Fitness Programs Are Only for Older People or Those with Disabilities
A recent research published in American Fitness magazine shows that water fitness programs can be highly challenging and effective for both improving fitness and losing weight. Nowadays, even top athletes, such as Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, integrate water fitness programs in their training workouts.

Myth #9

Be Critical of Yourself

This is not just a myth but also a very bad idea. It is easy to get skeptical and critical if you don’t see immediate results in your exercise program. Weight loss varies from one individual to the other. Fitness experts all over the world are now saying that weight loss largely depends on one’s Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is the rate at which the body burns calories while not exercising. RMR varies greatly from one person to another and depends on genetic factors. This is why some people lose the first few pounds quickly, then take a lot of time losing the rest while others take forever to lose the first pounds and then lose the rest quickly. Some others experience weight loss at a steady rate. So when you are on an exercise routine, remember your goal is long term and the weight loss is mostly related to genetics. Do not be critical of yourself if you don’t lose your weight immediately. Instead, be supportive of yourself and reassure yourself each time you’re doubtful. Hard work always pays the dividends in the long run and it is no different in exercise.

Myth #10

Reward Yourself for the Pounds Lost

Most people treat themselves if they achieve a particular weight on the scales. According to IDEA Health and Fitness, this is the wrong way to go about rewarding yourself. Experts suggest instead of rewarding yourself for the pounds lost, it is important to reward yourself for the positive changes you make in your behavior. This reward system will not only make you feel good about losing weight but will also help you continue to regularly exercise, even after you have reached the desired number on the scale.

Now that you have learnt the myths, what are you waiting for? Stop counting the calories and weighing yourself every couple of hours. Stop following the latest fad diet. Do not buy one of those “lose weight without exercise” quick fix gadgets they advertise on television. Watch what you eat, sleep eight hours a day, and exercise everyday, at least a little each day.

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Du’as for Stress

General advice from Prophet Muhammad (s) when you are in distress or suffering from anxiety:

In hadith #599 narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas in Sunan Abu Dawood, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If anyone continually asks pardon, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.

When in distress or difficulty or sorrow:

Source for this dua subsection: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, no 128

1. Ibn ‘Abbas reported, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, at times of sorrow and grief used to supplicate, La ilaha illa Allah Al-’Azim, Al-’Alim, la ilaha illa Allah, Rabbul ‘arshil ‘Azim, la ilaha illa Allahu, Rabbus-Samawati wa rabbul ardi wa rabbul ‘arshi karim (There is no god but Allah, the Mighty, the Forbearing, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the mighty throne, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the Lord of the throne of honor)’.”
Source: Bukhari and Muslim.

2. Anas said that when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would always supplicate, “Ya Hayyu, ya Qayyumu, bi-rahmatika astaghithu (O the Living, O the Eternal, I seek help in Your grace).
Source: Tirmidhi

3. Abu Hurairah reported that whenever the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would raise his head to the sky and supplicate, “Subhan-Allah al-’Azim (glory be to Allah, the Mighty).” And when he implored seriously and strongly, he would say “Ya Hayyu, Ya Qayyum (O the Living, the Eternal One).”
Source: Tirmidhi

4. Abu Bakrah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplications of distress are, ‘Allahumma rahmataka arju, fala takilni ila nafsi tarfata ‘ain, wa aslah li sha’ni kullahu, la ilaha illa anta (O Allah, I hope for Your mercy, so give me not over to my self even for as little as wink of an eye, and set right all my affairs, there is no god but You).”
Source: Abu Daw’ud

5. Asma, daughter of ‘Amais, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked her, “Shall I tell you words that you may say in times of pain or distress. These are, ‘Allah, Allah, Rabbi la ushriku bihi shai’an (Allah, Allah, my Lord, I associate none with Him).” Another narration says that these words should be said seven times.
Source: Abu Daw’ud

6. Sa’d ibn Waqas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplication made by the Companion of the Fish (Prophet Yunus) in the belly of the fish was, ‘La ilaha illa anta, subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz-zalimin (there is no god but You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, and I was indeed the wrongdoer)’. If any Muslim supplicates in these words, his supplication will be accepted.” In another report we read, “I know words that will cause Allah to remove one’s distress. These are the words (of supplication) of my brother Yunus, peace be upon him,”
Source: Tirmidhi

7. Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If any servant of Allah afflicted with distress or grief makes this supplication, his supplication will be accepted: ‘O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of your maidservant. My forehead is in Your hand. Your command conceming me prevails, and Your decision concerning me is just. I call upon You by every one of the beautiful names by which You have described Yourself, or which You have revealed in Your book, or have taught anyone of Your creatures, or which You have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with You, to make the Qur’an the delight of my heart, the light of my breast, and remover of my griefs, sorrows, and afflictions‘.” A supplication in these words will be answered. Allah will remove one’s affliction and replace it with joy and happiness.
Source: Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Hibban

8. Anas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to supplicate, “O Allah, there is no ease except what You make easy, and you alone can turn a difficulty into ease.” (Ibn As-sinni)

Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, #131

9. Allah’s Apostle used to say at the time of difficulty, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Majestic, the Most Forbearing. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Heavens and the Lord of the Honourable Throne.”

