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No scientific proof Agbalumo cures morning sickness in pregnant women

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Claim: A Twitter post claims Agbalumo (African Star fruit/apple) helps with morning sickness.

While Agbalumo helps some people relieve morning sickness, it cannot be recommended as a one-size-fits-all remedy and there is no literature to back up this claim.

Full Text

A Twitter post by Nigerian Health Blogger @DrUdomoh claims Agbalumo helps in treating morning sickness.

“Agbalumo helps in the treatment of morning sickness in pregnancy. It prevents the symptoms of excessive spitting, nausea and vomiting.”

Excerpt.of Dr Udomoh’s Twitter post

Screenshot of Dr Udomohs Twitter post

A comment under this post by Adebisi Omolara (@Adebisis09015904) agrees with the claim, noting the acidity of the fruit also helps in treating sore throat and other illnesses.

“Very correct, the acidic in it help a lot and also good for sore throat, toothache and the tree back good in treating malaria and have many good factors, Agbalumon is one of the best fruit that people never read about, read about it today and you will always love to take it.”

Excerpt of Omolara’s comment.

Screenshot of Omolara’s comment

Verification

Dubawa conducted a keyword search on Agbalumo and morning sickness.

What is Agbalumo?

Agbalumo, also known as the African star apple (Chrysophyllum africanum) is common in Nigeria and throughout West Africa.

In Nigeria, it is called Agbalumo by the Yoruba in the Western part of the country, Udara in the East, Udala in the south (Efik and Ibibio), and Agbaluma in the north (Hausa-Fulani).

Morning sickness 

Morning sickness is a common symptom of pregnancy and is characterized by nausea and occasional vomiting. Although it is named morning sickness, it can cause discomfort at any time of the day.

Morning sickness usually happens within the first four months of pregnancy and is often the first sign that a woman is pregnant.

Cause of Morning Sickness

There’s no one cause of morning sickness during pregnancy, and severity varies among women. Increased hormone levels during the first few weeks of pregnancy is among the most common causes. Reduced blood sugar is another common cause of morning sickness.

Other factors that can worsen morning sickness include having twins or triplets, excessive fatigue, emotional stress, frequent travelling. 

Morning sickness experience can vary between pregnancies. While you may have had severe morning sickness during one pregnancy, in another pregnancy it may be very mild.

When you experience morning sickness well beyond the first 3 to 4 months of your pregnancy, it is advised you speak with your doctor. 

Effect/complications of morning sickness

Morning sickness is usually not severe enough to hinder fetal growth and development. 

For some pregnant women, nausea causes them to experience severe vomiting and weight loss. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum; it causes electrolyte imbalances and unintentional weight loss. If left untreated, this condition may eventually harm your baby.

If you experience an inability to keep food down or weight loss of 2 pounds or more, fever, infrequent urination with small quantities of dark-coloured urine, lightheadedness or dizziness, fast heartbeat, severe nausea within the second trimester, blood in your vomit, frequent headaches, abdominal pain, spotting, or bleeding, contact your doctor.

How to treat morning sickness

While mild morning sickness or not a cause for worry, severe bouts of morning sickness generally require hospitalization while Hyperemesis gravidarum often requires intravenous (IV) fluids for rehydration.

Doctors may prescribe supplements or medications to alleviate nausea and to help retain foods and fluids. Some of these medications include antihistamines (help with nausea and motion sickness), phenothiazine (to help calm severe nausea and vomiting), metoclopramide (to help the stomach move food into the intestines and help with nausea and vomiting), antacids (to absorb stomach acid and help prevent acid reflux).

There are also alternative remedies that help relieve morning sickness like vitamin B-6 supplements, prenatal vitamins, ginger products including ginger ale, ginger tea, and ginger drops), saltine crackers, acupuncture, and hypnosis.

This keyword search also led to reports linking Agbalumo and morning sickness.

One of these is a report by Pulse which mentions this as part of the health benefits of the fruit.

Another article by Fresh Plaza noted Agbalumo was good for pregnant women.

A similar article by ustedelaresort noted that Agbalumo has an acidic taste and is mostly liked by women during pregnancy because it helps in preventing the urge to vomit. The article added that the fruit also has a calcium content that can help strengthen the bones of pregnant women.

Another report by Tribune quotes a study saying that researchers found that the pulp juice and seed of African star apple contain chemical substances that can protect people from developing malaria and so its consumption should be encouraged especially in pregnancy.

The study was, however, not linked in the news report and other news reports with similar reference to this study linked back to Tribune’s report.

Dubawa went further to search for the study with the name of the researchers and found one in 2017 on the EuropeanPMC website titled “Traditional Consumption of the Fruit Pulp of Chrysophyllum albidum (Sapotaceae) in Pregnancy may be Serving as an Intermittent Preventive Therapy against Malaria Infection“. This study focused on the potential of the fruit to help against malaria in pregnant women not morning sickness.

Dubawa sought to find other studies that linked this fruit to morning sickness but did not. Other available studies were on the treatment of Hyperemesis gravidarum, and African Star Apple: Potentials and application of some indigenous species in Nigeria.

Expert Opinion

A gynaecologist, Dr Jerry Agim, explained that it is a possibility but he is yet to come across any literature on this. He added that different things work for different women in pregnancy and they advise women to do what helps them as long as it is not harmful.

“It’s a possibility but I have not come across it in the literature I have read. I also learnt from a patient that chewing dry garri also helps her. We usually advise them to do what can help them if it is not harmful. This is not harmful so if it works for anybody then it’s fine.”

Excerpt of Dr Agim’s comment.

Mothers’ experiences 

Dubawa also reached out to some nursing mothers and women with children to share their pregnancy experience and knowledge of this said remedy for morning sickness. Their responses show it is not a one size fit all formula as different things work for different women.

Mrs Amina Amisu, a first-time mother explained that Agbalumo was of great help to her during her pregnancy as other remedies recommended for her like ginger did not work.

“For me, it helped me a lot to overcome the morning sickness trauma. I had this morning sickness up until my last day of delivery. I tried ginger, but it didn’t work for me. Luckily for me, Agbalumo season started, and out of long-throat, I said let me take the fruit. The sour taste of the fruit helped soothe the urge to puke.”

Excerpt of Mrs Amina’s response

Another mother, Mrs Nonso Achibiri, noted she didn’t battle morning sickness so she can’t tell if Agbalumo helps or not.

“I don’t know about that, because I didn’t really battle morning sickness for both my pregnancies. Also, what works for somebody may not work for you because we all have different pregnancy experiences and what works. So you have to figure out what works for you and what your body will accept or not.”

Excerpt of Mrs Achibiri’s comment. 

Conclusion

Although Agbalumo has helped some women relieve morning sickness, it can’t be recommended as a one- size-fits-all remedy as different women have different pregnancy experiences. This claim is, therefore, unproven as no literature proves this connection between Agbalumo and morning sickness.

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