Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dangerous Food and Drug Combinations - Be Careful!

When we are prescribed medications, it is rare for doctors to tell us which foods to avoid while we are taking those drugs, and most of us do not take the time to look up that information on our own. While these facts may be found in the information sheet that the pharmacy provides with your medication, how many people read through all those pages of fine print?  Unfortunately, what we don't know can hurt us.  In fact, some combinations can be extremely dangerous.  Even if the combination doesn't kill you, it could render your medication less effective, make it too strong, or cause you to have unnecessary discomfort and side effects while taking it.  

As a result, I was particularly interested in an article I found on WebMD called "Don't Mix Your Meds with These Foods."  If you want even more specific information about the foods to avoid with certain medications, you may want to get this book and keep it on your shelf as a resource:  "Don't Eat This If Your're Taking That."  (Ad) If you take prescription medications and are worried about potential food and drug interactions, this book contains some important information which could save your life.

Below are some basic combinations everyone should know before taking medications.  In addition, if you are starting a new drug for the first time, ask both your doctor and your pharmacist if there is anything you need to know while taking it.  You should not only ask about food interactions, but also if there could be interactions with other medications you are taking.  Also ask if the drug could make you dizzy or drowsy, and whether you should avoid driving a car or using equipment while taking it.  If it does make you drowsy, ask if you could take the medication before going to bed, instead of in the morning.

Common Foods to Avoid While Taking Certain Medications

Grapefruit - Eating grapefruit or drinking its juice can affect over 50 drugs, according to WebMD!  It can make your statin (such as Lipitor) too strong, and it can cause your allergy medication (such as Allegra) to be less effective. 

Milk - The calcium, magnesium and casein in milk can cause antibiotics to be less effective.  Whenever you are taking an antibiotic, you should use an alternative beverage, such as one made from oats, soy, or almonds, on your breakfast cereal, until you have finished the course of antibiotics.

Licorice - Many people do not realize that this popular black candy, which is also sometimes used as a herbal remedy for indigestion, contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin which can weaken the effect of some drugs.  One of those drugs is cyclosporine, which is an antirejection drug for people who have had transplants. Eating licorice could cause you to reject your transplant, thus endangering your life!

Chocolate - This delicious treat is often recommended to people as a "healthy dessert."  However, it is not right for everyone.  The stimulant in it can counteract sleeping medications such as Ambien. It can also boost the power of stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, which are given to people with ADHD, resulting in a dose which is much too strong.  In addition, if you take an MAO inhibitor to treat depression, chocolate can cause your blood pressure to become dangerously high.  

Iron Supplements - If you take an iron supplement, or a multi-vitamin which contains iron, and you also take Synthroid, a thyroid hormone, at the same time, you need to discuss this interaction with your doctor.  Iron supplements can cause your Synthroid to be less effective.  If you must take both, take them at different times.  Since it is usually recommended that you take your Synthroid immediately upon rising in the morning, it is best to take the iron supplement, or the multi-vitamin, later in the day.

Alcohol - Be extremely careful if you drink while on certain meds.  Alcoholic beverages, including a glass of wine or a beer, can cause some blood pressure, heart and other medications to be less effective. On the other hand, alcohol can cause other medications to be too powerful. Drinking and taking prescription medications can be a lethal combination.

Coffee - While the vast majority of the U.S. population drinks coffee daily, and it may have some health benefits, there are also dangers when combined with certain drugs.  For example, it can weaken antipsychotic drugs such as lithium and clozapine.  On the other hand, it can boost other drugs and cause more side effects.  These drugs include aspirin, epinephrine (for serious allergic reactions) and albuterol (found in inhalers for people with breathing problems).  Coffee can also make it harder for your body to take in and use iron.   

Antihistamines - If you have allergies or catch a cold and take an antihistamine temporarily, talk to your doctor before using the antihistamine in combination with a blood pressure medication.  Antihistamines can reduce the effectiveness of your blood pressure meds, and raise your heart rate.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs - If you have occasional epileptic seizures, you may be taking an AED. However, they can make your birth control pills less effective, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. They may also make some other drugs stronger, resulting in serious side effects.  

Vitamin K - Vitamin K is found in a many dark green, healthy foods, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, parsley and spinach.  However, if you are also taking the drug warfarin to prevent blood clots, having too much Vitamin K can make a blood thinner like warfarin less effective, resulting in a deadly blood clot. If you eat these foods, you need to eat approximately the same amount each day, so the warfarin levels in your blood do not fluctuate. 

Ginseng - This popular tea can be dangerous when combined with warfarin, heparin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and similar medications.  In the wrong combinations, it can lower the effect of warfarin, or it can cause internal bleeding when combined with the other medications on the list, even common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil, or Aleve.  If you take MOA inhibitors, ginseng can also cause you to get headaches or have sleep problems, hyperactivity and feel nervous.  

St. John's Wort - This is an herbal medication which some people believe may help with depression, although it has not been proven. What it can do, however, is cause your liver to release enzymes which can weaken medications like lovastatin, Viagra, and digoxin, which is used to treat some heart conditions.  

Ginkgo Biloba - This is another unproven herbal treatment for high blood pressure, dementia, tinnitus, and other problems. While it may not help those conditions, it has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of drugs which control seizures, such as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor.  

Follow the Instructions of Your Doctor and Pharmacist

Whatever medications you are on, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to take them, when to take them, and what other medications, vitamins, herbal treatments, and foods to avoid.  Some combinations can be dangerous.  Be sure to take your medications as prescribed, and try not to skip doses.  Medications work best when patients follow instructions carefully. 

If you have any questions, be sure to read "Don't Eat This If You Are Taking That."  It covers many more potentially dangerous combinations than could be listed in this article.  If you take many medications, this book is an important resource to keep at home. It could save your life. (Ad)

Finally, it is also important that you are honest with your doctor and pharmacist about anything else you may be taking, including the use of medical marijuana or herbal remedies.  While many are harmless, they may become more dangerous when combined with certain medications.

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