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Sun Health

Selenium is fundamental to good health

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Good health is a precious blessing. But how does one attain good health and stay healthy? Eating a well-balanced diet is important, as is getting enough exercise and rest. Smoking is the worst thing you can do for your health and alcohol should only be taken in moderation. But when sickness, disease or old age strike, what else can one do to stay healthy?

A strong immune system is essential for good health. The immune system is the most complex system in the human body. It helps protect the body from viruses, bacteria, fungus and the other infections that make us ill. Almost all aspects of health and most diseases and conditions are directly affected by the immune system. Babies are born without a fully formed immune system. That is why babies get sick so often. The immune system takes three years to fully develop. That is a major difference separating infancy from child- hood. Immune function starts to decline after the age of sixty.

But when the immune system weakens many health problems can arise. Age is not the only thing that weakens our immunity. Most diseases depress our immune system and one illness sometimes leads to another. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and HIV can lead to many different opportunistic infections attacking the body. So what can a person do to boost their immune defenses? What is the secret of maintaining healthy im- munity? In one word – selenium.

The mineral selenium is the key element for the immune system. Selenium is the strongest natural antioxidant and a natural anti-inflammatory. Every cell in the body contains this element that helps cells stay clean, healthy and detoxified. Selenium is concentrated in the cells and organs of the immune system including the liver, spleen, kidney, thymus and thyroid glands because they have an increased need for selenium in order to do their job. Selenium is so basic to life it is found in almost every food we eat, but in extremely small amounts. Even most viruses and bacteria require selenium. When those germs infect you they attack your body’s selenium supply, lower- ing your immunity and damaging your health.

In her article “The importance of selenium to human health” in The Lancet medical journal, Dr. Margaret Ray- man explains that selenium is “fundamental” – absolutely basic – for good health.
But most people don’t get enough selenium through their diet. Dr. Rayman explains how selenium is important for immune function; to fight off viral infections; that it is very beneficial in pregnancy and breast feeding; and in reducing stress, depression and improving mood. She explains how it can reduce cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke; and can help against many skin conditions like eczema, acne, fungal infections and skin sores.

Selenium can help reduce the pain and discomfort of inflammatory conditions including arthritis, pancreatitis, and asthma. Finally, selenium is the strongest thing to help prevent cancer. If full strength 200mcg selenium tablets are taken daily for over five years, that can reduce all cancers by 37% and reduce death from cancer by half. Se- lenium helps keep the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain and skin healthy and the immune system strong.

In a study by the Rwandan Ministry of Health of selenium against HIV in people who were not yet on ARVs, one 200mcg tablet of selenium slowed down HIV becoming AIDS by 48%. In a study by Harvard University in advanced AIDS patients in Nigeria, adding one tablet of 200mcg to a three-drug ARV therapy more than doubled the increase in CD4 count compared to ARVs alone. As one German scientist explained, when the body has enough selenium, im- munity will be strong; when there is not enough selenium, the immune system will be weak.

So how much selenium is enough? For a perfectly healthy young person 60mcg per day, the recommended minimum daily allowance is enough. But an older person or anyone com- bating disease requires more. They can easily get that by taking one 200mcg selenium tablet a day. Selenium tablets are very afford- able and are available at most local pharmacies. Howard Armistead is an AIDS researcher and Director of the Se- lenium Research Institute.

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Sun Health

BoMRA warns of cancer-causing impurity

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Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BoMRA) is investigating if ranitidine, a common heartburn medicine, has a chemical contamination, which could cause cancer.
The drug is also known as Zantac, Uptake, Austin and R-Lok.

BoMRA issued a warning recently following an announcement on September 13, by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it had learned that some ranitidine medications, including those known by the brand name Zantac, contain low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), an impurity that could cause cancer.

NDMA is a possible cancer-causing chemical linked to liver damage. Since last year, the FDA has been investigating NDMA and other impurities in blood pressure and heart failure medicines known as angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs. However, the FDA cautioned that levels of the NDMA appeared low and not much higher than when the chemical is present in foods like processed or grilled meat. The FDA said: “Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods”.

Over-the-counter ranitidine is approved to prevent and relieve heartburn and can be prescribed to prevent ulcers of the stomach and intestines. In a statement, BoMRA told people they could still keep taking the medicine or ask doctors to prescribe one of many drugs that treat heartburn or ulcers. The health product watchdog cautioned patients who had been prescribed Ranitidine from stopping without an alternative, advising patients instead to talk to their health professionals before they stop or switch to other medicines.

“BoMRA is urgently liaising with the registered suppliers of ranitidine-containing medicines to investigate the presence of NDMA in Botswana ranitidine products; and will update the public on the outcome of these investigations,” reads the statement.

BoMRA Spokesperson, Israel Kgosidiile said there is no evidence at this stage that the impurity has caused any harm to patients.
“There is no recommendation for patients who have ranitidine to stop taking it. If a patient has any questions they should speak to their doctor or pharmacist,“ he stated.

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Know Your Specialist

‘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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