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Nutrition Informatics Blog



Myanmar, Informatics, and Diarrhea

By Carolyn Silzle, MS, MBA, RD

I thought that I would write about the state of informatics in Myanmar after spending 3 weeks there visiting our family. This country is often in the news today, because it is preparing to host President Obama. However, as any dietitian knows, the first step of any assessment is determining the current state.

Informatics is not on the near horizon there. This is a country where it is typical to lose power several times daily. Our apartment and most businesses have backup generators that kick in immediately. In most of the country, electricity is available from 6 pm until morning. Cell phones are available for some individuals at about $700, but service is not available outside of the country. Only a few people have computers. A refurbished computer costs a year’s salary for the average worker.

So, instead of writing about informatics, I am going to discuss pica. Most of us learned about pica as a practice where rural African American pregnant women eat clay. The major ingredient is kaolin. I was reintroduced to this product after coming down with traveler’s diarrhea and ending up at a traveler’s clinic. My tropical medicine-trained physician prescribed Smecta®, along with antibiotics. This is a powdered kaolin product used routinely in Africa and Asia. The usual prescription is to mix a packet in some water and drink it three times daily for 2 days. It is not really tasty, but not bad either. 

Once I was back at the apartment, in good informatics fashion, I googled it and then went to the company Web site to learn more. Here are some sites for your review:

I believe that part of informatics is making informed decisions about information, but I will leave it up to all of you to decide whether this product should become mainstream therapy. It looks as if the jury is still out. My personal testimony is that it worked, but will I go out of my way to purchase some for my next travel adventure—probably not.  However, if you start to hear about a new treatment for tropical diarrhea involving clay, remember that you heard it here first.

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