Health & Wellness

What you need to know about medicine and food interactions

As you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, it usually comes with a lengthy explanation of doses, side effects and specific warnings about other drugs or food interactions. But how carefully do you read the whole thing? There may be certain foods you should avoid while taking the medication.

Here are four of the the most common drug interactions and when to eat, drink and be wary.

1. Blood thinners and leafy greens

Warfarin (sold under brand name Coumadin, among others)

Taken for: Heart attack, arterial blockage, heart irregularities, blood clots

Blood-thinning medications, like warfarin, help treat and prevent blood clots, which work against vitamin K-rich foods.

Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and many more are packed with vitamin K, which is important in helping our blood clot.

The solution: If you’re on a on a blood thinner medication, limit your daily servings of foods with vitamin K. Some healthful substitutes, with low levels of vitamin K, include beets, turnips, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Related: 3 food myths to stop believing right now

2. ACE Inhibitors and bananas

ACE Inhibitors like benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)

Taken for: High blood pressure, heart failure

ACE inhibitors are used to lower blood pressure or treat heart failure. They work by relaxing blood vessels allowing blood to flow more easily where the heart can pump better. But if you’re eating a lot of bananas, the increase in potassium can cause a irregular heartbeats and heart palpitations.

The solution: Avoid large amounts of food high in potassium, which also includes oranges and salt substitutes when on these medications.

Related:

3. Antibiotics and dairy

Antibiotics

Taken for: Various bacterial infections

Antibiotics are prescribed to fight infection or as a pre-emptive strike to prevent infection. While on antibiotics, doctors always remind patients to finish the whole course even if you start feeling better to kill the cause of infection completely. When on antibiotics, having dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese can delay or prevent the absorption of certain antibiotics such as tetracyclines and ciprofloxacin (Cipro). The calcium in these foods binds to the antibiotics in the stomach and upper small intestine and can make it harder to absorb the medication.

The solution: Take your antibiotic one hour before or two hours after a meal.

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4. NSAIDs and garlic

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen)

Taken for: Pain

Both NSAIDs and garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), as well as prescription medications. Garlic can reduce your blood's clotting ability and garlic products can cause bleeding in rare cases; other prescriptions may increase this effect, resulting in increased danger of bleeding.

5. Statins and grapefruit

Statins

Taken for: High cholesterol

Grapefruit interacts with several classes of drugs, including statins, which are taken to lower cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and lovastatin (Mevacor).

According to Mayo Clinic, large amounts of grapefruit juice can raise the levels of those statins in your body and increase the chance of side effects. Problems arise because chemicals in the fruit can interfere with the enzymes that break down the medication in your digestive system. As a result, the medication may stay in your body for too short or too long a time.

A medication that's broken down too quickly won't have time to work. On the other hand, a medication that stays in the body too long may build up to potentially dangerous levels.

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