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Antibiotics: How best to manage their side effects

Antibiotics are necessary when you are ill. But they may also have some nasty side effects that leave you feeling uncomfortable and unwell.


You have a sore throat and your doctor has prescribed an antibiotic. The medicine is helping you get relief but you are having side effects like gas, constipation and diarrhoea.

Antibiotics work by destroying bacteria that are making you ill, but they also kill good bacteria in your intestinal system. The friendly bacteria aid in digestion and also fight infection. When antibiotics kill these bacteria, body immunity goes down and we feel tired and uneasy.

In general, the side-effects of antibiotics are not serious. While most people complain of diarrhoea, some other common side-effects may include mild stomach upset, bloating and indigestion. Follow these simple steps to feel better.

Eat light. Taking antibiotics will disturb the balance of good and bad bacteria in your stomach. Your digestion system needs some rest. Avoid fatty and spicy foods. It is better to have easily digestible food in small, regular portions.

Probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria or yeast that don’t cause disease and help your digestive system function properly. Increase your intake of probiotics like yoghurt. Probiotics must be continued long after the course of antibiotics is over.

No smoking and drinking. Quit smoking, alcohol, soda, chocolates, tea and coffee. These may produce unpleasant side effects such as upset stomach, dizziness and drowsiness. Drink lots of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

Avoid orange juice. Highly acidic foods such as carbonated beverages and citrus juices interfere with the working of the medicines. Also, if you need to take vitamin C, then have fresh fruits. Taking it through juices will only increase sugar intake, which will worsen your condition.

Constipation. Ensure you are not constipated. Flax seeds aid bowel movement and also relieve diarrhoea by absorbing excess water.

Some home remedies. Ginger has some natural antibiotic properties which will aid the medication. Boil five mint leaves, an inch of ginger and about half a teaspoon of ajwain in a glass of water till the water is reduced to half. Drink half a glass thrice a day.

Another wonderful remedy in your kitchen is garlic. It contains allicin which flushes the kidneys and liver and cleanses the blood. It thus detoxifies your body of antibiotics.

Vitamins. Adequate intake of nutrients including vitamins A, C, E and zinc are important for the immune system. This is why doctors also prescribe some multivitamin tablets when they give you antibiotics.

Exercise. Continue doing some light exercise but consult your doctor to get specific recommendations.

Always remember to follow the directions carefully and complete the course even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later use and don’t use someone else's prescription.

Expert take

Says Dr. Kashyap Nanavati, MD, general medicine: “Expect some gastrointestinal disturbances. One may also experience altered taste, oral ulcerations, nausea, abdominal discomfort, constipation and vomiting”.  He advises that you should always consult your doctor before taking antibiotics and double check with him or her if antibiotics are really required.

“While taking antibiotics, if the patient experiences severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and bleeding in stool, he should report to the doctor immediately,” warns Dr. Nanavati. Patients should also consult the doctor if they develop rash, itching or feel extremely weak. It may be necessary to check the blood counts.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 28 January 2016 11:54 )


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Go green with your domestic appliances

People are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices to reduce energy consumption, increase the life span of their appliances, decrease global warming and check pollution levels. Here are some easy tips to use domestic appliances in an energy efficient manner. Also, look for the energy star label given by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) before buying.

Lighting Your Home
  • Paint the walls a light colour. Dark colours tend to absorb light, requiring more energy spent on lighting.
  • Use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of conventional incandescent bulbs. They save energy, have a longer life span and are economical in the long run.
  • Houses should be built in a way that they use the natural light during the day.
  • Lamps lose their brightness because of dirt. Regular cleaning can increase light output.
  • A refrigerator uses electricity 24 hours a day. That is why improved energy saving is such an important issue.
  • Avoid putting hot or warm food straight into the fridge. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight and do not open the door/s frequently.
  • Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers and do not keep the temperature in the refrigerator or freezer too low.
  • Place the refrigerator in a cool place, protected from direct sunlight, a little away from the wall.
  • Replace refrigerator if older than 10 years. Older models can often use over three times the energy of newer models.

Washing machines

  • Wash only full loads. If you need to wash a small load, be sure to use the appropriate water-level and timer setting.
  • Clean the lint filter after every load to improve air circulation and periodically check your machine vent to ensure it is not blocked.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load. During summer, dry clothes in the sun.
  • Use the correct amount of detergent to avoid unnecessary machine work and energy consumption.

Air conditioners

  • Choose a proper sized equipment. Equipment too large for the space to be air conditioned will consumer more energy.
  • Programmable thermostats should be used with air conditioners to regulate the temperature for times when few people are working, so as not to turn off the equipment completely. In large spaces, equipment that is turned off at mid-day will have to work at higher power to re-cool the area when the users return. The use of occupancy sensors can help improve AC performance.
  • ACs with tropical inverter compressors (DC twin rotory compressors) work more efficiently than conventional compressors and help save energy.

Electric irons

  • Select 550W/600W/750W rating of irons instead of 1000W.
  • Use thermostatic electric irons with temperature knob settings for various types of fabrics.  Use thermostatic steam irons for pressing jeans, corduroy and other thick varieties of fabrics.
  • After ironing cotton fabrics, switch off the iron and press other light varieties of fabrics like nylon and georgette.
  • It is better to use electric irons during day time. Avoid using between 7.30-10 pm.

Food mixers

  • If you use a mixer-grinder for making chutney or tomato puree, grinding wet rice and pulses, select the models with 550/600W rating.
  • For making powder out of hard ingredients and mincing meat, select mixers with 750/1000W motors.

