Dr Lara Adejumo drops by ewell radio to discuss eating healthy versions of our traditional food. Dr Lara is a medical doctor practicing family medicine in Clinton, MD. Her book is called Healthful eating for the African and it is filled with tips and advice for transforming our diet so as to avoid diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer and more. Click on the play button to hear more from Dr Lara. Her book can be ordered from her website drlaraa.com.
REAL LIFE SUCCESS STORIES
We talked to Ada Chijoke, a real life African woman like each one of you and she shared with us her personal journey of how she lost 45lbs (about 20 kilos) and went from being a big girl to a size six spin instructor/fitness expert. She teaches spin classes four times a week and is in fantastic shape! We get real, tell the truth and give practical advice on this show so listen to the interview and get inspired, encouraged and informed, so you too can make it happen in your own life! Click on the arrow button on the blogtalkradio icon to listen!
Join us next week, when we talk to Dr Lara Adejumo, MD, about her new book, healthy eating for the African. Stay tuned to ewell conversations because we have a lot more coming down the pipeline!
Dr Vera Ibe, is a Nigerian Obgyn, living and working in the Maryland area of the United States. She has been practicing for several years and is also a wife and mother. She joins us this morning to talk about women’s health in general and cervical cancer and the purple project in particular.
She may be back on an upcoming show, so please feel free to leave your comments or questions and we will address them as best we can.
Can you please tell us more about SkinnyFresh?
Skinny Fresh Is a delivery service designed to help you keep in shape and stay healthy, with an exciting menu to choose from.- Fresh, healthy, low calorie meals at the consumer’s convenience.
What is your mission and what products and or services do you offer?
Our Service is based on the belief that our customers’ needs are of the utmost importance. Our entire team is committed to meeting those needs. The mission of SkinnyFresh is actually quite simple and straight to the point. SkinnyFresh is on a mission to 1st of all change people’s attitude to eating healthy meals. We want to be able to meet the needs of individuals and organizations who are conscious of what they put into their bodies.
What inspired you to start SkinnyFresh?
The inspiration to start SkinnyFresh started taking shape about 2years ago when I moved back to Lagos. As someone who has a constant battle with weight gain, I found out very quickly that I couldn’t just walk into a grocery store or supermarket and get a healthy ready-meal. At parties, I found out that the typical Nigerian Salad was usually laden with very tasty (but) quite high calorie ingredients… (Like baked beans and salad cream…lol!)
The few stores that I could buy a prepared healthy meal or drinks from had products that where a little bit overpriced, and to be quite honest, I like to be sure that what I eat is prepared fresh on the day.
I soon found out that quite a number of people like me, wanted to eat healthy meals, and were usually too busy to prepare these meals themselves. A lot of people, like me, were also concerned with the quality of the food they were getting…I mean, how many people you know who will tell you, “I don’t eat salad outside.” I already work in the food industry as a caterer; so naturally, the idea took shape and grew. The final inspiration came from a weight loss support group I started called SkinnyChicks. The people on this group range from age 18 – 40. We have people who are size 8 and people that are size 20. We have people who are students, mothers, business women, homemakers. People whose personalities range from the extremely reserved to the crazy exhibitionists but guess what? We were, and still are all on a mission to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, to look good and feel good, to exercise more, and to support each other in achieving these goals. Some of us had food allergies or intolerances which made us feel lethargic or bloated and ALL of us have a love/hate relationship with carbohydrates! As a SkinnyChick I found it easier to stay healthy when I went abroad on short breaks to when I was here in Lagos. I decided that before the end of 2010, by hook or by crook, I would start SkinnyFresh. With a lot of prayers and motivation from my husband & friends, I started SkinnyFresh in November 2010. To be quite honest, I wasn’t fully prepared to start, this was just meant to be a trial run before the big launch next year, but Thank God, the response has been astounding and my customers inspire me to keep doing this.
What need do you feel you can meet in the Nigerian market?
SkinnyFresh will meet the needs of people who need to get their Skinny On! Seriously though, In Lagos, Most young professionals are up at the crack of dawn to get to work – usually without anytime for breakfast
Lunch and dinner will usually be a typical Nigerian Meal – lovely, but usually high in fat, starch and/or carbohydrates. For those of us wanting to stay fit & healthy, there is very little to choose from, when it comes to fresh, healthy and convenient food. This is where SkinnyFresh comes in. We want to make it easy and convenient for people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. The 1st step is by eating healthily. This would make you feel better, and motivate you to make other healthy lifestyle changes.
So many people are increasingly concerned with keeping fit and healthy these days. You notice people jogging or going for walks on the street, gyms are getting busier. People are also more concerned about medical conditions, and are trying to prevent or control these conditions. Gone are the days when being a parent and having a job meant you had to look ‘old’… everybody wants to look good no matter their age. I have seen quite a few women in their fifties outrun me at the gym!
SkinnyFresh is For those that love good food, for those that want to be healthy, for those that need a change, for those that want hygienic food, for those that want to look good, for those that want to be – SkinnyFresh!
What do you think are Nigerian’s greatest dietary challenges?
