HYGIENIC ACCESSORIES OF THE FAST
BATHING.--The skin or covering of the human body consists of an outer layer called the cuticle, and of an inner one, the corium. These constitute the true skin, but under them lies a third layer of cellular tissue, which is considered also as part of the skin, when that term is used in its most comprehensive sense. In man the skin is covered more or less with scattered hairs, profuse in some parts and scanty in others. The office of the skin is one of protection to the organs beneath, and it is also a vast excretory or eliminative system, sending out moisture with waste matter in solution through the sudoriferous or sweat glands located in its structure. Each of these glands consists of a long line tube, situated in the cutaneous cellular tissue and coiled into a knot near its closed end. This constitutes the gland proper. Then there is connected with it a straight or spiral duct that traverses the outer layers and ends in a surface opening called a pore. Nearly three thousand of the latter are found upon a square inch of the palm of the hand, and at least five-hundred on an equal space upon other parts of the body.
Perspiration is the watery matter "breathed out" from the system through the pores described. It is more copious than the exudation from the lungs by respiration, but the amount discharged varies greatly, as it is affected the heat or the dryness of the atmosphere, by liquids consumed, by exercise, and by the relative activity of the kidneys. Sensible perspiration is that which is perceptible in the form of small drops, but by far the larger portion exuded is of the insensible or non-visible kind. Solid matter is carried to the surface of the skin in the sweat, and authorities all agree that a considerable proportion of the total waste of the body is evacuated in this manner.
Close sympathy exists between the functions of the skin and those of the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, and the bowels, and this is evidenced in that, when one or other of the latter organs is disabled in function, perspiration is sympathetically deranged and vice versa. This does not necessarily mean that the effect produced is that of physical transference of the suppressed exhalation to the internal organ or the reverse, although this may be so; but the chief impression seems to be made upon the nervous system. The importance of the relation existing between the skin and the other excretory organs is such that it cannot be disregarded when disease is to be remedied.
In order to insure full functional activity of the surface of the body, frequent bathing is necessary. For this purpose one daily cleansing bath is essential in health. By it, dead, scaly particles of skin, dirt, and the products of perspiration are removed, the pores are cleared of surface obstruction, and the other eliminative organs are relieved of the performance of extra labor. When, as in the fast, the process of elimination is active in the extreme, cleansing baths may never be neglected.
A cleansing bath is a hot bath. One at temperature of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit is cleansing in the highest degree if pure vegetable oil soap be freely-used and the brush or cloth be vigorously plied. During a fast the temperature of the water in the daily bath or baths should upon entrance be approximately 100 degrees, and it should be gradually increased to as high as 107 or 110 degrees, with about twenty minutes submergence as the time limit. Baths such as this are not only cleansing, but are relaxing and tonic in effect. In cases of lowered temperature, habitual or temporary, the latter as in fasters' chilliness, correction to normal register, with systemic equalization of circulation, is rapidly effected by resorting to this therapeutic agency. Its very apparent benefits are due not only to the artificial raising of body heat, but to the process of osmosis, or interchange of fluids, that takes place in the capillary tubes constituting the pores of the skin. Cold baths should never be employed during a fast. They have but slight cleansing properties, but in health they exert a powerful stimulating action on the circulation and the nervous system.
Because of the oily nature of the waste brought by perspiration through the pores to the surface of the body, the skin can never be rendered perfectly clean with water alone. Hence the recommendation concerning the use of pure vegetable oil soap.
While the ancients made use of and elaborated the bath for purposes not only of cleanliness but also of social and intellectual objects, after the advent of Christianity and its domination of the civilized world, the bath fell into disrepute. Departure from the cleanly habit of body characteristic of early civilization was due directly to the rise and growth of the religion of Christ. The church frowned upon the care of the body, deeming it as negligible in comparison with the soul. And the early fathers in instances went so far as to impose penance upon those who gazed at the nakedness of their own bodies. Cultivated modesty, prudishness, thus had its part in the reversion that took place from the bathing habits of the Greeks and the Romans. Centuries later John Wesley uttered the aphorism, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," but whether his reference was to the mind rather than to the body, it is impossible now to know.
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