By Dr Atta K.Bonsu
NOTE: This article was written in Cameroon and published in THE POST (Newspaper Cameroonian)
Gastritis, the inflammation of the lining membrane of the stomach (gastric), is considered as the most common disease in Cameroon (where I lived and practiced between 1997 and 2004). It has won the price almost every year, to an extent that many victims no more consider it as a disease, but a normal thing for almost every Cameroonian. That is to say, for some Cameroonians, gastritis is normal – when it strikes, they only find some means to calm the pains, and continue living with it.
Apparently and interestingly, it seems to be like that; every group of people, a community or a nation have their respective health problems, however, depending on how they live. So gastritis is common in Cameroon, but not very popular in even our close neighbouring country like Nigeria; they also have their common health problems, even though.
Many do not take the disease seriously, for the fact that gastritis is not classified among the most serious killer diseases; however, when it develops to certain levels, it can prove fatal and death; the anguish seems to be dreadful, at times.
I have consulted in most parts of the Cameroon nation; both in the Anglophone and the Francophone Zones, and the fact is the same, it is the most prevalent, and many consider it as normal. When patients are giving their complaints, most of them often keep gastric problems aside until you ask them, if there is anything else before they mention it. My observation is that, even some in the fear of high charges, will solemnly appeal “doctor, leave that “gastric” for now, and treat the serious ones; for me I see it to be a normal sickness for every Cameroonian”. One lady confessed like that. Many also consult mainly on the disease, especially chronic cases that have reached the climax of destruction.
Fortunately, the causes of gastritis would be known to confirm its leadership on Cameroon’s diseases list. Notwithstanding all these facts, one would not be surprised to see many suffering from the disease, as long as, “the drinking of alcoholic beverages remains the number one cause of gastritis”. From alcohol, “the use of certain drugs, especially anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers”, will be second. Third cause is ‘eating between meals’. And these are common health problems in Cameroon. (Jethro Kloss in his book “Back to Eden” confirm this; he rated alcohol, modern drugs and irregularity in eating to be the three principal causes of gastritis).
What Is Gastritis And What Causes It
The scientific word “gastric” simply refers to the lining membrane of the stomach, the first sac that receives food after swallowing. The main function of the gastric lining is to secrete digestive juices and enzymes for digestion of food in the stomach, mainly protein foods.
Due to haphazard life of eating and drinking, without proper evaluation and discretion, this hollow lining membrane of the stomach (gastric) becomes inflamed, and produces disease symptoms and complications, which are discomforting, unpleasant and unbearable at times. Sensationally, one may feel these unpleasant complications, including severe abdominal pains and bites, hotness and burns, belching of gas and flatulence, nausea and vomiting.
As I have earlier mentioned, alcohol drinks, especially the high fermented ones cause serious irritation and erodes the hollow, lining membrane of the stomach, especially when drunk very early in the morning into an empty stomach – it is dangerous. How would you imagine one drinking a strong fermented alcohol like “afofo” (how Cameroonians call hot, fermented alcohol drink), into an empty stomach in the morning? It is death! This is a serious “murder” and many are ignorant of the fact that we are going to give account of what we did to our body to the Maker (read II Corinthians 5:10) “thou shall not kill involves many things”.
Certain high chemicalized drugs that we often buy from common places without even doctors’ prescription are killing many but only a few notice this. Swallowing these hard chemical drugs into an empty stomach, is the same as the one who drinks a strong fermented alcohol like “afofo”.
It is not easy to see two Cameroonians fighting publicly. Since I started coming here, this is rare, even though we have few instances, yet it is not common compared to other places in Africa. Some of my friends attribute this to alcoholism, but I do not side with them; we are only gifted from above. But another area, which can convince me a bit, is the way we eat together and welcome friends with food.
However, this can also affect our sound health if is not appropriately done. Culture is good, but we should not do it to the detriment of our health and life. So while we are to eat and share with friends, we need to apply wisdom in order to avoid excesses. In the Roman Catholic Doctrine, “overeating is a serious sin” so if your friend invites you for a meal and you are already full, excuse him; for your health’s sake. Do not feel shy to please your friend to overeat yourself to go contrary to health principles. And the host or the one inviting one for a meal should understand this without any offense: that is living in harmony.
I am saying all this for the fact that eating between meals’ is another great cause of gastritis. Some people’s “appeti” is too big (“Appeti” is a common term in Cameroon, which explains that even if your neighour invites you for a meal and you are full, at least take a bite). Many people do not have time to eat, whatever comes across the eyes they receive. Some can eat about 10 times in a day, because they do not plan a complete meal for themselves. They see corn they “chop”, then to groundnuts, to garden eggs, to bread and so on. However, we should not change our culture of sharing, but you know our God loves modesty in everything. Learn when and how to open your mouth.
Many have even forgotten that the greatest temptation of man that brought sin into this world is upon “Appeti”. We should remember how Adam and Eve fell because of food, but you know Jesus also overcame this to redeem us.
