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No magic pill for weight loss

The columnist offers the best solution to your health-related queries
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Dr Gita Mathai   |   Published 15.02.23, 04:27 AM

I am planning to take pills to lose weight. Are there any side effects?

All medication has side effects. Diet pills are usually meant to control sugars in diabetics. They control appetite and may even produce an aversion to food. The downside is if you do not lose at least four per cent of your weight after 12 weeks, it is unlikely to work for you.


They can produce side effects like liver and gallbladder disease, low blood pressure and depression. Sometimes subcutaneous fat can be lost, particularly from the face, causing an appearance of premature ageing.

Please consult a physician; do not buy these medications over the counter. The combination of a calorie-controlled diet and exercise might just do the trick without medication.

SIBO diagnosis

I have frequent and watery diarrhoea every night. After extensive investigations and endoscopy, I was diagnosed with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).

This occurs because of previous surgery changing the anatomy of the intestines, diverticulosis, blind loops in the intestine, diabetes and various other medical conditions. It is challenging to treat. In addition to diarrhoea, it can eventually cause vitamin deficiencies.

Avoid all milk and milk products. Do not eat wheat in any form. Take a tablespoon (30ml) of homemade curd on an empty stomach in the morning. This will repopulate your intestines with good bacteria and may help reduce diarrhoea frequency.

Low-grade fever

I have had a low-grade fever of 38°C for 10 days. I feel very tired.

Persistent documented low-grade fever can be a symptom of many medical problems like urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, autoimmune diseases or thyroid problems. You need a complete physical examination and a blood workup to arrive at a proper diagnosis before starting treatment.

Folic acid

I am planning to get married in a month’s time. My friend told me I needed to start folic acid.

It is recommended to take folic acid daily while you’re trying for a baby (ideally for three months before) and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Folic acid can help prevent congenital disabilities due to neural tube defects like spina bifida. Although green leafy vegetables do contain folic acid, it is difficult to get the required amount of folic acid from diet alone, especially with the increased requirement in pregnancy.

Natural detox

I want to detox my body and rid it of harmful chemicals. I was told that I could buy solutions in the market to do this.

Detoxing has become fashionable. A variety of “redimix” solutions are commercially available and can be purchased OTC. Some are good while others are not safe, even when they are endorsed by celebrities. They may be made from fruit and vegetable juices but they can still cause diarrhoea or even kidney problems, especially if you take them continuously for three days or more.

You can do a natural detox by having a spoon of homemade curd on an empty stomach and alternating it with half a lime squeezed into a glass of water. This may work slowly but will do no harm.

Athletic performance

I run in the morning and want to increase my speed and endurance. I do not want to take the supplements they are offering me at the gym.

Coffee works as an excellent supplement to boost energy and performance. Athletes reported a 5 per cent improvement in performance 45 minutes after drinking a cup of coffee. It appears to boost muscle efficiency enzymes. If you add a banana as well, you will also have provided yourself with slow-release energy and potassium. This will help fight fatigue.

The writer has a family practice at Vellore and is the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write to

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