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William beats Schizophrenia to find true meaning of life

Rachel Raditsebe

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To a casual observer, Thuto William is no different from you and me. He talks normally, walks just like the next person, and seems comfortable around people. He wasn’t always like this.

“Growing up, Thuto would be energetic and very excited in one moment, only to go flat and expressionless the next,” shares his mother, Reginah William. She adds, “When he was like that, he would be completely expressionless, locked away in a world that no one can reach”.

Thuto’s mother, who has witnessed these mood changes in the 27-year-old for the last 12 years, says for or a long time, Thuto would be withdrawn and just stayed in the house not socialising. William has schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterised by a breakdown of thought processes and a deficit of typical emotional responses. Common symptoms include auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganised speech and thinking. It is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction. It is something Thuto will have to live with for the rest of his life.

“It got so bad that I became suicidal. All this time, I had no idea what I was suffering from. Thoughts of ending my life constantly filled my head and I contemplated and evaluated the easiest and most effective ways of taking my life,” William shared.

Gloomy as it was around that time he had the presence of mind to reach out for help and took himself in at Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital in Lobatse. He was 15 years old then and doing his Form II at Ipelegeng Junior Secondary School in Lobatse. “The initial triggers include feeling low and wanting to withdraw and spend time with myself. This later deteriorates to scary thoughts, and then I start seeing things that other people cannot see,” he says.

To counter this, he takes medication and makes a point of keeping the company of people he is familiar with, and who understand his condition. “I can’t party or take alcohol like many of my peers, so I don’t even put myself in such situations” he says, adding that keeping busy also helps to keep the relapses at bay. William says that his life is gradually gaining some normalcy. “I can confidently say that as unfair as life seems, it is also a gift and we should enjoy it and live it to the fullest.

“Yes I don’t enjoy the so called finer things like alcohol, drugs, sex and I struggle to keep romantic relationships. But there is much more to life that I can do like travelling and experiencing the world. It was not easy conquering my demons, but with the help of a psychiatrist and medicine to manage this condition, it is not all gloom and doom.

Schizophrenia, like many other forms of mental illness, is not a death sentence; and can be managed through medication and therapy. I live a full life. Of course, I have good days and bad days. The medicine also has its side effects, like stiff neck, shoulders, feeling shaky and can make you lose hope because they stop you from thinking, but this is the least of my problems.“This condition has taught me that life is truly precious, that we should take advantage of every moment we have. I love travelling and experiencing the world which has also proved to be very good for my head space, I laugh more, I am generally happier, and I make more time for my friends and family,” William explained.

According to Mental health expert, David Mangwegape, schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder in which a person is unable to differentiate fantasy from reality. “Schizophrenia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Dopamine, a chemical found in the brain, is low in people with schizophrenia,” he said in an interview. This is where the genetic disposition comes in. However, not every genetically predisposed person will manifest schizophrenia.

According to Mangwegape, some environmental stressors can cause a trigger. These include traumatic events that lead to emotional trauma, the use of street drugs, and other psychological stressors, such as a stressful relationship, financial difficulty, work and school-related stressors. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), schizophrenia affects about one in every 100 people. The condition is most often diagnosed between age 15 and 35, and can affect any gender but is more frequent in males than females. A schizophrenic attack is gradual. It can begin with withdrawal, followed by other symptoms, such as hallucinations.

Schizophrenia is treated with a combination of medication to reduce the symptoms and therapy appropriate to each individual.“The earlier the treatment, the faster the recovery and the lesser the future relapses,” Mangwegape says. He adds that many people are living with schizophrenia and leading nearly normal lives.

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Sun Health

Women living longer than men

Rachel Raditsebe

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Life expectancy has been increasing over the past two decades across the world with several nations in Sub sub-Saharan Africa rebounding from high death rate due to HIV/AIDS.

In Botswana women have a longer life expectancy than men, living to an average of 68.4 years compared to 63.6 for men. Between 2005 and 2016, death rates from HIV/AIDS decreased by 42% and malaria by 43% while Pre- birth complications and maternal disorders decreased by 30% and 29% respectively. However, this progress is said to be threatened by increasing number of people suffering health challenges related to obesity, high blood sugar, alcohol and drug abuse. This is according to a health research conducted at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The study, which examined the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), injuries and risk factors, the years that one lives in good health and those that one lives with an injury or illness, analyzed 300 illnesses and injuries in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016. The results were published on Thursday in the journal, The Lancet.

For most countries, changes in healthy life expectancy for males and females between 1990 and 2016 were positive, but in dozens of others, including Botswana, Belize and Syria, healthy life expectancy in 2016 was not significantly higher than in 1990. Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just death rates but the impact of non-fatal conditions and considers years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality.

According to the study, in 2016 Botswana’s disease burden was found to arise from unsafe sex, high fasting plasma glucose, high systolic blood pressure, high body-mass index and alcohol use.
HIV, respiratory infections, diarrhea and tuberculosis were the diseases most prevalent among men. For women, lower respiratory infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis), and congenital anomalies were the most prevalent illnesses. Congenital illnesses are conditions that one is born with, which can affect one’s development and general well-being.

