Taking medications? Learn the risk of drug interactions with foods and beverages (PART 1 of 3)

The effects of prescription medications can be delayed, made stronger, or made weaker when taken with certain foods or beverages.

There are many things people can do to take both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications in a safe manner. One of these is to learn more about drug interactions. There are three main types: drug interactions with foods and beverages, drug interactions with dietary supplements, and drug interactions with other drugs. This article will focus on adverse interactions between prescription drugs and foods and beverages.

The effects of prescription medications can be delayed, made stronger, or made weaker when taken with certain foods and beverages. Here are examples of medications interacting with foods and beverages:

Alcohol: When mixed with some drugs, alcohol can make us feel tired, and slow down our reactions. It’s a good idea to talk with a medical professional, including a pharmacist, when using alcohol and taking prescriptions or over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others.  Ask specifically about potential adverse effects.

Chocolate: Avoid eating chocolate in excessive amounts when taking MAO inhibitors, a class of drugs prescribed mostly for depression. The caffeine in chocolate can also change the effects of stimulant drugs like Ritalin, or sedatives like Ambien.

Grapefruit juice: This beverage shouldn’t be consumed with some blood pressure lowering drugs, some anti-anxiety medications (like Buspar), some anti-malaria drugs or with some medications (like Halcion) used to treat sleep disorders.

Black Licorice: This snack food can interact with heart medications, blood pressure drugs, and some corticosteroids which are used for inflammatory conditions.

Dairy products: Items like milk, yogurt and cheese can sometimes interfere with the absorption of antibiotics into the bloodstream.

Vitamin K: Vegetables containing vitamin K, such as broccoli, kale and spinach, can decrease the effectiveness of drugs like Coumadin (warfarin) given to prevent blood clotting.

Problems can be avoided. Here are some tips:

  • Ask a doctor or pharmacist what foods and beverages to avoid when taking a medication, a supplement, or an over-the-counter drug.
  • Use one pharmacy or drugstore for all medication needs.
  • Be honest with health care professionals about prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements you are currently taking, as well as food preferences.
  • Keep a record of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements and including herbs that are taken. Keep this list handy, especially when doing to medical appointments. A medicine record can be downloaded free at http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/ucm079489.htm.
  • Read drug labels and pharmacy information carefully.
  • Keep medications in their original containers.
  • Review other articles dealing with drug interactions with dietary supplements and drug interactions with other drugs.

For more information on using medications safely, please visit U.S. Food & Drug Administration or the Food & Information Center at the USDA Natural Agriculture Library.

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