I would say this. I am Nigerian, and I can tell you that we Nigerians….we like food too much! I mean Yam and egg in the morning? 3 wraps of Eba and Okra for Lunch? With maybe one gala sausage roll bought on the road washed down with a maltina, and then one would wack some more at a meeting or ‘branch’ on their way home for a drink and have small chops with that Star beer, and then go home and eat small rice and stew again. I see this everyday because my restaurant does corporate catering with quite a few companies, and sometimes we serve breakfast as well as dinner to the staff canteen. There’s only one way to put it, we like to WACK and I am guilty of the same.
A typical party in Nigeria must have more than one caterer. From my point of view as a caterer or a guest at a function, I have never understood why it is necessary to have so much food at these events. It’s like an all you can eat buffet! I could sit down at one table and wack deep-fried puff puff, Mosa, spring rolls, samosas, and then eat the typical plate of rice, moinmoin, meat, chicken, fish, a little Chinese on the side and of course the ‘o wanbe’ salad with baked beans in it. After this, I will be offered a variety of desserts, and then in an hour’s time, I will be offered snails, asun, barbecue, pepper soup, asaro, ofada rice and stew…
Our greatest dietary challenges (apart from our natural love of food) would be the following
• Our food is usually over cooked…over cooked food will lose most of its nutritional value
• We eat a lot of deep fried foods, and these days a lot of people are buying frozen or processed chicken meat or fish, which is usually preserved with chemicals. I can’t even begin to imagine what the long term damage of this would be.
• We don’t seem to exercise portion control; this may be for a number of reasons. Most of us are raised to finish what is on our plate. Some of us will eat too much because we don’t know where our next meal is coming from.
• We are a nation of go getters, and as a result a lot of people rely on fast food to keep them going through the day
• Even though we are blessed with a lot of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables, we rarely eat them. The lack of electricity also contributes to people not being able to store fresh food at home for consumption
• Our diet is very high in starch in carbohydrates
Since you are the woman behind skinny fresh, can you tell us about your wellness philosophy?
My philosophy is to love yourself just as you are. If you love your body, then you would be good to it. I generally try my best to eat healthy, and exercise regularly.
What if anything are your health and wellness routines?
On a good day, I would have a fruit smoothie or juice for breakfast, and then a healthy snack before lunch. For example, a piece of fruit, some nuts, an oat cookie or some Goji berries. Lunch would usually be a stir-fry or salad. I generally try to eat before 7pm but this is not always the case. I also prefer fresh food. The closer the food is to its natural state, the better. If I need to eat my favourite traditional foods, like Efo, okra and so on, I just make a healthier version, and we all enjoy this as a family.
I also avoid dairy and wheat as I find that they make me lethargic, and leave me feeling bloated. Cutting down on carbohydrates is a constant battle. I also work out. Currently I see my personal trainer for a 1hr kickboxing session at least twice a week. I also try to remain active by swimming, dancing, and running around with my kids.
Having said all this, it is never easy for me to exercise will power, but I realize now that if I do have a bad day, I can just start again. I take it one day at a time, knowing that this is a lifetime and a lifestyle decision, as opposed to a quick fix solution.
Have you ever personally struggled with a poor diet or have you changed your diet and seen results?
Of course I have and still do struggle with my diet! It’s not easy, especially as I am a real ‘foodie’, I am not crazy about exercise, and I love all the things that are bad for me! My weight has fluctuated over the last 10yrs from a UK size 22 to a UK size 14. I have tried all the fad diets, and finally I have come to a stage where I have learnt acceptance. I love the way I look, and I strive to be healthy, rather than striving to lose weight. I have lost about 10kgs since July from eating healthily and exercising more often.
How can people get Skinny fresh products? Will they be available in stores?
Currently, people can log unto www.skinnyfresh.com for more info on SkinnyFresh and to see the menu. Orders can be placed by calling 08050381937. We deliver on Lagos Island, VI, Ikoyi, and Lekki. We aim to deliver to the main land very soon. At the moment we are only offering a delivery service. We have plans to expand our products and services to the next level…I won’t divulge these plans now as I believe actions speak louder than words. What I can say for now is this – check SkinnyFresh out again this time 2011 and see just how far we’ve gone!
Uduak Oduok, Editor-in-Chief of LadyBrille magazine, is recognized as a brilliant visionary, especially on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, Uduak Oduok’s experience (over 17years) runs deep and diverse encompassing the disciplines of law, media, publishing, fashion, modeling, music, branding and public relations.
The founder of Ladybrille Media Group, Inc. whose insight and analysis is regularly sought, Uduak is also an attorney, fashion model and journalist. She is often quoted and has authored numerous published articles in national and international magazines and newspapers.
Uduak also has a passion for entrepreneurship and has consulted and conducted seminars on entrepreneur topics with many small and medium size businesses. She is also often invited to speak to numerous organizations and has spoken at many including SXSW, Jack & Jill of America, Inc., Nollywood Foundation Inc., San Joaquin County Honor Farm Jail Program, San Francisco Fashion Week, and Delta College. Uduak has also been a radio legal commentator on New York’s 99.5FM WBAI and 107.5FM WBLS.
Ewellafrica: What is your wellness philosophy?
Uduak: Live life simply. Live well, love much, laugh often.
Ewellafrica: Can you describe your daily fitness routine, if any?
