5 Food-Drug Interactions You Want to Avoid

You have heard it again and again: Adapt to a healthy lifestyle. If you make sure to eat well, a plethora of diseases can be prevented or managed. However, there are times when you walk into your doctor’s office, either for a routine check-up or for some sort of ache or pain and you have no choice. You walk out with another prescription, whether it is to help lower your cholesterol, control your blood pressure or fight off an infection.

You go to your local pharmacy, fill the script and the pharmacist gives you directions on how to take your meds. Sometimes you are warned to take the meds on an empty stomach or to take them with food. While some people may stick to these directions, others may ignore them. Some may not even be warned.

Did you know that many drugs can negatively interact with many of the daily foods you eat? I’m not just talking about one of those uncomfortable side effects such as a headache. There can be severe consequences such as kidney failure, respiratory failure, gastrointestinal bleeding or death. When you consume certain foods at the same time as your medications, it is possible that the foods alter the way the meds work. The foods can either increase the effect of the meds, making it more “bioavailable” and therefore toxic, or decrease their effects.

Elderly patients are at increased risk of any negative food-drug interactions since more than 30% of prescription medications are common in this population. While it is more common for the elderly to be at increased risk, those with a compromised immune system are also at a higher risk. If you have cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), gastrointestinal tract dysfunction, or are a transplant recipient, you should be extra cautious.

Since research is constantly evolving, our understanding of food and other health products effects on the medications that we take has improved. The following is a list of common interactions in which scientific studies have shown how foods play a strong role in their effects within your body.

1. Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice and Several Medications

Grapefruit products have been widely studied and in recent years, the number of drugs grapefruit can potentially interact with has jumped up to more than 85. At least 43 of these medications can have serious effects and may even result in death. The most common drugs that grapefruit products have shown to negatively interact with include some cholesterol lowering statins (such as Lipitor), calcium-channel blockers for lowering blood pressure and some antibiotics. A compound found in grapefruit called bergamottin has been shown to inactivate the enzymes used to break down the medications in the liver. Therefore the drug is not properly broken down, allowing excess amounts to be released into the bloodstream leading to toxic and debilitating effects on your health.