Take meds? Beware edible enemies

  • Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 7:30pm

<b>YOUR HEALTH | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

What people choose to wash down prescriptions with may not always help the medicine go down.

Some foods and drinks can counteract the healing effects of certain medications or intensify their effects, posing health threats.

The top three foods or drinks that react with most prescription medications include dairy products or antacids, grapefruit juice or grapefruit, and alcohol, said Billy Chow, pharmacy professional services manager for Bartell Drugs.

Dairy products and antacids, for example, contain calcium, which can significantly reduce the absorption of medications.

Alcohol can increase the risk of drowsiness or sedation associated with some types of medications, Chow cautioned. Under certain circumstances, alcohol may also result in disulfiram reactions when taken together with some antibacterial medications.

Combining antidepressants like monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors with excessive amounts of chocolate, aged cheese and salami, for example, can raise blood pressure levels, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The caffeine contained in chocolate can increase the effects of stimulants like Ritalin and counteract sedatives like Ambien.

Those prescribed Lanoxin to treat congestive heart failure or abnormal heart rhythms should be wary of licorice. This seemingly harmless sweet treat can raise the risk of Lanoxin toxicity and lower the effects of blood pressure pills and diuretics.

While it’s unknown the actual number of drugs grapefruit juice interacts with, doctors and pharmacists know it can cause negative side effects to prescriptions.

Grapefruit juice tends to cause higher levels of medications in the body, increasing the chances of experiencing side effects, according to the FDA.

Pills to lower blood pressure, for example, shouldn’t be washed down with grapefruit juice. This bitter beverage also is known to cause higher blood levels when combined with medicines to treat anxiety and those to prevent malaria and insomnia.

Green leafy vegetables have many health benefits; however for those prescribed blood thinners to prevent blood clots, such as warfarin, these vitamin K-enriched nutrition staples can counteract the drug’s effects.

Don’t take with …

Excessive amounts of certain foods and drinks can cause unwanted side effects when combined with prescription medications.

Alcohol: Can increase or decrease the positive and negative effects of prescriptions

Licorice: Reduces the effects of blood pressure medications and diuretics

Grapefruit: Known to increase blood pressure levels when combined with certain drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia

Chocolate: The caffeine in chocolate can increase the effects of stimulants and decrease the effects of sleeping aids

From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration