Does your diet change the efficacy of drugs? The simple act of drinking the medicine with a hot drink can change the way the drug acts and possibly put your health at risk. Seemingly harmless substitutes for salt and fruit juices can also slow down or change the way in which a drug acts. Even your doctor may not be aware of the interaction of drugs and food. Here’s what you need to know.
The interaction between food and drugs usually occurs through three different mechanisms, says Dr. Ronald Stram, director of the Center for health and healing in New York. “Food can increase the rate and extent of drug absorption, reduce the rate or extent of absorption or have a direct pharmacological effect,” says Stram (the latter refers to food that increases or decreases the metabolism of a drug). Food can affect the OTC medicines and prescription drugs.
Antibiotics / acidic foods and milk and dairy products
Enjoy coffee? Very acidic foods such as caffeinated drinks can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics such as penicillin. If you are taking penicillin, consume acidic products, which include meat, poultry, coffee, corn syrup and sugar one hour before or two hours after you have taken the drug. Quinolones, a class of antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and others can be taken on an empty stomach or with food. Consuming dairy products at the same time, however, reduces their effectiveness. Wait two hours before and after taking these antibiotics if you want to consume dairy products.
Antidepressants/cheese, soy sauce, and gravy
Skip the cheese if you are on MAOI inhibitors. They are used for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders and may react to foods rich in tyramine, which is found in aged cheeses. The mixture of monoamine oxidase inhibitors with food containing tyramine, such as in cheese or sour or fermented foods, can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels. Other foods rich in tyramine are soy sauce, tofu, miso, fava beans, sauerkraut, alcohol, avocados, bananas, raisins and yeast extracts.
Anticoagulants/fish oil and spinach
Anticoagulants such as warfarin inhibit the formation of blood clots. Some foods reduce their effectiveness, while others prolong clotting time and increase the risk of bleeding. “Fish oil, for example, is healthy for the hear, but also acts to slightly clot blood,” says doctor David G. Edelson, professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. On the other hand, dark green leafy vegetables and other foods that contain vitamin K can increase clotting, therefore restrict or avoid spinach, broccoli, kale, beets and brussels sprouts.
Statins/grapefruit and orange juice
Eat berries or other fruit instead of morning grapefruit if you are on cholesterol-lowering drugs – statins. Drinking grapefruit juice at the same time when you are taking statins causes accumulation of the drug in the body. Grapefruit slows the dissolution of the drug, resulting in higher levels and a variety of health problems. Orange can have a similar effect. Liver damage and, in rare cases, serious kidney and muscle damage may result.
ACE inhibitors/salt substitutes
If you are taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors for lowering blood pressure, you may also be using potassium salt as a substitute for sodium. The problem is that ACE inhibitors also cause the body to retain potassium. This creates high levels of potassium, which can potentially lead to heart arrhythmias.
Alcohol changes the effect of the drug and may increase the risk of liver damage from statins, can impair mental and motor function in combination with drugs for anxiety, irritate the stomach when taking histamine blockers. It also increases the effect of narcotics and beta blockers. Alcohol is one of the worst things that can be combined with drugs in many ways. Antifungal drugs react violently with alcohol. This combination can cause nausea, stomach cramps, headache, and blushing. For most drugs, it is best to abstain from alcohol, and especially from illegal drugs.