Uduak: I try to exercise at a minimum, three times a week. In the past, it was 5-6times a week. My main routine involves stretches, dance, at least three times a week and weight lifting; working on my lower and/or upper body covering a range of muscles to maintain optimal health. I take yoga classes, shoot hoops (basket-ball) and play basket-ball games periodically as I am slowly making my way to the fitness level I use to have.
Ewellafrica: Do you follow any particular diet or are there general rules you live by?
Uduak: Yes I do have a diet. I now eat mainly alkaline and/fiber rich foods because that is what makes my body VERY happy and well behaved. This means 95% of my meals are mostly vegetarian. I eat lots of vegetables, fruits, brown rice, lentil beans, sweet potatoes etc. and I drink lots of water. When I am out and about i.e. meeting friends for lunch, dinner, at a conference or meeting, I will eat meat.
Ewellafrica: Do you believe in the body-mind-soul connection? Do you have any examples of a time when someone’s emotional or spiritual state appeared to affect their physical health?
Uduak: Absolutely, I do believe in the mind-body-soul connection based on research and personal experience. For me personally, being in a state of mind where I was always “on” i.e. always on the go and busy I believe affected both my physical and spiritual well being which was a contributing factor to me falling quite ill in mid-2007. I was definitely not as tuned in to living life simply, even though I understood the principles. My body rewarded me with poor health forcing me to return to the basics i.e. the NEW START principle, N=Nutrition E=Exercise W=Water S= Sunlight T=Temperance A= Air R= Rest T= Trust in Divine Power.
Ewellafrica: Do you use any professional consultants? i.e trainers, nutrionists, therapists?
Uduak: No I don’t. My family background, the many nutrition courses I have taken and my experience as an ex-certified personal trainer, for five years, is all I need and apply in my life right now.
My mom studied nutrition in the USA back in the 70s and when she had me and my siblings, she really integrated a lot of the health principles in our lives. In Nigeria, we had a garden that my mom had us involved in planting tomatoes and corn, among other vegetables. We were able to eat directly from our garden. When my siblings and I accompanied my mom to the markets in Lagos, she always returned with loads of green vegetables used to make healthy soups from the state my family hails from in Nigeria called Akwa-Ibom. She made soups such as Edikaikong, Atama, Afang all of which were highly nutritious meals packed with essential vitamins and minerals. A favorite meal she made of mine was Ekpan Kukwo which also included a lot of green vegetables (minerals and vitamins) smoked fish (protein) and yam/coco-yam(complex carbohydrates). I miss that dish. It has been almost two decades since I last ate it!
For the most part, even if my mom didn’t have money for school fees or rent, there was almost always an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables in our home: oranges, mangos, carrots, corn, agbalumo (my favorite fruit in Nigeria), bananas, pineapples, among many fruits. When we ate these foods, my mom would actually tell us the nutrients in the food, especially where we didn’t finish our meals and she was trying to get us to. “Eat. It’s good for you. It has vitamin C and will help make your body strong,” was an example of what my mom would say with oranges, for example. Or with plantains, which I LOVE by the way, it was, “Eat. It has a lot of potassium and is good for you.” (Laughs) It’s funny now that I think about it that she did that.
Still my fondest childhood health memories are from those experiences with my mom, including exercising. In the evenings, my mom would often take my siblings and I walking. She would do some jumping jacks, stretches and of course we just watched and emulated her. (Laughs) As a child from that kind of lifestyle, it planted an interest in nutrition and fitness at an early age. My interest became further strengthened in my early teens with my lifestyle as a Seventh Day Adventist (Christian denomination distinct by its observance of Saturday as a day of worship and its health/nutrition message) and later my job as a certified personal trainer for five years at 24 Hour Fitness. From college into law school and later as a practicing attorney (which I began as a health law attorney), I maintained a job, just as a hobby, as a certified personal trainer with a large fitness gym helping athletes and non-athletes achieve optimum physical fitness. I continue to incorporate a lot of the health and wellness principles into my life.
Ewellafrica. What do you feel Nigeria’s biggest health concern is?
Uduak: I believe we are what we eat. So I’d have to say nutrition (both malnutrition and overnutrition). Our cure is in the foods we eat and we have to start there lest we become a society that throws drugs at our issues rather than address the underlying problems.
Both for Nigeria and the rest of Africa, nutrition hasn’t really received the kind of attention it deserves partly because the discourse and monies invested has been, overwhelmingly, on infectious diseases i.e. HIV etc. We should also, however, be concerned about non-infectious diseases. Indeed recent studies by The World Health Organization and similarly situated organizations reports an increase in “lifestyle” health issues like diabetes, stroke and hypertension in Africa. As we see certain nations including Nigeria become fully industrialized, expect to see even higher increases.
By the way, most are familiar with malnutrition prevalent among the poor in Africa but not overnutrition so let me underscore it. Overnutrition is having excess nutrients that are required for the body. The result can be obesity, diabetes and hypertension, among other health issues. In my personal observation both as a child, in hindsight, and currently as an adult, overnutrition seems prevalent among the wealthy.
For example, among the wealthy, there is a culture that encourages children to be quite inactive, from the time they wake up, eat breakfast and are chauffeured back and forth to school. Maids, not children, perform basic house chores that children of age should i.e. wash plates, sweep, make their beds, clean their rooms etc. Grade and high schools also do not seem to emphasize Physical education. So, children of the wealthy remain largely inactive whether in school or at home even though they consume very high caloric intake with diets that are high on fats, sugars (sodas have a become a substitute for water) and overall high cholesterol. The results, expectedly, is weight gain. Unfortunately, the mentality is, the “fatter” you and your children are, the higher the probability that you are very affluent. It is a harmful mentality to the health of our children born into affluent homes.
