Your medical questions answered

Posted on 10 July 2013

Are you allergic to winter? Or worried about overdosing on vitamin C? We tackle your winter worries and find out why generic drugs are cheaper.

Is it safe to take more than the recommended dose of vitamin C to make sure I don’t get sick this winter?
You should limit any single dose to 1 000mg to avoid the risk of developing diarrhoea, heartburn, headache, insomnia and liver damage, advises Irene Labuschagne, principle dietitian at the Nutrition Information Centre, Stellenbosch University. If you like to take a supplement as an ‘insurance policy’, make sure you choose a general multivitamin or mineral supplement so you get all the nutrients you need. Remember that a small glass of orange juice and a serving of strawberries, red peppers or broccoli should be enough vitamin C for a day.

I always feel a little down during winter. Should I see my doctor?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder or a subtype of depression caused by light deprivation. It’s diagnosed in individuals who almost only experience depression during the winter months, when sunlight is limited and daylight periods are shorter. According to David Rosenstein, a Cape Town-based cognitive behaviour therapist, symptoms are almost the same as those associated with major depressive disorder – low mood, loss of interest, low energy levels, fatigue, changes in sleeping habits, and decreased motivation. If you suspect you have SAD, visit your GP. Light therapy and environmental changes could lift your mood. But if that doesn’t help or your depression extends past spring, see your doctor. Visit the South African Depression and Anxiety Group for more information.

Why are generic drugs cheaper and what’s the difference?
Generic medications are copies of brand-name medications, and are just as safe because they are made under the same regulations. They are cheaper because the companies that produce generic medication don’t need to spend money on the drug research and development used to produce the original versions. While new medicines are being developed under a patent protection, no other pharmaceutical company may produce them. As soon as the patent expires, other manufacturers can apply to the Medicines Control Council to sell the generic version. So ask about generic alternatives next time you see your doctor.

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The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Nutrition

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