Maternal and child Deaths
The study has also found that from 1980 to 2016, giving birth has gotten less safe for mothers in Botswana. The ratio of maternal deaths grew from 74 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 118 in 2016. Globally, the ratio of maternal deaths fell 30% over the same time period, from 282 to 196 per 100,000 live births. One of the co-researchers of the study, Dr Charles Shey Wiysonge, said it was encouraging that Batswana are living longer. However, he lamented that the high number of maternal deaths, “have overshadowed significant gains against HIV/AIDS”.

Dr Wiysonge is a GBD collaborator from South Africa who serves as a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. Dr. Nicholas Kassebaum, Assistant Professor, IHME said, “in many nations, improvements in maternal health are accelerating, but in others, women face daunting challenges, including the absence of trained professionals to assist with pregnancy and childbirth, and deal with life-threatening emergencies. As a result, reproductive health care must be a higher priority, including the expansion and improvement of reproductive health and family planning services and, for complications in childbirth, more advanced obstetric care.”

The study says that in 2016,1550 children under the age of 5 died, a ratio of 28.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. This ratio has been falling by 2.6 % each year since 1990. On the global level, 5.8 million children under age 5 died, representing a 52% decline in the number of under-5 deaths since 1990. In 2010 for example, the highest risk factor to good health among children under the age of five was being underweight, while among those aged between 15 and 49, the highest risk factor was alcohol abuse.

The researchers also examined the role that socio-demographic status – a combination of income, age, fertility rates and average years of schooling – plays in determining health. They noted that socio-demographic status is much less responsible for the variations seen for ailments, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Factors including income and education have an important impact on health but don’t tell the full story. Looking at healthy life expectancy and health loss at the country level can help guide policies to ensure that people everywhere can have long and healthy lives no matter where they live.” said IHME Director Christopher Murray.

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Know Your Specialist

Surviving endometriosis with natural remedies

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What is your professional background?
I am a medical officer at Princess Marina Hospital and have been working there for almost two years. I’m currently in the Obstetricians & Gynaecologist department working as a General Practitioner. It’s one of my areas of interest plus my boss is awesome and LOVES to teach.

What got you interested in food?
I went to a med school in China, and around the area I studied in, they were very passionate about their food intake, as it is with all Chinese but particularly in my city, Changsha. So we were blessed as students to be exposed to different remedies all the time. I got very ill whilst there, and they treated me with amazing methods. The only other people I know that use mother- nature as their healer are my grandparents in Lesotho. So I guess that’s where my motivation comes from, plus my mum practices alternative medicine all the time.

What is one of the wackiest nutrition myths you have heard of?
That swallowing gum may stay in your stomach for seven years. My mum loved saying that to me hence I am not a big fan of chewing gum.

What are some of the changes and trends you have observed in the food world over the last 20 years?
I am not a certified nutritionist, I’m just a person interested in using what earth has given us. It saved my life. The dependency of pills and a lot of pharmaceutical products scare me. The world has woken up to see that we don’t live as long as we used to. Take the Asians, they outlive us and are very active in their old age and their diet is a big factor to that.

You have been diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis. Take us through that experience.
I was shocked but I was relieved at the same time, that at least I was not going crazy about my pain and the heavy menses. Plus, I had had a myomectomy, the surgical removal of uterine leiomyomas, also known as fibroids, done last year and that was horrible experience; so being diagnosed with Endometriosis was hard but a relief in the same breath.

How do nutrition and endo relate? Can diet improve the symptoms of endometriosis?
Honestly, regarding to this, there needs to be more information for the public. Since I’m not a nutritionist I cannot answer but can advise around it. There are so many theories of what causes endometriosis. So you need to understand your body first to derive a conclusion. In my case I first developed fibroids and did the necessary tests to try and find the cause. Then worked backwards from there.

In addition, research has shown that women with endometriosis often have higher levels of estrogen, and that estrogen can encourage tissue growth. Can an anti-inflammatory type of diet eliminate excess oestrogen from the body?
When attempting to relieve endometriosis symptoms naturally, begin by eliminating foods that lead to inflammation. This includes dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine and carbohydrates.
Eliminate these foods from your diet for at least three weeks, paying close attention to your body changing throughout the process.
Alcohol, soy and other high-estrogen foods should also be eliminated from your diet because of their estrogenic effects. Which means more super anti-inflammatory foods.

It is important to track symptoms so that potential triggers can be identified. Hence why journaling your progress is so important. Honestly those are some of the things I do which have been of big help. If you want more follow my page Dr. Tumie violet Mphusu. So we can discuss more.

Is there something specific that has made the biggest change in your health? A treatment plan you have formulated for yourself, maybe?
I am a big fan of natural remedies. When I get sick I always go to Mother Nature before seeking pills. So with my case, I realized that when explored the Daniel fast, follow my page for more details, my menstruation became normal. The first month, I remember thinking I was just lucky, but when I reintroduced certain foods in my life, the old horrific cycle returned.
The flow, my pain, my fatigue and other related symptoms. Diet is the key to how our lives will pan out in the future. You are what you eat.

Your last word?
Please remember there is no cure for endometriosis, and surgical or medical treatments remain the most effective methods of managing the condition. However, making dietary changes is a complementary approach that may help some women manage their symptoms. Keep in mind that just as symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, treatments that work best for one woman may not be right for another.  Take your time to experiment with different remedies to find the approach that’s right for you.

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