A medical and wellbeing consultant, Dr. Sylvanus Jatto has observed that many missionaries live healthy lifestyles compared to what generally obtains in the society.
He also identified some critical lifestyle choices that can help them stay healthy in their places of assignment.
Jatto is the President of Friends of Missionaries International. He does medical outreaches from time to time and gives medical support to missionaries.
He has over the years deployed his medical expertise at the yearly Global Mandate Conference in Lagos.
Jatto who spoke with Church Times on the phone said he found out that many missionaries don’t have issues with cholesterol. This could be because of the kind of food they eat in the villages. “This is a good one and I think they should keep it up,” he said.
He however counselled that they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle because they are usually in places where accessing medicare is difficult.
On the health tips, he said, “The missionary and indeed everybody who takes their health seriously should pay attention to what they eat. That is the first pillar of health. You are what you eat. What you eat, how you eat, and when you eat will go a long way to determine your health status. So the first thing is to eat right.”
The good thing for the missionaries according to him, is that they are not exposed to junks. “So they are likely not to be victims of what they eat. But it’s important to let them know that their choice of foods is important. They should take vegetables, fruits, and the food items in their locality like yam, and potato in moderate proportions”
The second pillar according to Dr. Jatto who has put in over 33 years in medical practice is physical activities. He said, “To remain healthy, you have to be physically active. You are as healthy as the physical activity you carry out. You are designed as a human being to be active. Being active will go a long way to keep you healthy.”
On the third pillar of health, he said, “Anybody who wants to maintain good health must not joke with sleep. “As much as possible, it is important not to sacrifice sleep for physical activity. The missionary must take time to sleep for 6 to 8 hours every day. Sleep is a therapy and it helps to restore your body to health. So, don’t joke with sleep. There are occasions when we have vigils and work overnight. But it should be an exception and not the norm.”
Scan your environment
Beyond the three pillars, Jato said missionaries, especially those in rural areas should scan their environment and ensure that the source of their water is clean and healthy.
“I tell missionaries to make sure that the source of their water is clean. If it is not clean, they should make the water clean by purifying it. Clean water is essential to one’s health. They should also take note of the fruits and vegetables in that environment. Usually, those fruits and vegetables are critical to a healthy lifestyle in the area they live.”
He counselled that missionaries should as much as possible protect themselves against mosquito bites by sleeping inside nets.
“Be mindful of the fact that Medicare is not easily accessible. Sleep under the mosquito net. Avoid anything that will cause malaria. We also encourage them to educate people to dissuade from unhealthy habits. They should discourage people in their community from defecating in the bush which in turn is washed into the streams people drink from.”
Before seeing doctor
For missionaries who may fall ill despite taking precautions, he said, “I will advise that they ensure they are well hydrated. They should take enough fluid. It may not have to be ordinary water alone. It could be tea or pepper soup.
“It depends on the symptoms they see. But if it is malaria symptoms like cold or catarrh they should make sure they take enough water, tea, or pepper soup like I said earlier. Those things in pepper soup help to boost the body’s immunity. The turmeric, garlic, and some of the other things in the pepper soup are good antioxidants. Those who have catarrh can also chew fresh ginger regularly. They would be amazed at how they will find relief. But usually, if there is no hospital nearby, it is good to consult a good pharmacy where basic drugs could be purchased to treat what is ailing them”
Most missionaries are healthy
Sharing his experience over the years attending to the medical needs of missionaries, Jatto said, “Most missionaries are quite healthy. Many of the things we discover when we check them are the common ailments among people in the cities. But in their case, it is not as critical as those who are exposed to junk foods and unhealthy lifestyles. Only a few of them have issues with blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight. I think it is because they eat well, sleep well, and do a lot of physical exercise. Many of them trek a lot in the villages doing evangelism. Those brisk walks contribute to their good health. The few ones who present cases of diabetes and high blood pressure, we counsel them on their drugs.”
He noted that “some of the women on the mission field have issues with weight. But we hardly find cases of those who have high cholesterol among the missionaries we have attended to over the years.”
Sickness will always come
The medical expert said it is practically not possible not to experience health issues in a year adding however that the faster one gets out of the sickness will depend on how healthy one has been.
“Falling ill is not bad. It is your body’s response to the sickness that builds your immunity. Not falling ill may not be too good for your health because it is ill health that sometimes helps to build our immunity and helps us fight diseases. How quickly you recover depends on how healthy you are before the sickness comes. A healthy person will recover faster than somebody who is not healthy. So we need to build a healthy lifestyle.”
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