The inactivity extends to adults, in my personal observation. From an office desk 9-5 job with no physical activity, the adult transitions home and like the child consumes foods that are mostly high in fats (it is not unusual for a meal to have 6-7 pieces of large meats, especially for men) and sugars. Needless to say, this is unhealthy when coupled with inactivity and the inevitable stress.
EwellAfrica: What do you think each of us could do to be healthier?
Uduak: In my social studies class back in Nigeria, in grade school, I learned “culture is a learned way of doing things” in a society. Much the same way we have learnt and formed bad health habits, we can unlearn them. It takes educating ourselves and being committed to such change. It seems like a tall order in Nigeria but we can do it. It is possible to scale back on the ostentatious-ness and practice living life simply. (Laughs) It’s possible.
I remember when Nigerian guys and girls I know thought it was “ewwwwwww” for a Nigerian man or woman to have toned muscles. Now, many ladies can’t get enough of P-Square (Peter and Paul Okoye) whose fit abdomens (abs) are part of their personal music brands. Nollywood actors and actresses are also staying fit. Fashion and beauty is not excluded. Supermodel Oluchi and Ex-beauty queen Nike Oshinowo both recently, within the past year, released fitness videos in Nigeria’s market. This cultural shift and paradigm among our stars will inevitably translate to a shift in society at large. Many because of these stars will become eager to learn about nutrition and make healthier choices to keep the mind, body and soul in harmony.
Uduak: Thank you for the opportunity.
First comes love, then comes marriage, what happens when there’s no baby in the baby carriage?
When the desire to be a mother is not affirmed by a baby, it is hard on any woman, regardless of race or nationality. As young women, we generally take healthy pregnancies for granted and focus more on methods of birth control. We chant the mantra of “with the right man, at the right time” but sometimes when we find the right man and we think it’s the right time, we find that having a baby doesn’t quite work as planned.
What is infertility?
Infertility simply defined is the inability to conceive. However infertility cannot be simply defined. Fertility challenges present themselves in different forms. Some women have problems conceiving, others have problems with recurrent miscarriages.
Why does it happen?
Sometimes the reasons behind infertility are clear-cut, other times they are not. There are a whole host of possible reasons behind the inability to conceive, antibody issues, low sperm count/motility, scarring around fallopian tubes/uterus, the list goes on and on. Sometimes conception just does not happen and no doctor can give a physical reason.
A common cause of infertility is miscarriage. Most doctors don’t consider miscarriages significant until you have had three or more in a row or if they are late term miscarriages. 1st trimester miscarriages are actually extremely common, some medical professionals estimate that as many as 30% of all pregnancies result in miscarriages. Generally 1st trimester miscarriages are usually as a result of chromosomal abnormalities, so it is a form of natural selection. However the risk of genetic abnormalities increase when the mother to be is over age 35, as women age, the eggs have been found to have a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities. Also after age 35 fertility in general starts to decline, hence the whole biological clock thing!
How do we feel?
When any woman experiences fertility challenges, it can be a taxing and traumatic experience but when an African woman experiences them, it can be doubly so. She often experiences feelings of inadequacy, guilt and isolation.
Is it my fault?
No matter which partner has the specific problem (when one can be defined) African society generally looks at the situation as being the woman’s fault. Many women internalize this. Amina* confided “even though every one said not to worry that it was simply Allah’s will, I felt so guilty. I know its crazy because the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me”
Am I less of a woman?
Most African women have been socialized to believe that a great deal of their worth comes from the opportunity to be mothers. Therefore when an African woman is unable to have children, she may question her role in her marriage, her family and even in society. Uche* talks about her mother’s experience “My mother had 6 miscarriages before she had me. People tell me her personality changed so much before and after I was born. The strain of not having children changed her from a strong woman to a timid woman. In fact when my father took a second wife, she didn’t say anything. After I was born though she became more lively.”
Am I alone in this?
In the western world, when a woman finds out she has fertility challenges; she has her husband to lean on. In fact in many cases it is a couple that is described as reproductively challenged, however in the African context the onus generally lies with the woman alone. In a culture where men are still rarely involved in the specifics of childbirth, they also tend not to be particularly involved in the specifics of infertility.
Furthermore the stigma attached to infertility in our community makes women feel like they have to hide their problems. Yemi* recounts her experiences with miscarriages “I felt so alone. I couldn’t confide in anyone,” she said. “I actually started to believe something was wrong with me, perhaps I was cursed or something, it got to the point that I almost considered going to a native medicine man, I was getting so desperate”
How society makes us feel?
In the west, a woman deals with the physical and emotional trauma of being infertile and African women deal with the additional cultural trauma and family pressure. “For most African women, fertility is the ultimate responsibility of a woman. A woman who cannot reproduce is considered at best a source of pity, at worst a pariah. As one woman said “you know back home, you are not considered a woman until you have had a child.”
“Within a year of getting married, the pressure already started, when is the baby coming? when is the baby coming? It never ends, every conversation ends with “we are waiting for our blessing”. We just bought a new home and I started a new company, this pressure is the last thing I need right now” Jumoke*, a businesswoman in New York, who just celebrated her 3 rd wedding anniversary complained.
