Eat These Foods with Caution if You're Taking Medication

November 05, 2019

Most of us have seen the interaction warnings on the side of medication bottles, which let us know which types of medications can interfere with the activity of other medications and supplements. However, what many don’t realize is that not all the possible interactions and negative side effects are listed on these labels. In fact, interactions aren’t limited to other medications — there are certain foods that can interfere with the activity of some drugs as well. 

Read on to learn about common surprising food and drug interactions you should know about.  

12 Most Foods That May Negatively Interact With Medication

Grapefruit

This is probably the most commonly talked about interaction when it comes to negative combinations of medications and drugs. Grapefruits have been found to interact with blood pressure and cholesterol medications. It’s thought that the fruit’s juice may block enzymes that help to break down certain medications, which can result in higher levels of the drug staying in your body. Grapefruit is delicious and usually healthy, but should be avoided by people who take cholesterol-lowering medications, or calcium channel blockers.

Caffeine

Drinking that morning cup of coffee may have repercussions for people who take asthma medication like albuterol. Caffeine combined with albuterol may cause feelings of anxiety, and an increased heart rate.

If you take asthma medication, be aware that caffeine is also found in tea, energy drinks and chocolate, so in addition to kicking the coffee habit, be mindful of your intake of these as well.

B12

Eating foods rich in B12 isn’t a problem, but proton pump inhibitors, taken to reduce acid reflux, may reduce your body’s ability to absorb this important vitamin. This may mean you need to eat more B12-rich foods, or add a B12 supplement to your diet. Talk with your doctor about your concerns if you are taking acid reflux medications — some easy blood tests can help you monitor your B12 levels.

Gingko Biloba

This is a natural supplement people frequently take to help boost memory, but it can be very dangerous if combined with anti-seizure medication. 

Alcohol

Mixing alcohol with certain medications can be extremely dangerous. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to avoid consuming alcohol while taking antidepressants, especially. Mixing the two can lead to increased anxiety or depression, and can impair thinking and motor skills. Alcohol can also be dangerous when mixed with painkillers, or even over the counter pain relievers like aspirin. Mixing the two can put you at a greater risk of liver damage. It’s also advised not to mix alcohol with insulin or other antidiabetic agents, as alcohol can increase the effect of these medications, resulting in low blood sugar.  

Tyramine-Rich Foods

Tyramine is an amino acid that plays a role in regulating blood pressure. According to Today’s Geriatric Medicine, tyramine-rich foods like red wine, malt beer, aged cheese, dried fruits, and smoked fish can be an issue for those taking Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), a type of antidepressant. Combining tyramine-rich foods with this type of antidepressant can lead to a dangerous spike in blood pressure.

Dairy & Antibiotics

Dairy consumption in conjunction with antibiotic use is another important interaction to be cautious about. Dairy foods may decrease the absorption of antibiotics, as the calcium in dairy may bind to the antibiotic medication. This is especially true for medications like tetracyclines and ciprofloxacin antibiotics. To avoid the issue, it’s best to put some time between eating and taking these types of antibiotics.

Vitamin K Rich Foods

Vitamin K can be an issue for those taking blood thinners like Warfarin. According to the Oman Medical Journal, certain vegetables like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and parsley are rich in vitamin K. This medical journal warns against consuming too many of these vitamin K-rich foods when taking blood thinners, as it may interact with these medications.

Licorice

Even this sweet treat has the potential to cause drug interactions. Licorice extract has the potential to increase cortisol to mineralocorticoid receptors in the body, which can then cause the body to retain sodium, and even lead to potassium depletion. It’s best to avoid licorice with blood pressure medications or anti-arrhythmic drugs.

According to Consumer Reports, real black licorice, or supplements that contain licorice, also don’t mix well with birth control pills or blood thinners. Be cautious with licorice in candy and tea form, or in supplement form.  

Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium-rich foods like bananas, dark leafy greens, and oranges may pose an issue for those who take ACE inhibitors, or diuretics. According to Consumer Reports, consuming potassium-rich foods with these medications could lead to excess potassium in the body, which could have very dangerous heart-related side effects such as irregular heartbeat and or heart palpitations.

Soybean Flour

Soy is most commonly known to interact with thyroid medications. Soybean flour is thought to interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications, so be sure to discuss your soy intake with your doctor if you take thyroid drugs.

Walnuts

Walnuts are also thought to interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications. Walnuts may decrease the effectiveness of certain thyroid medications like Synthroid. Keep in mind that walnuts are commonly found in things like trail mix and granola bars, so if you take thyroid medications, be sure to check food labels carefully. 

Bottom Line: Drug to Drug Interactions Aren’t the Only Issue 

As you can see, there are plenty of food interactions we need to be aware of before taking prescription medications. Drug to drug interaction is only one of the issues associated with the use of medications. Certain foods — even healthy ones — can cause pretty significant issues, as well. Remember to always speak with your physician and pharmacist about any potential interactions, including how the foods you eat would potentially interact with the medications you take.

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