Source: narrated by Ibn Abbas in Sahih Bukhari, volume 9, #526.

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The Hidden Crimes of Tobacco

The WHO states that nearly half the people who smoke regularly will eventually be killed by tobacco. What is very alarming, however, is that hundreds of thousands who have never lit a cigarette are also killed each year by tobacco. The culprit is passive smoking.
Most smokers know they are destroying their health. However, passive smoking, or secondhand smoking, harms the health of non-smokers. These people did not choose to be exposed to the harmful smoke, yet they will suffer for it.

This year, World No Tobacco Day, marked on 31 May, is calling for more protection for non-smokers. The best and only solution, according to WHO, is to promote 100 percent smoke-free environments.

Dangers

Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals. Nearly 250 of these are either carcinogenic or toxic. They range from the colorless and odorless poisonous carbon monoxide to hydrogen cyanide. Secondhand smoking coming from the tip of a burning cigarette actually contains higher concentrations of many of these compounds than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.

Much of the harm caused by secondhand smoking actually starts at home. While many people see their homes as the perfect place to smoke, they unwittingly expose their families to the poisons carried in the smoke.

Children have a weaker immunity system and their bodies are still developing. This makes them more vulnerable to the poisons in smoke than adults. Secondhand smoking can aggravate asthma and respiratory diseases as well as cause ear problems in young children.

According to research by the US Surgeon General, babies whose mothers were smokers during pregnancy are born with weaker than normal lungs. This could increase the risk of many heart problems. These babies are also at a higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies unexposed to smoke.

While a pregnant mother should not expose her fetus to the harmful toxins in smoke, she should not be exposed to secondhand smoking either. In addition to the harm it can cause, passive smoking is known to also decrease female fertility. This makes it harder to conceive a baby.

A US study showed that secondhand smoke exposure can endanger pets as well. In the research, longer exposure to the smoke caused an increase in the likelihood of cats developing health complications.

Ignorance

Many non-smokers think that by avoiding smoking, they are caring for their health and well-being. The problem is that they have no control over other people’s smoking. Non-smokers involuntary take in smoke through passive smoking, unaware of the dangers this poses to them.

Several studies highlight that exposure to secondhand smoking increases the risk of developing heart diseases by 25 to 30 percent. It can also increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20 to 30 percent. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in its latest report that secondhand smoking is carcinogenic to humans.

In addition to these long-term effects, exposure to passive smoking can cause short-term symptoms. These can range from coughing or wheezing to severe headaches and nausea. If a person suffers from asthma, passive smoking can cause significant decline in their lung function.

100 Percent Smoke-Free Environments

Researchers have been working for many years to determine a threshold for the level of smoke to be tolerated. However, all results point to one fact: there are no acceptable levels of tobacco smoke that would cause no harm to non-smokers.

Options such as segregating smokers from non-smokers or ventilating the room are not enough to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. According to WHO, ventilation systems 100 times above common standards would be needed just to remove the odor of smoking. Even higher ventilation rates would be needed to remove all toxins in smoke. Such a level of ventilation is neither viable no affordable.

If you are a smoker, the best way to protect your family and loved ones is to quit smoking. This will also protect you from the adverse effects of smoking.

Meanwhile, there are several options to decrease your family’s exposure to passive smoking. A good start is not smoking inside the house or in the car. Make smoking an outdoor experience only. Such smoke-free rules are actually proven to help people quit smoking as well. Another good option is persuading businesses to adopt smoke-free areas. Workplaces continue to be a major area of secondhand smoke exposure.

Freedom

The tobacco industry usually promotes the “courtesy of choice,” where smokers and non-smokers live in harmony, to counter the requirements of 100 percent smoke-free environments. Voluntary actions do not offer enough protection to non-smokers. That is why there is a need for legislation for 100 percent smoke-free environments.

Some people, especially those affiliated with the tobacco industry, claim that smoking bans infringe on the rights of smokers. The truth is that while smokers have the choice to smoke, non-smokers are involuntarily being exposed to secondhand smoke.

It is important to remember that most people are non-smokers, and many smokers wish to quit but do not have the will to. Smoke bans are not there to infringe on the rights of smokers, but to promote the rights of others to breathe clean, healthy air and not have to worry about poisons they intake.

To choose to smoke is an act of free will. But to choose to harm others is a selfish act.

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