“It’s like never mind being a good wife, forget about having a great career, the most important thing you are supposed to do is just get pregnant” says Nana* whose mother insisted she bathe in bathwater spiked with a female goat’s urine.
Michelle* was made to subsist on a diet of mostly new yam for over 6 months. She said, “I was so constipated, I was practically addicted to ex-lax.”
When asked why they agreed to submit to such unorthodox treatments, they both say they didn’t do it because they believed in the effectiveness of the treatment; instead they did it to get some peace from the constant pressure.
The pressure may seem like a piece of cake when compared to the insults and hostility some women face.
Infertility sometimes brings out the worst in people. Mothers, who may have danced at their son’s weddings, turn on their daughter in laws in the twinkle of an eye.
Mary*, a Ghanaian formerly married to a Nigerian recounts her experience. “I have been called everything from a witch to a mammy-water! My mother-in-law was relentless; she launched a brutal campaign against me. I went to every doctor, had every test twice and the doctors could find nothing wrong with me. My husband became distant while his mother told everyone who would listen that I was eating my children in the womb. Even though she lived back home and we were here in America, her campaign was effective. My husband and I eventually divorced. I really believe that saved my life. Anyway I just got engaged and you know what, I’m 4mths pregnant.”
This trend even happens among women who consider themselves christians. “My cousin Mina’s* sisters-in-law started spreading rumors about her. They said she had a spiritual covenant that she would get rich instead of having children. They used the church as their platform. They kept proclaiming that saw it in visions and it had been confirmed by various prophets; My cousin is a strong Christian but she actually got so messed up that she went to her own pastor and asked him to help her get delivered even though she knew that she hadn’t done anything. She came to visit me and go for fertility testing. I went with her; I saw her despair each time the doctor told her that she needed more tests. She wanted a baby more than anything, and she has to deal with that pain along with her husband’s sisters.”
Sometimes even having a child cannot vindicate a woman who has been called infertile. Amaka* tells her tale” I had several miscarriages. Somehow miraculously I carried my pregnancy to term in my sixth year of marriage. My mother in law had been running all over town saying all sorts of things. She even brought another woman for my husband to marry. When I delivered, instead of rejoicing, she was sullen, I think she was unhappy to have been proved wrong”
The attacks some of these women face create pain that can sometimes be worse that the pain of not being able to conceive. Culturally a woman’s main purpose is to bear children and while society at large may recognize that children are a gift from God, they tend to believe that if you have not received that gift then it is due to some fault of your own. If you look at modern day pop culture in Africa, the movies, the music, whenever a woman’s infertility is mentioned it is usually said that she did something wrong or some one is attacking her spiritually or supernaturally. The result of these pressures and societal assumptions can be devastating to the woman.
The emotional cost
Everyone has heard similar stories before. It often makes for titillating gossip in conversations that start with “Can you imagine?” or “Come hear tory O!” but the cost to the victims in these stories is high, sometimes prohibitive. In addition to the emotional trauma of infertility, they often have to deal with added society drama, whether it as extreme as your mother in law calling you a witch or simply being a source of gossip for your girlfriends, the pain is real and compounded.
Mary* emphatically agrees. “My dear, I was on Prozac for a year. It was awful, I was so depressed and I think that was part of what caused my divorce”.
“Most people cannot conceptualize how difficult it is” Amaka* a consultant, said while she cradled her year old daughter. “I couldn’t focus on work, or anything. I had previously been on the fast track at work, and even though my husband was very supportive, it was difficult for me to come to terms with the situation. I had always gotten along with my husband’s family, but our fertility issues put such a strain on our relationship, that now my husband and I are hardly on speaking terms with his family”
When Mina* was asked how her sisters in law’s behavior had affected her, she started to cry, “It broke my heart. As if the pain on not been able to have a baby is not enough, I had to contend with these ridiculous accusations. I was arguing and crying every day. My doctor kept saying I needed to de-stress, but how can you de-stress when a fire is burning in your home.”
Nana* also felt just as distraught, “Where do I start? From my husband’s sisters to even some of my friends, the rumors ran wild. It pained me so much; I didn’t know what to do. If not that I have faith in God, I would have lost my mind. My husband would comfort me at night but in the light of day, he found it difficult to deal with the drama. Thankfully he was adamant about not marrying another wife. By God’s grace, we tried IVF and it was successful, today we have a bouncing baby boy!”
Do we have other options?
These days medical science has made some amazing advances. In vitro fertilization, surrogacy, hormone therapy etc, and if medical science fails there is always adoption. There are seemingly several remedies to the challenges to becoming a mother.
Unfortunately even medical science is not foolproof; most of the infertility treatments are costly and not 100% effective. Most women in the western hemisphere that attempt these procedures have family support as well as support from friends and support groups.
Generally even if an African woman tries one of these solutions, she often cannot share her feelings with or get the support of others in her community. She is often alone in the process, even when her husband is with her. This is because we have been so conditioned to keep our troubles secret. Studies have shown that it is beneficial for women to share the fears and concerns about issues, hence the popularity of support groups. While most African women would not go to a support group, it would be beneficial for each person to be able to talk freely with other women. The few that have done so found it to be beneficial. “When I had my miscarriage, many women I talked to after a while confided that they had one as well, some had even 2 or 3 and finally I understood how common it really was and it helped calm my fears”.
