For more than two years now, Ethel Kansiime has been eating clay. Despite knowing that she is likely to suffer from appendicitis, she still takes the clay. “I cannot control the urge. I move with clay in my hand bag and when I run out of it, I feel like something is missing. I am now addicted to it.”
According to Amanda Tumwebaze, a freelance nutritionist, many pregnant and non-expectant women get the urge to eat clay and other non-food substances. This condition, called pica, is very common even among children.
“Craving for non-food items like clay, charcoal and chalk are not normal and seem very gross, but they happen. People who have such cravings are said to have an iron deficiency or mineral deficiency in general,” says Tumwebze.
Food deficiencies are very common, especially in developing countries. While men also suffer nutrient deficiencies, women are more prone to food deficiency because of monthly menstrual cycle, hormonal changes during pregnancy and the time towards menopause. There are some symptoms and signs that show that one has a specific deficiency.
Craving for some foods
Dr Charity Alinda, a general practitioner at St Catherine’s Hospital, says some people who are vegetarian, sometimes crave for meat, an indication that one has an iron deficiency. He says the condition is very common among pregnant women. “Even if you are a vegan, you may find yourself drawn by the scent of meat. The deficiency can lead to fatigue, lowered immune health and overall weakness,” she says.
Legumes, vegetables and dried fruits like dates may be helpful but more so vitamin C foods to help in the absorption of the iron into the body. A craving for very oily foods is a symptom that you lack omega -3 fatty acids in your body. Better and healthier oily options include avocado, nuts and nut butters, coconut milk and flax seeds.
Adding dark leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds to your meals can prevent this type of craving among vegetarians. She adds that more animal sources contain iron than the plant sources.
Magnesium aids in neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. With less magnesium in the body, your muscles, including the heart, can go into involuntary contraction and chronic fatigue. The mineral, therefore, helps muscles to relax and contract, and also enables you to move.
Dr Alinda says: “If you suffer from unexplained muscle spasms and eye twitches, fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, magnesium could be lacking.”
Sometimes twitches are caused by fatigue, stress and too much light absorption in the eyes. Look for eye drops to lubricate the eyes and get enough rest.
If you want to experience proper vision, a strong immune system, reproduction and good skin health, you need vitamin A. Low levels of vitamin A often cause night blindness. Among children, a deficiency of the vitamin A can also cause stunted growth.
Bone -back pain
Vitamin D helps in keeping your bones strong and boosts immunity.“If you stay indoor for the longest time of your day and are experiencing bone and back pain accompanied by depression, impaired wound healing, fatigue and muscle pain, you are very likely to be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency,” Tumwebaze says.
The vitamin is said to be the sun vitamin so you need to get sometime in the sun with help from foods such as egg yolk, beef liver and mushrooms.