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Diatician Makuku: Tells of what your body needs

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Growing up, Diatician, Keitumetse Makuku of Bonatla Wellness Solutions at AO Clinic was a fussy eater, she admits, she still is.
She recalls her late grandmother carrying a stick at every meal time. Today, she has has made it her life’s mission to educate people on good nutrition.

What made you choose this career path?
Growing up I would line up my mom’s deodorants, colognes and body lotions as my students. I knew that I wanted to teach people and educate them on how to improve their lives. Hence I chose Dietetics, which entails educating people on good nutrition and improves their lives.

What was your diet like growing up?
I was a fussy eater, my late grandmother would always be carrying a stick everytime I had to eat. I am still a fussy eater and don’t eat a lot of foods.

If you could persuade people to change three things about their diet, what would they be?
Eat foods that you enjoy so that you can be consistent with your healthy eating. For example, we know healthy eating entails eating mostly wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, low fat products, low fat dairy products and lean meats like chicken. From the wholegrains group make sure you eat that which you enjoy so that you can be consistent. There are individuals who love eating korong whereas others love eating mosutlhane or both, in this case I should not feel pressured to eat items I don’t like, including brown rice. Some people believe that healthy eating is when you eat fancy foods that entails shopping for expensive vegetables they can’t afford and only eat for a short period of time. Eventually, such people will tell you that they don’t enjoy the food but are just eating it because it’s considered healthy.
Keep it simple, our forefathers were healthy on their traditional foods. Lifestyle modification is a process and it begins with you as the individual. If you want to lose weight do it because you are ready and know and believe that it is the right thing to do, than doing it to impress your peers.

Are there any books, magazines, newsletters, podcasts or websites you would recommend for those who want to become better educated about diet and nutrition?
If you want to know more about good nutrition first and foremost there are professionals in the field, Nutritionists and Dietitians in all the different government hospitals and some are in private practices. They are the right people to give nutrition advise and guide. However, if you want to read about any nutrition facts you need to search peer reviewed articles which have different research findings about nutrition issues. Look for the latest journals as Nutrition is dynamic.

What are some of the most common nutritional mistakes you observe in your clients?
The most common nutritional mistakes I observe made by individuals are that they believe that starchy foods contribute to weight gain. They also believe that starving oneself or skipping meals is helpful in weight loss. They also restrict the intake of important nutrients that can be beneficial to health.

What is a typical day’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner for you?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One cup of oats with a fruit is my favourite, then take in water afterwards. Lunch – one cup of samp and beans with one cup cooked morogo and a piece of lean beef with a bit of gravy and a fruit. Dinner for me could be baked potatoes with one cup of green salad and chicken. I enjoy simple healthy dishes.

There is a lot of hype around intermittent fasting (IF) lately. What are your thoughts about fasting as a dietary technique?
Bear in mind that the amount of food that one eats is dependent on a lot of factors such as physical activity, weight, and basal metabolic rate. Fasting varies according to different religions. Some omit all the food items and use water only, while others omit other food items and remain with a few food items. Therefore, what I can say is that provided you do not have any medical condition you can go through any kind of fasting for religious purposes, however, when you want to lose weight you cannot use fasting because for the body to lose weight it requires to be satisfied first, then that is when it can start shedding off the fat. I do not despute that fasting generally makes one lose weight, but when you want to maintain that weight loss it becomes difficult because your body will start to experience cravings which you would want to curb by overeating.

We are constantly told how ‘bad ’meat is and encouraged to have meatless meals. What’s your take on vegetarianism and veganism?
Meat is not bad, too much high fat meat is high in calories and saturated fat which contributes to weight gain and increases the chances of heart diseases. However, if you eat lean cuts of meat, chicken and fish you also benefit from the nutrients such as iron from red meat, protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids from fish. There are however, individuals who opt for vegetarianism for personal, religious reasons. They also benefit from plant proteins which are low in cholesterol, also contain protein. As long as one substitutes the right nutrients then it is acceptable.

What is detoxification and how do you feel about the need for it?
Detoxification as the name implies means getting rid of toxins in the body. What are toxins? High fat foods, high sugary foods, high refined foods, high salty foods. All these become toxins but when you eat healthy i.e wholegrains, low fat products, low fat dairy products, lean cuts of meat, more fruits and vegetables you do not have to detoxify. Eat healthy and avoid having to use the word detoxification.

What kinds of tools and methods do you use to help your clients achieve their goals?
As a Dietitian we are trained to educate, advise and counsel individuals on the right way of eating. We do not impose it to them but we make suggestions. We also give you the risks to unhealthy eating, and allow you to think about what healthy eating can benefit you and your family. We work together with individuals to reach a desired healthy goal.

How important is exercise and how much of it is effective?
Physical activity and not exercise is very important as it promotes good health. Relieves from stress, gives more energy, helps in shedding off fat. However, I always advise that people do what they enjoy most and not exercise because their friend is doing it. You can jog, brisk walk, swim, or anything that you would enjoy so that you can be consistent.

Any words of advice or suggestions for someone considering entering your field?
If you want to study Nutrition and Dietetics you need to have a passion for it.

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‘Cancer took away my boobs, not my life’

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Sun Health: What events led up to your diagnosis, or, how did you discover that you were suffering from cancer?

Mpho Kgaodi:My journey with Breast cancer started in 2012. Around April I felt a lump on my right breast. It was not painful at all, just slightly itchy. It was on the upper part of my breast. I ignored it for about three days but it kept nagging me and then I decided to go see my doctor. He also confirmed that there was a lump on my breast He sent me for mammogram that confirmed an abnormality on the structure of my right breast. I then went to see him with the results and he informed me that there are two ways to test that lump – Biopsy, which meant that he will be taking a piece of that lump to send it to the laboratory for examination and the other option was to totally remove the lump, Lumpectomy. I decided that he removes the whole lump, because I really didn’t want that Lump on my breast.

SH: We know that about 10% of all breast cancers are hereditary. Are there other women affected in your family?
MK: I don’t know of any other woman or even man in my family who has had cancer, though it is hereditary.

SH: What were your first thoughts when you received the diagnosis?
MK: I cried for a brief moment. I was overwhelmed with emotions, fear of death. I quickly recovered from that dreadful thought and remembered that I have a great husband and three boys. I felt that I had so much to live for.The doctor informed me about the options I had regarding treatment and he gave me time to think about it. I drove back home to Lobatse and by the time I arrived at my house, I had already made up my mind that I am going for total removal of the breast. I broke the news to my family and they were just as shocked as I was when the doctor broke the news to me. I explained to them my decision to go for surgery and they were very supportive. Few weeks later, I went for a mystectomy.

SH: How long were you in treatment

MK: The surgery was followed by Chemotherapy. The first time I walked into the oncology centre, I found so many people there already. I then realised that I am not the only person with cancer, it is so many of us. It gave me strength and courage. I had heard that the side effects of chemo are brutal, seeing those people made me realise that if others can do it so can I. I decided to go for it as I had so much will and spirit to stay alive and raise my kids. After the second session of chemo, I started losing my hair, nail beds turned black. I was never discouraged though, despite my aching body and the constant nausea after chemo. I had six cycles of it. In 2013 around April again, I experienced severe pain on my left breast, but with no Lump. My doctor again recommended I go for a mammogram. It confirmed cancer which was still at stage 1. I then insisted that they remove the breast. I would lose both my breasts but I knew staying alive for my boys was more important. Other people thought the pain was psychological, and I knew what I felt and my mind was made up. I had the second mastectomy and had to go through another cycle of chemo which I completed. I am now on oral medication. I take my tablet daily. It is recommended that I take it for ten years. I have just started on my year 6 on the tablet. I do go for regular check ups, to establish if the cancer is not back.

SH: What helped keep your spirits up and gave you support during this period?

MK: A good friend of mine and colleague told me about Journey of Hope Botswana. He introduced me to them, and I had tremendous support from them. I also went to Cancer Association Botswana to introduce myself. My family has also been my backbone, supporting me through it all. I am so greatful. On days that my spirits are low, I always take my mind to positive thoughts. I try to remind myself of the good times, sometimes I even find myself laughing out loud.

SH: How has this affected you at a psychological level?

MK: My life has not really changed for the worst. Like the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemon aid out of them”. I lost my job after the second diagnosis of cancer. While this affected my family financially I never got discouraged, as this gave me time to take care of my family. I am a full time stay home mom. I walk this journey with my family. My boys understand that I had Cancer but now I am okay. They sometimes check if I have taken my medication, and they would even ask about my next appointment. I am blessed to have them.

SH: Facing the diagnosis of breast cancer is one of the most feared experiences in our society. What has been your experience as you worked with communities through Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB)?

MK: Working with CAB has been eye opening. Through motivational talks and other actives like the annual stiletto walk, the message has been positively received. There is still a lot to be done though, especially to make people understand that breast cancer is NOT a death sentence. So many lives can be saved.

SH: Amongst raising awareness, cancer awareness month is about celebrating individuals like yourself and their triumphs over cancer. Is there anything you would like to say to the community of cancer survivors and women in general?

MK: I have learnt so much from being diagnosed with cancer. I appreciate life more. I never used go and see a doctor without any pains or any thing “wrong” with my body. Now I do it regularly and so far I always get a clean bill of health. I encourage everybody to do regular self -breast examination. It is easy, convenient, cost-effective and can really help with early detection. I believe there is a lot to be done as far as breast cancer awareness. Remember men can also have breast cancer.