Will infertility continue to be an issue in our community?
The reality of today’s African woman is that she is making the decision to become a mother later and later in life. The focus has been on creating a successful career, finding the right man and then having a baby. It used to be that women would get married at 22, but these days most women don’t even think about marriage until well after 26 and many do not marry until age 30 or above. Studies have shown that fertility starts to decline after age 35. Some researchers suggest that the decline starts as early as age 30.
Considering the fact that modern day African women are starting families later in life, it stands to follow that even more women will experience fertility challenges. The societal attitude towards infertility as it stands is detrimental to African women physically, emotionally and spiritually. If this trend continues we may see an increase in depressive disorders even up to suicidal tendencies.
What can we do to change the status quo?
The defining factor in a situation like this is whether or not the spouse/partner is involved and supportive. For many of these situations, the familial pressure comes from the husband’s side of the family. However a man dictates the way his family treats his wife, so if he stands by his wife one hundred percent, then his family will be forced to, or at least keep their opinions to themselves.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people do or don’t support you, if the right people support you. Amaka* said, “when I had my fourth miscarriage, my husband told me how much he loved me, he told me that of course he was disappointed but that it was not the end all, be all. For him, the most important thing was that we were together, healthy and happy.” Our men have often been removed from the process of childbirth, so it is typical for them to take a back seat from the situation whether good or bad. However dealing with infertility cannot be a solo affair, if a couple is to survive and even overcome it, it must be a team effort.
The second thing we can do to change the status quo is to show compassion as women. Many a woman has gossiped about someone else’s bad luck, only to have it turn around and happen to her or her children. Infertility is usually an unfortunate circumstance that befalls a woman or man often through no fault of their own. Furthermore regardless of the cause the impact is still the same. If we as women, the guardians of society decide to show compassion in this particular area, then we set the standard for how women are to be treated in this situation.
Thirdly we can create environments that are conducive to open and honest discussion. Many women keep their sorrows to themselves for fear of being a target of gossip or pity. However studies have shown that the ability to share one’s problems verbally releases stress. Furthermore the more we share our situations; the more we share information that is sometimes key to getting the best medical care possible.
In 2002, Isi Okogun ran the Chicago Marathon. Isi is a professional woman with a tight schedule. EwellAfrica hopes that you will be inspired to accomplish something new in your health and fitness journey!
I was so excited that I could barely sleep. I did
some stretching and some crunches. I took a shower and put on my gear. Hat, check, Chip, check, gels, check, and $10 in case I give up (which of course, I will not!) At about 6:40am, I ran out of the building towards Grant Park. The place was teeming with thousands of people of all types, shapes, sizes and nationalities.
My Pace leader Margaret was excited that I made it after 6 months of arduous training. At 7:30am, the gun went off and we all shouted! People started tossing their warm up suits in the air and the homeless people ran around picking up all the free clothes. We just stood in one spot and started walking towards the start because the crowd was so thick, 37500 strong!
I started out going slowly.
As we went, people were screaming:Go Isi! I was running at about a 13 mins mile and I was feeling great. At about mile 6, I really needed to pee. I made a quick stop, came out and kept going. At about mile 8, a guy screamed “Go Isi!” and he jumped out and started hugging me. I was thinking who is this? I was really getting freaked out, because I had no idea who this guy was. Finally I asked if I knew him. He looked shocked and I looked closely at him, it was Enoete Inanga, my neighbor who I hadn’t seen in eons!!! I started screaming. The other runners were looking at us like we were crazy. Enoete ran with me for a while miles and we promised to keep in touch, who knew Enoete lived in Chicago too.
Now I was completely by myself. My goal was to make the 13-mile marker in 3hrs. I got to mile 13, in 3 hrs 3 mins. I was making good time. At about mile 15, I was famished all of a sudden. God, why didn’t I listen to my friend Lola and have breakfast this morning! My stomach was growling; so I ran and bought a pastry quickly, ate half of it and kept going, but I was beginning to really slow down. At mile 17, we ran into the Hispanic neighborhoods, they were blasting some nice hip-hop music. I was jamming and running. People were yelling– “Go Mami, Go Isi”.
By mile 18 I was simply pooped.
I just stopped running and started walking. I walked through Chinatown; all the big drummers were out there with their centipede costumes. By Cominskey Park, I ate some bananas and kept walking, I couldn’t even imagine running. My feet were KILLING me, and my calves and thighs were screaming. I knew then that I was not going to make my time goal. One of the marathon trackers drove by and asked if I was OK?. I was so tempted get in the van and call it a day but I thought about all the people who supported me and donated money for FATE foundation (www.fatefoundation.org) and the notion of telling people I did not complete the marathon was unthinkable. I told the man “ I am OK”.