Hand blenders

  • Select the model of medium wattage range (250-300W) to get the required performance with appropriate accessories.
Outside sources:, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Energy Efficient Products and Consumer Behaviour by CUTS International, Test (Germany)
Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 May 2015 14:53 )


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Herbal diet pills: Fact or Fantasy?

Can slimming down really be as easy as popping a pill? Choice, Australia investigates the ingredients that are claimed to have fat-busting properties.

Presently, one in six women and one in five men in India is overweight. The weight-loss industry has become big business. Advertisements of weight-loss pills or diet pills can be pretty convincing, especially when supported by ‘scientific evidence’ and amazing ‘testimonials’, complete with before and after shots. But you will typically find that diet pills are designed to be used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet and exercise.

No proof of efficacy

There are many herbal weight-loss supplements available in the market which have either conflicting or insufficient evidence regarding their efficacy. They are generally known as 'fat burners' and work by boosting the body's metabolism. When doctors prescribe these supplements, they monitor the patient’s condition closely.

While diet pills may seem tempting in the battle of the bulge, they are no substitutes for a balanced diet and exercise. Opting for a diet pill could mean that the only thing getting lighter is your wallet. In most cases, doctors discourage their use. They opine that such pills, at the most, only reduce the appetite of the person. But once the person is off the pill, the earlier appetite returns, in some cases even increases.

In India, the department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) regulates the commercial manufacturing of Ayurvedic medicines.

Serious side effects

Moreover, herbal diet pills can have severe side effects, if taken without consulting a doctor. Continued use of some pills increases the risks of psychiatric, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms.  It also gives rise to grave health problems such as hypertension, stroke, and in extreme cases, seizures. Experts say pills that contain heavy metals to reduce appetite can cause serious complications.

These products tend to be a mix of herbs, vitamins and, often, stimulants such as caffeine, which can result in high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Ingredients may react with one another or with other medications. For instance, if a pill contains both bitter orange and panax ginseng watch out. These two ingredients are not recommended to be taken together due to an increased risk of fatal heart arrhythmias.

Harmful ingredients

You should look at the product’s ingredient list and avoid those having bitter orange, chitosan or chromium picolinate. Some common ingredients and their side effects are given below:

Bitter orange: As per claims it is supposed to increases metabolism and fat burning while decreasing appetite. Side effects include fainting, heart attack and stroke. You should avoid bitter orange if you have a sensitive heart condition or are taking other medications.

Chitosan: It is supposed to bind to dietary fat to stop absorption. Side effects include malabsorption of nutrients and loose, oily stools.

Chromium picolinate: It is supposed to enhance insulin sensitivity and fat burning and increase lean body mass. It may cause DNA damage in high doses.

Green tea extract: Claims say it reduces fat synthesis and absorption and increases metabolism. Deemed safe but there is some concern that green tea extracts may cause liver toxicity, especially if taken on an empty stomach.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA): Claims are that it modifies metabolism, reduces fat synthesis and decreases appetite. No side effects known.

Capsicum annum: Claimed to increase metabolic rate and reduce appetite. May result in short term burning pain.

Banned drug

In November 2010, The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) banned the widely used anti-obesity drugs containing sibutramine marketed in India under brand names such as Reductil, Meridia and Sibutrex. This ban came into force after studies indicated that sibutramine increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in patients who consume it to shed excess flab.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 April 2015 14:40 )

Fact sheet on Organic Turmeric Powder

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This Fact Sheet was prepared by CERC for a Green Action Fund project on Organic Foods.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 December 2014 16:54 )


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How healthy are malt-based beverages?


Touted as health or energy drinks for children, malt-based beverages are very popular today. But how valid are their health claims?

We picked nine popular health drinks aimed at children and tested each of them for their sugar content, to see just how much sugar goes into a serving. We then got 10 panellists to taste each of the nine brands. They listed their comments and rated each brand on seven criteria including aroma, taste and aftertaste. We wanted to see whether there was any correlation between a brand tasting good and the amount of sugar it contained.

On test were Amul Pro, Boost Choco Eclairs, Boost 3x Stamina, Bournvita, Bournvita 5-Star Magic, Complan Natural, Complan Chocolate, Horlicks Original and Horlicks Chocolate.

What we found

The brand Bournvita had the highest sugar content overall – the original Bournvita had 38.7g per 100g and Bournvita 5-Star Magic had 34.6g per 100g. Both of them scored pretty high on taste, with 75% (second highest) and 73% respectively. The panellists generally liked Bournvita’s appealing chocolate colour, smell and taste.

Horlicks Original had the lowest sugar, with 13.3g per 100g. However, it fared dismally in the taste test with a score of 42% - the second worst-tasting brand on the list. Panellists found it to be ‘too malty’ and ‘not sweet enough’.

Bournvita had 12.9g higher sugar per 100g than Complan Natural. Yet, because Complan’s recommended serving size was higher, if you followed the pack’s instructions, you would be drinking more sugar with Complan than with Bournvita.

Expert take

Nutritionist Niti Desai says: “Even if malt based health drinks have protein, vitamins and minerals as claimed, the content is very low and is hardly significant. These drinks basically just provide flavour and sugar. Many of them advertise that children who drink them will be the tallest or smartest in class. However, the amount of protein in these drinks is insufficient to boost growth significantly.”

Healthiest choice

Horlicks Original with lowest sugar content

Courtesy: Right Choice, February 2014 (

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 October 2014 16:10 )
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