To all those who are going through cancer at the moment, remember you are not alone. Let’s walk this journey together. Let’s walk with Hope, Courage and Strength. There is life after cancer. Cancer took away my boobs it did not take my life. As October is breast cancer awareness, let’s support those affected, honour the survivors and remember the fallen.
PINK RIBBON ALWAYS

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Caroline Gartland speaks on Children and Mental Health

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Tell us about yourself and your background
I’m originally from the UK but have been in Botswana for eight years so this is now home! I have a Combined Honours degree in Psychology an MSc in Mental Health and have had a pretty varied career.
I started off working with offenders doing rehabilitation programmes; went on to support the victims of domestic violence then ended up working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for the National Health Service.
I’ve done a lot of work, mainly voluntary, in different fields since being in Botswana but my passion is now Early Childhood Mental Health.

What does your work entail?
Early childhood mental health is mainly working with parents, caregivers and teachers to help them understand how children develop and the best ways to support their mental health and brain development as they grow. It’s about providing training and opportunities for families to bond with their children and introducing new ways of playing and interacting.

What sparked your interest in early childhood mental health?
Quite simply, having my own children! My daughter was born five years ago and I was fascinated watching her develop and grow. It occurred to me that the younger you begin to consider mental health and provide tools for resilience against life’s adversities, the better outcomes you are likely to have.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and completed a diploma in Infant Mental Health. I’ve worked down the lifespan but I feel I’m now where I belong, working with babies and young children.

What mental health issues have you observed in children in Botswana?
Mental Health is still stigmatised around the world and Botswana is no exception. Most people immediately think of mental illness, but mental health is about so much more; we all have mental health and some days we are fine and able to deal with life’s challenges and some days we need more support and tools under our belt to help us cope.

Young children can experience mental health problems. Anxiety is a common one, but we are more likely to focus on the behaviour we see rather than how the child is feeling. An anxious child who refuses to go to school may be labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘naughty’ but what they are expressing is a painful emotion that they need help dealing with.

Describe one thing you find fulfilling and challenging about working in this industry.
Working with children and families is a pleasure and a privilege. To make life a little bit easier for someone is all that matters, you don’t have to be out there saving the world to make a difference.
My major challenge is time. I would love to do more, I’d love to do an MSc in play therapy and a couple of other therapeutic techniques I’ve come across in Europe but that gets put on hold as I focus on my own family and business.

Can you share an anecdote about how mental health consultation works?
I think that education, understanding and connection are the three keys to giving a child the best start in life. Led by that, SensoBaby provides classes in the community for parents and caregivers to connect with their infants.

We offer workshops on parenting and play to foster understanding of child development and wellbeing and we are available to troubleshoot specific problems an individual or agency has with the young children in their care or the systems they have in place. When it comes to individual parents, mostly what they need is to feel heard, supported and guided in their parenting choices.
You can read all the baby books in the world but they won’t give you the answers you need for your child, through responsive parenting and connection, you’ll find you have the solutions you need.

What advice do you have for child-care providers or early childhood teachers who are at their wits’ end over a child’s challenging behaviour but don’t have access to a consultant?
Empathy is an important and undervalued skill – the ability to consider another’s viewpoint. What is that child feeling? Their behaviour might be challenging and hard to deal with but often the root cause is an unmet need. There’s a famous quote from an American Clinical Psychologist, “The children who need love the most, will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

Does a mother’s mental health affect her foetus? How important would you say is paying attention to women’s well being during pregnancy as with their physical well being?
100% yes. It is so important to support a woman’s wellbeing during pregnancy. As an example, if the mother experiences significant stress and rising levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) during pregnancy, the foetus will be affected and in some cases will be more sensitive to stress in childhood or later in life.

Pregnant women and new families (Dads as well!) deserve nurturing care themselves and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for support. SensoBaby run FREE monthly coffee mornings to support pregnant and new mothers because we understand the importance of maternal wellbeing.

Do smart phones and television make our children mentally ill as is often purported?
I don’t think technology is always the villain it’s made out to be. The key is in the relationship with that technology. Moderate use of TV’s and smart phones are fine, as long as they aren’t a substitute for outdoor play, imaginative play and meaningful interactions. If a child is crying or upset and we hand them a device to keep them quiet then we have missed an important opportunity for connection, helping them process what is going on and supporting them to calm down and settle themselves.

Now, I know you are involved in an exciting programme that helps caregivers and children to bond and get the children off to the best start in life through play. Can you say a little bit about that work and just how you are seeing it play out?
SensoBaby is our baby; a project born from passion and a desire to support families in Botswana. We offer play-based classes for children and their caregivers that are underpinned by the principles of child wellness as well as early foundations for learning.

When you provide developmentally appropriate opportunities to play, you learn so much about your child. That understanding and observation builds strong connections, which will form the basis of that child’s future relationships and self esteem. Play is so much more than ‘a fun activity.’

We offer a number of trainings and workshops for parents, nannies and community stakeholders and hope to increase our offerings this year. Our community partnerships and voluntary programmes have been successful so far and we hope to see more impact in 2018.

We currently serve the Gaborone community but would like to expand throughout Botswana as opportunities arise. The response to SensoBaby has been fantastic so far and we can’t wait to see how far we can go with the concept!

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