Around Mile 23, I looked up and there was a huge sign saying “RUN ISI!!” and there was Kofo and Soji. Kofo was jumping up and down and started screaming. I was so happy to see them!! She said, “you have only 3.2 miles to go!” We started jogging, and I was really tired but Kofo kept egging me on. She was trying so hard to help me make it. We got to mile 25 and I saw the sign, I mile to go. Lola and Funmi were screaming, “ Go Isi, you can do it” As we got into Grant park, I saw a huge sign saying, GO ISI being carried by Maurice, Deborah and Nneka. At that point, I felt dizzy like I was going to pass out, and then I stopped to walk. Kofo said no, no, no!! I walked for a few seconds and started jogging again. As I rounded the corner, I saw the most beautiful sight in the world up ahead, 2002 CHICAGO MARATHON FINISH LINE.
I started out in a sprint.
Ahead of me, they were shouting GO ISI, GO ISI. I ran across the finish line, and smiled for the photographers. Ayo gave me a bouquet of roses. For some reason, I pushed them aside and kept going! Like I was Forrest Gump. I finally realized—IT IS OVER! I walked back to the finish. One of the marathon officials put the marathon medal around my neck.
Say what you may, but I am proud to call myself a MARATHONER!!!
This is the first in the series, so feel free to ask more so that they can be compiled in the next. also if you need more clarity on any issue, then feel free to ask. and if we missed your Question, we apologise. Please resend.And where the questions are private, then email email@example.com Feel free to visit our website www.emzorpharma.com for more Information on our Company and also visit our Blog for regular Health related and wellness articles for your Spriit, Mind and Body.
So there you have them… Your health FAQs answered…
Q; How do I deal with Vaginal itches and discharges and what exactly is the cause?A; If it is whitish and itchy, it is probably Vaginal candidiasis. Good news is antifungal treatment is available as OTCs in most Pharmacies.
Q; What are OTCs and POMs?
A; Both are acronyms for Prescribe Only Medicine, and Over-The-Counter drugs. POMs ideally should not be sold without a Doctors prescription eg Chloroquine while OTCs can be sold without eg Emzor Paracetamol.
Q; How does one prevent himself from a recurrence of typhoid fever and does having it once preclude the possibility of a recurrence?
A; You need to wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating,be watchful about the hygenic standardsf where u eat, avoid eating unpasturized milk and take every febrile illness with abdominal pain seriously if it exceeds 4days
Q; I really do not like taking drugs but with all these many diseases in the air, how do I ensure that my immunity is high enough?s.Sometimes febrile illnesses are misdiagnosed as typhoid fever so take heart and try and live healthy.It is well.
A; You need to eat lots of veggies, fruits and drink up to 8 glasses of water per day and exercise daily. All these will increase your immunity.
Q; So much noise is on about POM s but why do I have to go to the Doctor when I feel the exact same symptoms and I already know that he will prescribe the exact same drugs? I might as well prescribe it myself.
A; There are several angles to these, if the illness is a chronic recurring type and there are few available treatment options, you may then be receiving similar prescription. You may also get your diagnosis from your Doctor and get info about the ailment online. You may also talk to your Doctor about how u feel and let him/her explain the prescription to u. After all these and u are still not satisfied u may consider changing your Doctor but under no circumstance should you engage in self-medication.
Q; I have trouble sleeping and even then whenever I sleep, my body is tuned to waking at 6 Or 7am at the very latest. And no, I do not have trouble thinking about life as I am just 24, I am considering taking some sleeping pills but I fear addiction. What do I do?
A; You need to cultivate healthy habits like no exercise at least 1hr before sleep, avoid drinks containing caffeine or coffee, make sure your bed is comfortable and try and live light i.e. no baggage of unforgiveness or bitterness. If you still have trouble, see your Doctor who would then know whether to prescribe sleeping pills or not. Please do not self medicate on sleeping pills.
Q; I hear that cough and catarrh would go on its own even if I take no drugs. How true is it and how long would it last? Also what are the best treatments for both?A; Yes, as most of these infections are viral and therefore self-limiting and so may last for as shirt as a few days or as much as a few weeks. The initial symptoms are sore throat, malaise followed by cough, then catarrh and resolution of all. If fever occurs and persists, plus breathing difficulties or cough, exceeding 4wks, kindly see your Doctor. Relieving steps include steam inhalation, Emzor Paracetamol tablets, warm lemon tea, warm chicken soup, Emzor vitamin C tabs, and lots of TLC lol…
Q; I have incredible breakouts 2weeks to the start of my period and they last for about 3weeks which means that I have only about a week a month of smooth face. It is really bothering me, what drugs can I take to control it, especially as I have very oily skin.
A; Sorry about that dear. Usually for some, the menstrual cycle comes with some breakout that must be. However the following steps may help reduce it. Skin experts advise that you wash the face twice a day, cleanse, use a toner and followed by a moisturizer. Since u have an oily skin use an oil- control toner and avoid exfoliating often.
Q; I have serious itches after taking a bath or any contact with water, especially rain water. It can get so bad and last as long as one hour and so I cannot even leave the room. What do I do?
A; You may try using water from alternate sources and use quite some disinfectants, and also change your bathing soap. In all, observe the change. However if it persists, you may have to see a Dermatologist as sometimes, it could even be hereditary.
Working out is a bit more complex than just walking into a gym, throwing some weights around and taking a jog before leaving (well, it kind of is…). There are several things to consider before you even step into a gym; most importantly, your goals. There are several training methods geared at getting different results; many a workout program is created with a specific goal- strength, speed, endurance, power, the list goes on.
