Food And Drug Combinations To Avoid
Combining drugs and food might seem harmless, but it can do more harm than you realize. This article explores some food and drug combinations to avoid.
- Alcohol and painkillers
Mixing alcohol with medications can lead to serious side effects. Drinking just a bit of alcohol while you take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can increase your risk of liver damage, gastrointestinal bleeding, and stomach ulcers.
- Grapefruit juice and statins.
Grapefruit juice can interact with several prescription medications by increasing their blood levels and side effects. This is the case for many statins, the most commonly used cholesterol-lowering medications. Other drugs that should be avoided while eating grapefruit include antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, blood pressure medications, and heart arrhythmia meds. If you drink grapefruit juice regularly, check with your pharmacist before beginning a new prescription medication to see if there is an interaction with grapefruit juice.
- Milk and antibiotics
Many people are intolerant to lactose, which is found in milk products, and feel sick after consuming them when taking antibiotics at the same time. Antibiotics kill off all the good bacteria in your gut that help digest milk products. It may take a few weeks for these bacteria to repopulate your gut after you finish a course of antibiotics. Avoid milk products until then if you experience symptoms like diarrhea or nausea after drinking milk while taking antibiotics or even after stopping your antibiotics.
- Coffee and antidepressants
Most of us love coffee, and many of us take antidepressants. While coffee can help keep us alert, antidepressants are prescribed to help with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Combining coffee and antidepressants can lead to some potentially harmful side effects.
When we think about the effects of combining substances, we tend to think about more severe substances like alcohol or illegal drugs. But when it comes to caffeine and antidepressants, this combination can be dangerous.
Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system. Antidepressants are psychoactive drugs that work on the brain’s chemical makeup by increasing the levels of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. Some antidepressants specifically affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite. It also affects your moods and emotions.
- Cranberry juice with warfarin
Cranberry juice is full of antioxidants, but it also contains salicylic acid, making your blood too thin when combined with the blood-thinning drug warfarin. Salicylic acid is found in aspirin, often referred to as its synthetic form. Studies have shown that taking aspirin while on Warfarin may increase the risk of bleeding or hemorrhaging in patients.
Cranberry juice contains high amounts of vitamin K, which can reduce the effectiveness of Warfarin and make it less likely to prevent blood clots from forming.
- Garlic juice with blood thinners
Garlic contains substances that promote the formation of blood clots, which is why it’s good for your heart. However, if you’re on blood-thinning medication, the effects of garlic juice can be the opposite; in fact, you might bleed more quickly than usual. It’s probably best to avoid garlic if you’re on blood thinners.
This interferes with the drug’s ability to clot blood efficiently. While most of us won’t die from this combination, it can cause nasty complications like a nosebleed that won’t stop, prolonged bleeding after shaving or surgery, and easy bruising. There are even more severe symptoms, including coughing up blood, vomiting blood, and black stools, indicating internal bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract.
- St John’s wort with antidepressants
It is common knowledge that mixing certain medications can adversely affect the body. However, it turns out that some foods and herbs can interact with drugs as well. St John’s wort is one of these plants. Many use it to treat the seasonal affective disorder, depression, and anxiety, but it can be dangerous for those taking antidepressants.
St John’s wort is a flowering shrub native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Its yellow flowers and five petals most easily identify the plant. The flowers, leaves, and stems all contain the active component hypericum perforatum. This component interacts with many prescriptions in different ways.
St John’s wort works best when taken regularly over a long period. It may take up to four weeks before you notice an improvement in your mood. It is essential to speak to your doctor before starting a St John’s wort regimen because the drug can interfere with other medications you might be taking. In some cases, it can make your prescription less effective or even cause toxicity in the body if not appropriately monitored by a medical professional.
Antidepressants are one class of medicines that often do not work well with St John’s wort. St John’s wort inhibits the body’s ability to process those medications, potentially leading to a toxic buildup in the system and triggering unpleasant symptoms: nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. One known interaction is with a group of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which can be used to treat depression and Parkinson’s disease.
St John’s wort and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac or Zoloft can lead to a potentially dangerous increase in the neurotransmitter serotonin. This can cause a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms include high body temperature, hallucinations, muscle rigidity, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.
Other antidepressants can also interact with St John’s wort, so it should not be combined with any prescription antidepressants without consulting your doctor.
- Black licorice and heart medications
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that if you’re taking any medication for your heart or blood pressure (including diuretics), eating more than 2 ounces of black licorice per day for multiple days in a row could lead to abnormal heart rhythms, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, swelling and weight gain due to fluid retention—symptoms similar to those caused by high blood pressure medications.
Glycyrrhizin, a component found in black licorice and some other herbs, can amplify the effects of certain heart medications (namely digoxin), leaving the patient with low potassium levels. This can lead to high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, and cardiac arrest. If you’re on heart medication, opt for red licorice instead.
- Milk and thyroid medication
If you take thyroid medication, you may have heard the advice to avoid taking it within 4 hours of consuming dairy products. This is because the calcium in milk can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication and make it less effective. If you are taking a thyroid supplement and drinking milk, try to wait at least three hours before drinking your morning cup of coffee or eating your yogurt.
The same goes for your meals—try to avoid dairy-rich foods like cheese and ice cream shortly after taking your medication. If you can’t resist the urge, there are some tricks to help boost absorption of this essential medication. You may want to add fiber to your diet or take a multivitamin, which will slow down the absorption rate in general and cause fewer fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Try chewing gum or drinking water as you eat; these actions will stimulate saliva production and speed digestion. Finally, consider switching the time of day when you take your thyroid medication; if you have been taking it upon waking, try changing to before bed instead.
- Yogurt and antibiotics
Yogurt doesn’t just contain healthy bacteria—it also contains sugar and other carbohydrates that are used as fuel for the harmful microbes in the body. If your friendly microbes are killed off by taking antibiotics, there’s more room for harmful microbes to thrive. By eating sugar with your antibiotics, you’re feeding the harmful bacteria, allowing them to grow even stronger and more resistant to antibiotics. To avoid disrupting your gut flora and weakening your immune system, don’t eat yogurt or other foods that contain sugar while on antibiotics. Also, avoid eating any dairy product while on an antibiotic—milk contains lactose sugar, which will also help harmful microbes thrive.
- Magnesium supplements and antibiotic tetracycline
If you’re taking magnesium for its laxative or muscle-relaxant properties or its positive effects on heart health or blood sugar levels, steer clear of the antibiotic tetracycline. Tetracyclines are a class of antibiotics used to treat infections like upper respiratory infections, chlamydia, and syphilis; they work by inhibiting the production of proteins that allow bacteria to grow and spread.
They may also be prescribed topically as a cream for acne. However, if you take tetracycline alongside magnesium supplements, the magnesium can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the tetracycline and reduce its effectiveness; you should separate these medications by at least 2 hours. If you’re taking magnesium because you have low levels in your body (as is common in those with diabetes), talk to your doctor before starting on a course of tetracycline; you may need to adjust your dosage if the two must be taken together.
- Soy sauce and antihistamine cimetidine
When these two are combined, the soy sauce can become carcinogenic. The problem is that soy sauce contains an amino acid called tyramine, which can build up in the body when combined with cimetidine. A side effect of this buildup is high blood pressure — but even scarier, this combination has been linked to several liver tumors in animal models.
In conclusion, when it comes to taking medicines and eating foods, there is always a possibility that some food and drug combinations may cause harmful effects. You should always consult your doctor before combining certain medications with food or drinks.