ABU DHABI // So-called “drop-and-drip” vitamin bars may have become a health trend of the rich and famous but, for a mother of two, vitamin injections are now a way of life.
Sandra Burton, 43, started to feel unwell a few months after moving to Abu Dhabi with her family in 2014 from Chester, England. She often woke up exhausted, struggling with everyday routines and suffering anxiety attacks.
When she began to lose the feeling in her feet, she went to see the doctor, who diagnosed rare pernicious anaemia, a deficiency of vitamin B12.
“I was quite moody and distant,” she said. “Small problems became exaggerated and heightened by not being mentally stable. If it had gone on much longer, I would have had to reconsider working. Thankfully, I was diagnosed sooner rather than later.”
When her condition began to affect her work in school admissions, as well as her busy home life with her husband and two children, aged 4 and 13, she knew she needed help.
Vitamin B12 can be replaced naturally from eating foods such as meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs and dairy products, but only in healthy patients.
Mrs Burton’s condition meant her body was not absorbing vitamins through her diet.
Dr Nahida Amin Ali, a family medicine consultant at King’s College Hospital Clinic, Abu Dhabi, performed numerous tests on Mrs Burton to find out what was wrong.
“We rarely see anything that extreme in the UK, as it is usually diagnosed early because it is more recognised,” she said.
“If someone has not got health insurance in the developing world, it is often not picked up early enough and can become a significant problem.
“Sandra worried it could be something more serious, like the onset of multiple sclerosis.”
Pernicious anaemia results from an inability to absorb vitamin B, hindering the amount of red blood cell production and reducing blood flow to tissue.
If left untreated, it can damage peripheral nerves, causing weakness, numbness and pain.
Plugging into a vitamin drip for an energy top-up, or as a fast way of detoxing, has become popular with celebrities, leading to vitamin drip bars appearing in the UK and US, with stars such as Rihanna, Madonna and Rita Ora reportedly proponents.
These vitamin drips are not yet widely available in the UAE.
Dr Parviz Rashvand is a UAE-certified naturopathic practitioner at the Synergy Medical Centre in Al Wasl Road, one of the Dubai centres offering vitamin boosters.
“Vitamins are so important, they participate in every function you can imagine,” he said.
“There is a big manipulation with the food that we eat now, with chemicals that hinder the usual absorption of vitamins.
“Taking vitamins orally does not guarantee they will be absorbed, so we inject them.”
Similar injections have become routine for Mrs Burton to stay healthy and live a normal life.
“I had no idea what the condition was, so the doctors explained I needed injections for the rest of my life,” she said.
“Initially, the dose was every other day for two weeks, now it is every two months.
“The diagnosis and treatment has lifted a weight off my shoulders. I won’t let it stop me from getting on with my life.”