However, most people don’t want to win Olympic medals – they just want to keep fit, or look good. No matter your goal, a complete workout is like a balanced diet: and should be comprised of the following elements:
• Strength conditioning
• Cardiovascular conditioning
We will be focusing on strength training for now.
This involves the use of resistance against the muscles with the aim of building muscular strength. This often involves weight training, but several body-weight exercises are equally efficient, eliminating the need to use weights. The benefits of strength training include an increase in overall strength, resistance to injury, and improved joint function. Each muscle in the body has various exercises that effectively challenge it; workouts with weights, and workouts without them. Here are some of my favourites.
The Chest muscles, known as Pectorals to the anatomically savvy, are two of the major “man muscles”, and one of the most desired aesthetics on a man’s physique. What do most guys do when they step into a gym for the first time? That’s right; they want to find a way to get a bigger chest. It draws the ladies, and intimidates other men. What more could a guy ask for? Now apart from being a chick magnet, the pectorals are necessary for providing most of the pushing force in the upper body, and for the inward swinging of the arms. Developing the pectorals is not only for the men; women can enjoy the benefits of a firmer and tighter upper body if they pay attention to this body part, especially since chest exercises incorporate the triceps as a secondary muscle . The workouts that really zero-in on these muscles are:
1. Flat Bench press: 4 sets
The bench press is a very versatile exercise in that the bench can be inclined or declined (raised or lowered) several degrees to add variety to the exercise. The Incline and Decline Bench press movements are often considered separate workouts for the chest. Also, in place of using barbells for your bench press, you can use dumbbells. This allows you to incorporate more stabilizer muscles, such as the biceps, forearms and back and also add diversity to your workout sessions.
Dr Adaibe Offurum is the Assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She is a graduate of NYU school of medicine and has been practicing and teaching medicine for about a decade.
EwellAfrica chatted with her about how we can improve our health and quality of living.
Ewellafrica: What do you think are some of the current issues facing patients in Africa, other than the obvious lack of infrastructure and more?
Dr Offurum: One of the problems is the God complex that some physicians have and patients have about their doctors, believing and acting as if they are above error and mistake. This idea is perpetuated by lack of choice, people don’t get second opinions because they simply don’t have the options. But even in Africa, where resources are limited. You still have the internet and other resources and people can be more empowered. They are definitely becoming more motivated and informed.
EwellAfrica: Would you say that part of problem is our mindset?
Dr Offurum: In Nigeria, we don’t tend to think longevity, we tend to have a fatalistic view of life, we almost don’t expect to live long and we don’t feel like as if we have control over our lives. We feel very powerless and as such we don’t pursue wellness actively. However as a patient you have more power than you realize. There are simple steps you can take to improve your health and ask the right questions and get better information from your health care providers can really make a difference long term.
Here is Dr Offurum’s list of eight things you can do to impact your health care positively.
- Be an active participant in your health. Understand you are paying for a service, so whatever dynamic you may feel between doctor and patient in Africa or in the Diaspora, you should recognize your own value. You have a right to ask questions and make sure you have a full understanding of what the doctor is telling you.
- It is important to ask when you do a check up to ask the doctor what test do I really need, as opposed to what kind of test do you all have ( the more empowered you are the more forthright a doctor is because a more open dialogue actually helps the doctor practice better medicine. If you don’t ask questions and share information the doctor is ill equipped to help you.
- If you have been diagnosed with something chronic like diabetes or hypertension, you really need to have a thorough discussion of what medication is best for you based on cost, lifestyle etc. If cost is an issue, then be honest about it, if it is not you should also be clear about that because pharmaceutical cost varies.
- Focus on your own health and wellness. Regardless of the gaps in our healthcare system, Nigeria may still need to progress in the care of trauma care, heart disease and cancer to name a few areas of opportunity, each individual still needs be accountable for what how they actively impact their health. Healthy eating and moderate exercise can go a long way towards living well.
- Symptom awareness. We tend to only focus on extreme symptoms in Nigeria, as in symptoms that are difficult to live with, such as high fevers, difficulty breathing and more. That is when we go to the hospital. At which point you might already be quite severely compromised, so recognize the earlier you react to symptoms, the better the chance of you being alive but also you will likely create a more conducive atmosphere for a positive health care experience.
- Self treatment is a major problem in Africa. People tend to see the doctor only after their attempts at diagnosing and self treatment are futile, at which point the symptoms may have even worsened and care may be complicated by the fact that the patient has ingested various medications both pharmaceutical and herbal that they may not be forthcoming about, possibly resulting in drug interactions and more.
- You have to trust that God is working through your health care providers, if you trust the doctors, let your faith also allow the doctor to provide the right care for your illness. So if the doctors say you require interventions for example a cesarean section, give them room to take care of you properly. It is the hardest thing to address because our cultural and religious values can be hard to deviate from, especially because there are doctors out there that practice bad medicine, so it is a tough call. Ultimately trust your instincts as you pray and have faith in your beliefs.
- Your insides are actually more important as your outsides! We need to retrain our society. People invest so much money on cosmetics and fashion to improve the way they look on the outside as opposed to beautifying the inside. If people realize how much the way you take care of your internal is reflected on the external. If you put the right nutrients into your body, your skin will glow, your hair will shine and you wouldn’t need to spend half as much money on these creams and weaves and so on. A beautiful person is a healthy person and that should be all of our goals.