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Expectant mothers shouldn’t eat dothi

NEARLY everyone craves for various kinds of food at different times in their lives. But it is the type of food they crave for that raises concern.
Most of these cravings for specific foods may sometimes be due to an illness or during pregnancy, in the case of women.
Expectant women always have the desire to eat a certain type of food, drink or fruit such as mangoes even when they are out of season.
It is easy to believe that many people crave for certain edibles as this is the body’s way of telling us that we are lacking a certain nutrient that the food we desire could provide.
However, most women crave for soil or clay during pregnancy while others just like to eat the soil even when they are not pregnant.
In fact, eating of clay is not restricted to one’s age because even young ladies and girls are sometimes spotted eating soil.
Little seems to have been said about the eating of soil which has since led to its increased consumption because most consumers are not aware of the dangers soil may cause to the human body. Soil, which is commonly known as dothi in Chewa, has become a widely sold commodity in the country.
The hunger for this smooth soil or clay, which is scientifically called silt, is perceived to be a medical condition. Experts say that a normal human being cannot crave for something that does not have any nutritional value unless he or she is suffering from an illness known as geophagia.
Silt eating, the practice known as pica or geophagia, has always been common in Zambia and other parts of the world.
The American Psychiatric Association defines pica or geophagia as the persistent eating of non-nutritive substances that is inappropriate to human development, occurs outside the culturally sanctioned practice and, if observed during the course of a mental disorder, is sufficiently severe to warrant independent attention.
Pica, which is the abnormal ingestion of non-food substances, has remained an official diagnosis for those who eat clay, soil or silt, according to a research by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Samson Chisele, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital (UTH) explained that pica in expectant women should not be encouraged as it causes complications to the mother and the unborn baby.
Dr Chisele explained that clay may contain sharp particles that may tear the intestines and therefore causing complications in the circulation of blood around the body or the passing of food in the intestines.
Pica is a complicated condition because there are both cultural and nutritional issues associated with it.
Others believe that silt would relieve the nausea that comes with morning sickness in expectant women.
Some young women in urban South Africa believe that eating silt can give them a lighter complexion (making them supposedly more attractive) and soften their skin.
Because of these various myths, there has been a long-standing debate in nutrition research over the relationship between pica and pregnancy.
In an article published in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Bowerman points out that clay could lead to health problems such as constipation.
Dothi or silt is usually taken by women, who are expecting. For others it is a belief that the baby will be born with stronger bones.
However, medical experts say the craving for clay by women during pregnancy is due to the need for ironic food which the body and baby need during that period.
However, there has been a misconception by many, with some saying the clay soil that is eaten by women during pregnancy helps in the better outcome of the unborn baby.
Traditionalists say that eating clay, soil or silt helps expectant women to have an easy delivery.
This notion emanates from clear misunderstanding of what soil really is, what its purpose to the body is and where it really comes from.
In Haiti, pica is widespread. The clay mud is worked into what looks like pancakes or cookies, called ‘bon bons de terres’ that are dried in the sun and sold to poor people.
Small amounts of other ingredients, vegetable shortening, salt and sometimes sugar, are also added to the mix.
The obvious risks in the consumption of earth that is contaminated with animal waste, sometimes with parasite eggs for roundworm, that can stay dormant for years, can cause a problem.
It is therefore incumbent upon those who crave for silt to seek medical attention to diagnose what their body lacks.- ZANIS