Food and Drug Interactions

June 20, 2009

Foods and drugs interaction

There's a lot that demands your attention when you're managing medications for yourself or another person – including administering medications correctly and avoiding interactions.

It's not something talked about much, but interactions between food and medications can be dangerous. As a caregiver, talk to your doctor before making any changes to medications or diet.

How to avoid food and drug interactions

The food-medication interactions below include both common medications - for blood pressure, for instance - and common food ingredients, like calcium or grapefruit.

Avoid taking MAO inhibitors with foods containing Tyramine

Don't take MAO inhibitors - such as Marplan ® or Eldepryl ® - with foods that contain tyramine. The combination can cause extremely high blood pressure, fever, and in rare circumstances, death. These foods include:

  • Aged cheese
  • Chianti wines
  • Chicken liver
  • Venison
  • Sauerkraut
  • Aged sausages like pepperoni and salami

Blood thinners and leafy greens could be a bad combination

Taking medications such as warfarin, Coumadin ®, or Jantoven ® in combination with large portions of foods high in vitamin K - such as leafy greens - may cause the medication to be less effective. Eat these foods moderately and consistently to provide maximum medication effectiveness.

Alcohol and some medications can be toxic

Avoid taking massive doses of Tylenol and Tylenol-containing products with alcohol, as it may result in liver toxicity. Avoid taking metronidazole for infections with alcohol, which may result in flushing, vomiting, and increased heart rate.

Don't take antidepressant, arrhythmia, transplant, seizure, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol medications with grapefruit juice

Studies have shown that mixing certain medications with grapefruit juice can cause dangerously high blood levels, which leads to an increase of potentially life-threatening side effects. These medications include

  • Lipitor ®
  • Zocor ®
  • Plendil ®
  • Valium ®
  • Tegretol ®
  • Pacerone ®
  • Prograf ®

Potential potassium overdose

When taking ACE-inhibitors like Altace ® or lisinopril and potassium diuretics - such as spironolactone or triamterene - be careful when eating foods rich in potassium such as bananas, apricots, raisins, and lima beans. The combination causes the body to retain too much potassium.

Taking osteoporosis medications and some antibiotics with calcium fortified foods and drinks such as milk, orange juice, bread or antacids will make the medications less effective. Be sure to take your medication two hours before or four hours after eating calcium-rich foods and drinks.

Osteoporosis medications and some antibiotics shouldn't be taken with calcium

Taking osteoporosis medications and some antibiotics with calcium-fortified foods and drinks such as milk, orange juice, bread or antacids will make the medications less effective. Be sure to take your medication two hours before or four hours after eating calcium-rich foods and drinks. Aspirin and other over-the-counter pain medications taken without food can cause stomach bleeding.

Never take aspirin on an empty stomach

Aspirin and other over-the-counter pain medications taken without food can cause stomach bleeding.

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