What is Food-Medication Interactions?
A food-medication interaction takes place when the food you eat interacts or interferes with the medicine you take. Such food-medication interactions may be caused by prescription medicines as well as over-the-counter medicines. It is of great importance to hence be aware of how the medicine you take may interact with the food you will be eating. The medicines that may interact with the regular day to day foods can be anything and everything; they can be antacids, vitamins, and even iron pills. Not all medicines are affected equally by the food we consume. The food we eat, at times, stops the medicines from being properly absorbed by the body, the effect of the medicine is likewise, negated. Some foods can cause delayed absorption of the medicine by the body. Rarely, any foods interacting with the medicine will hasten the process.
This is the reason why while consuming some medicines, it is important that we sacrifice on some food items; because the food item may cause changes in the medicine structure and the absorption of the medicine into the body might get affected or delayed. In some cases, the food we consume might even change the effect that a medicine has on our body. Food interactions with medicine are also a cause of side effects in the body. Grapefruit or grapefruit juice consumed with cholesterol drug shows some degree of side effects. On the other hand, there are some food substances that make the absorption of the medicine into the body not only easier, but also hasten the process. Not having some food, in this case may cause nausea and dizziness.
Some Common Food-Medication Interactions
Grapefruit Juice with Statins: Grapefruit juice reacts with medicines in multiple ways. Grapefruit juice increases the absorption of certain drugs such as statins which are the medications taken for lowering the cholesterol level. Hence, it is advised that you should not consume grapefruit juice along with statins medication to avoid this particular food-medication interaction. Grapefruit juice, in association with some other drugs may cause the body to metabolize the drug absolutely abnormally, which causes the body to have a higher or lower blood level while taking the drug. Many medications, when taken along with the consumption of grapefruit are effected in this way. Such medications include which can be affected with food-medication interaction when taken with grapefruit juice are antihistamines, drugs taken in relation to blood pressure, thyroid replacement drugs, birth control, stomach acid-blocking drugs, and cough depressants like dextromethorphan. It is hence advisable to avoid the consumption of grapefruit along with these medications.
Grapefruit juice, out of all the other citrus fruit juices is the most detrimental, and that comes backed with scientific reasons. It has been found that grapefruit juice contains a compound called furanocoumarin, which is basically involved in changing the properties of the medicines and causing food-medication interaction in the body. Seville oranges and pummel are the relatives of grapefruit, which is why they also cause such effects, but the other citrus fruits are harmless as far as interaction with medications is concerned.
Green Leafy Vegetables with Blood-Thinners: Green leafy vegetables provide the body with vitamin K. Any drug that has a blood-thinning property interferes with vitamin K and its blood clotting factors. Eating a lot of green leafy vegetables that are rich in vitamin K decreases the ability of blood-thinners which are prescribed to prevent clotting of blood. So one should be careful not to excessively consume green leafy vegetables when taking blood thinners; but these green leafy vegetables are especially nutritious and should not be given up altogether.
Natural Black Licorice with Digoxin & Coumadin: Glycyrrhiza, which is an ingredient used in making black licorice can cause depletion in the potassium level of the body while causing an increased sodium retention. When the potassium level in the body falls, the activity of digoxin, which is a medication used in treatment of heart failure, is greatly enhanced resulting in detrimental effect on the heart. Glycyrrhiza can also decrease the effect of medicines that are taken in relation to high blood pressure levels. People who take medicines such as Coumadin, should be aware, that the consumption of black licorice with this drug, can cause the breakdown of this drug, which in turn increases the body’s blood clotting mechanism. Consuming excessive amounts of natural black licorice should be avoided at all costs when taking these medicines. However, artificially flavored licorice does not have glycyrrhiza and is hence not a concern when consumed along with these medicines.
Calcium-Rich Food/ Dairy Products with Antibiotics: Milk, yogurt and cheese are dairy products that at times interfere with certain medications; especially antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline and ciprofloxacin. These dairy products are rich sources of calcium. The antibiotics may bind with the calcium in milk and form insoluble substances in the body like in the stomach and upper small intestine areas, which are impossible for the body to absorb.
Pickled & Fermented Foods with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors: This category of food contains a chemical called tryamin, which causes a dangerous increase in the blood sugar level. So, for patients who suffer from high blood sugar and consuming medicines with monoamine oxidase inhibitors or medicines used for Parkinson’s disease. The high blood pressure resulting from the consumption of pickled, cured and fermented foods may directly cause complications with the dosage of the medicine.
Alcohol with Any Medication: Mixing alcohol with almost all medications can be dangerous, but it is especially harmful when the alcohol interacts with few specific classes of medications. If a person consumes alcohol while he is already taking stimulant of some sort, the patient may fail to evaluate how intoxicated he actually is. It is especially harmful if the stimulant is being abused. However, even in case of a prescribed drug, the effects may also be increasingly dangerous.
Bananas with ACE Inhibitors & Diuretics: We are mostly unaware of how bananas consumed along with certain medications can be harmful. This is particularly the case when the banana is being consumed with medicines that are ACE inhibitors. It should be made aware that people may experience high amounts of potassium with food-medication interaction occurring with bananas and ACE inhibitors such as heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat. The potassium in the bananas can also cause problems when consumed in association with some diuretics such as furosemide, torsemide, metolazone, bumetanide etc. However, we need not completely avoid bananas when we are taking these medicines and should take the medication an hour before consuming potassium enriched bananas.
Wheat Bran with Heart Medications: Wheat bran is an insoluble fiber, which is popularly known to slow down the body’s ability to absorb heart related medication such as digitek, digoxin and lanoxin. Such insoluble fibers make it impossible for the body to absorb digitalis. However, you should keep it in mind that you should not be avoiding the fibers in totality. You may just take the medication an hour or two before the eating the insoluble fiber such as wheat bran to avoid such type of food-medication interaction. Conversely, you can eat the wheat bran or fiber before consuming the medicine provided there is some amount of time gap between the two acts.
Salt Substitutes with Digoxin & ACE Inhibitors: People who take digoxin for heart failure or ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure problems should be aware when consuming salt substitutes. The salt substitutes generally replace the sodium with potassium. When the potassium intake increases, the effectiveness of drugs like digoxin is lowered, which may even lead to heart failure. Also, when the potassium levels are increased, consuming ACE inhibitors may cause increased blood potassium level. Even if the patient suffers from kidney related problems, he/she should discuss before taking any sort of salt substitutes with the doctors to avoid any dangerous food-medication interaction. There actually is no need to avoid salt and take salt substitutes.
Points to Follow for General Safety
You should always discuss with your doctor or the pharmacist about any particular food-medication interaction. The following tips should be followed for same:
- Always read the prescription label of the medicine before you take it. If there are some aspects of the label that you cannot understand, you can always ask your doctor or the pharmacist for more information.
- Always read all the precautions, warnings and directions before taking any medicine. You should follow these details cautiously as they are of immense importance.
- You should take all the medicines with a full glass of water, unless advised otherwise.
- You should never stir the medicine into your food or take the capsules apart. These slight changes may cause complications.
- Never mix your drugs with hot liquids. Interaction of the drug with the heat may alter the way in which it works.
- You should not take vitamins with other medicines unless your doctor has specifically advised to do so. Vitamins in association with minerals can cause serious complications.
- Do not consume alcohol when taking any type of medicine.
- You should not abuse other drugs while taking another medication that has been prescribed.
Taking a new medicine is difficult and may at times have the risk of interacting with other food products. You should hence be aware and ask the doctor about the possibility of any such complication or food-medication interaction that might occur. Take the medicine according to the label and directions specified by your doctor to avoid any dire consequences.