If you want your child to be great in future; to be a philosopher, an inventor and develop in much wisdom, teach him or her how to eat. The time to eat and what they must eat; yet they need to respect the culture of oneness and togetherness, but very modest. Food ferments when eaten in improper times. For this, the wise man Solomon, with his natural scientific power recorded this in the Bible (read Ecclesiastics 10:17 and compare with what Jesus said in Mathew 24:45).
Other causes of gastritis are: night or late supers; eating with too much liquids, like drinking plenty with meals, the worst being eating with artificial sweet drinks or fermented wine. Refined, white sugar and its products cause gastritis. White sugar causes constipation, especially when eaten together with milk, butter, and white bread – you will definitely constipate, and fermentation, belching of methane gases would indicate the presence of the disease. Sugar irritates the fine lining membrane of the stomach and inflames it.
Hasty eating: swallowing food without proper chewing and thorough mastication; too fried foods, too much oil in diet; and high acidic items, such as refined salts, red meats and others cause gastric problems.
Another bad habit that I do not understand among Africans is, too much eating of hot red pepper. Hot pepper is a stimulant that is mainly used in treatment of diseases; it is not necessary and useful in meals. We Africans live in a very hot tropical continental area but we love eating too much pepper and oil more than even Europeans who live in cool temperate climatic area. That is why there are rampant cases of fever, jaundice, hepatitis and others on our continent.
Many Europeans and Americans eat “pepper free soup”, but Africans cooks prepare meals with hot peppers, give to children, you see water and mucus oozing out from the nostrils of these innocent children ; punishing them, when they are forced to eat whatever the mother places on the table. But most of our ignorant cooks and mothers do not even know that “poor cooking is a great sin”. After all, what nutrient does pepper add to the meal? It is only intended to be used as medicine.
Prevention of Gastric Problem
To prevent gastritis, go back to read all the causes, and try as you can, but gradually observe them, you and your children and all people under you if possible. When you do this, you preserve your health and the health of your children, not only from gastritis, but from untold diseases. One poorest habit in our society is, when we do not want to spend our money on proper diet, but rather spend in hospital, drug and pharmaceutical shops.
Alcoholism has been the greatest cause of African’s underdevelopment, not only in Cameroon but almost everywhere in Africa. But before our governments will realise these bewitching force, it had caused a lot.
Europeans like Germans (as we often site examples) drink, but they eat plenty of salads and good nourishing foods. But most Africans drink high alcoholic substances and forget to even eat. Our income goes to alcohol and sensuality. Think about it deeply!
Do not drink alcohol. It is possible for you to practice this. I once consulted an-aged-man of 74, surprisingly, he was looking very young. He confessed, he lived in Bonkwango, a very natural place in Buea, he had never smoked nor drunk alcohol throughout his life. We have a lot of Cameroonians like this. You can be like that, and it is possible.
Do not eat much fat, oil and salt. Salt and oil can be used but sparingly. Even at all you will eat meat, toast before to drain the fat and the oil, when you do this you are preventing your body from many killer diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases. Do not eat too fried, hard foods; these do not only cause gastritis but ulcer and appendicitis. Appendicitis is becoming common in Cameroon, and I have realised that many Cameroonians do not fear surgical operation – cutting the body to remove disease.
Educate yourself to eat moderately, but to your fill and satisfaction. Not the quantity of food you eat that gives you strength, but the nutrients in food. Never eat at the same time drinking water or any mineral or liquids, but never go to the table while thirsty. The only liquid the food needs for digestion is the saliva in the mouth. The more liquid in food, the more difficult is digestion. That is why many have big, protruded tummies.
Avoid eating high spicy foods and high condiments; food must be prepared naturally simple; but appetizing, palatable, delicious and nutritious.
The old medical practitioners used physical appearances and characteristics of plants to detect their properties but the modern practitioners use the same chemicals, which hinder our ambition to implement herbs in our health institutions. Look at the way momordica cripples and climbs on top of other shrubs and trees; it indicates that it is ‘queen’ and can cure many diseases.
It has never failed me when I prescribe for ulcer, gastritis and piles. It stops the one suffering from appendicitis from going to the theatre. The bitterness of the leaves shows that it is a real febrifuge, and as such makes it useful in treating malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, jaundice and fever disorders. Also good for venereal diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, staphylococcus aurens infection, candidiasis; and a splendid effect on leucorrhoea (whites in women).
Recommended for female disorders and gynaecological problems; and would even promote pregnancy. Other properties are antibiotic, antiseptic, diuretic, tonic, anthelmintic, emetic and laxative. All these properties would testify how it can treat various diseases, however, depending on how you use it and the combination.
You can use the leaves fresh or the ripped fruits to treat ulcer and gastritis. Press in water and strain and drink the extracted juice, about 1/3 glass at a time. When this is taken the pains will stop almost immediately especially in acute cases.
But the best way to use it, even in treating chronic cases, is by drying the leaves, breaking into granules and use as tea. (2 teaspoons to one glass of boiling water). Strain and sip slowly. When you take this gradually, gastritis will be uprooted.
Our clinical Momordica (you can place order for it). Go to products page for details on this product. You can also order for “Healing With Simple Plants”, a book on tropical medicinal plants to know more.
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