6 February 2013

Kenya: Alternative 'Medicine' - Health Supplement

A botched circumcision procedure left two-year old Raymond Kintu with partial paralysis over his entire right side. Doctors said the procedure severed a nerve which caused the paralysis. For almost two years Raymond was unable to walk or use the toilet on his own.

But just two weeks after being put on a health supplement by his grandmother, Raymond started walking and could even stretch out his right arm, which had for months remained 'stuck' in an awkward position. This had made it impossible for him to lower his arm.

The 'Pros' of Supplements

Raymond was given GBG, a chew-able '10-in-One' supplement tablet in October last year. Now four, he can play football and go to school - two things he was unable to do early last year. Though he still walks with a slight limp, his parents and grandmother are grateful that he is no longer bed-ridden and credit the supplement for what they call a 'miraculous' recovery.

Raymond is not the only one to have recovered from paralysis thanks to the supplement. The product is a flagship product developed some 15 years ago by a group of nutritionists including author of acclaimed Vitamin Bible Dr. Earl Mindell.

Twenty-five year old Susan Kinyua suffered a mild stroke at 18 years causing a loss of feeling in all her limbs. "They used to take me to Kenyatta hospital in a portable bed because I couldn't move my arms or legs", Susan says. Her stroke which at the time it occurred made it impossible for her to sit her final Form Four exams. Even when her condition improved slightly over the years, Susan still had problems with her memory. "I could place something on the table and moments later forget I'd put it there".

The supplement upon recommendation by her mother's friend helped improve Susan's memory and got her back on her feet just two weeks after she started taking it. Susan's mother says that in the grips of the illness her daughter also lost her speech and as such had to be taught afresh how to speak. "She was like a nursery school kid", her mother said. Now, barely six months after she began taking the chew-able tabs, Susan can walk and even do some chores around the house and has planned to enroll back in school as soon as possible.

Anthony Massawa is the main distributor for GBG '10-in-One' in East, Central and Southern Africa. He says the supplement is suitable for cardiovascular ailments, bones and joints and is additionally a memory and mood energizer. The multi-vitamin is a product developed by licensed nutritionist and thus also functions as an anti-oxidant, immune enhancer, digestion booster and vision enhancer.

"It is especially good for diabetes as it can drastically lower blood sugar levels", Massawa said from his offices in City House, Wabera Street. "The body should detoxify naturally but because of our lifestyle choices and the kind of processed foods we eat that doesn't always happen. The supplement helps the detoxification process as well as gives the body its daily nutritional requirements." The supplement additionally contains 'super fruits' like pomegranate, mangosteen, amalaki, acai fruit and goji berry as well as 102 vital nutrients and trace minerals. As such, Massawa says the product is especially suitable for those with Type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, intestinal disorders, arthritis and insomnia.

Sixty-seven year old Juliana Gichuru suffered arthritis for 20 years before discovering the drug. "My condition was such that I couldn't even walk in the morning. I had to get down on my knees to use the toilet. It was very painful." For Juliana, the 10 in One tablets had a double effect. Aside from relieving her pain and making it easier for her to use the toilet, she realised that she no longer needed spectacles to read.

Fifty-year old Tewolde Woldu also had his fair share of toilet trouble. "I'm a very cautious person and so I'll be the last person you will see taking a product just for taking it's sake", Tewolde says. "For about five years, I would use the toilet about once a week because I had chronic constipation. My bowel movements came with a lot of pain but soon after I started taking 10-in-One going to the toilet stopped being such a nightmare." A native of Ethiopia, Tewolde during Christmas season took the supplement back home to his four year old niece who had been suffering a persistent cough for over one year. "Amazingly just a few days after giving her the drug, the coughing stopped completely", he says.

By his own admission, Massawa says that some doctors often discredit supplements and instead advocate for a balanced diet instead. However Massawa argues that with individual lifestyle choices and environments where fast food is often promoted over healthier options, a balanced diet is not always achievable and thus this is where supplements come in to give the body that boost in daily nutrients.

Before she started taking 10-in-One, doctors had ruled 14-year old Evelyn Wanjiku's inability to speak a 'psychologic problem' with counseling as the recommended treatment. For 37-year old Joyce Mwangangi, a growth beneath her left breast dried up and fell of shortly after taking the supplement. For 58-year-old Joyce Njau, a bacterial infection that caused total hair loss at the crown of her head was helped soon after she started taking the supplement. Her hair grew back much to the surprise of her dermatologist. In spite of these near-miraculous stories of recovery, a lot of conflicting research exists on the use of supplements.

The Cons of Supplements

They are not regulated - unlike medicine, supplements are not regulated. The governing bodies pertaining to food and drink do not have to approve them before they can be sold in the market.

They can be expensive - supplements are often not cheap. For example, one chew-able tab of 10 -in-One costs Sh100 while a bottle of 60 tabs averages at Sh5200

Supplements are not whole foods - researchers are often inclined to a specific vitamin or mineral to boost health but these only work when combined with something else in the diet. In other words, mother nature is the best provider of whole foods.

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