7 Foods That Can Accidentally Amp Up
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August 5, 2016
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist   

Do you mix your meds? Of course not – you’re always
careful to follow instructions and only take what you’re
prescribed. But wait. Could you be jeopardizing your health
by mixing your medications with the food you eat?

Everyday food can dramatically amp up your meds.

Kale’s a super food but it’s a super "no" when mixed with
some meds.

Grapefruit juice is wonderfully refreshing but it’s bad news
for people taking statins.

Some foods and drinks drain drugs of their power. And
some of the food you eat could cause a potentially fatal

So what food should you avoid when you’re taking
medication? Find out which pairings are dangerous – don’t
learn the hard way when a drug stops working or you
suffer some serious side effects.

How Does Food Affect Medication Use?

It’s always been clear that drugs interact with other drugs
– some mix well, and some pairings have fatal

What has been less clear is the food-drug interaction
equation. Recently scientists have learned more about how
food interacts with medicine to affect drug absorption,
metabolism, and side effects.

Food in the stomach or the small bowel can affect how fast
a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, and in some
cases the effect is significant.

Some foods cause a drug to be absorbed faster, some
slower. In many cases this can prevent a drug working to
its capacity.

Foods can also cause a side effect from a medication to get
worse or better. It could even cause a new side effect to

Research from the Ziauddin College of Pharmacy in Karachi,
Pakistan, 2011, says that the most important food-drug
interactions are those that are associated with a high risk
of treatment failure when the food affects the bio-
availability of the drug.

If you want to get better, you need to know that your
medicine will work, and you therefore need to know that
you’re not jeopardizing its potential with your meals.

Should I Take Medicine on a Full or Empty Stomach?

Some medications work faster, some work slower, some
better and some worse on a full or empty stomach. Some
medications are best taken with food as when they are
taken on an empty stomach they can cause digestive

Always look at the directions on the label and don’t ever,
ever ignore them – they are there for a reason.

Take a look at the list below if you are taking medication
and see if your favorite food is on the list.

We looked at recent scientific studies to show you the food
to avoid if you want to prevent medication disaster.

Grapefruit Juice Can Cause Accidental Overdoses

The first food substance to be shown to affect drugs was
the humble grapefruit. Specifically, its juice was shown in
1989 to interact with certain medications.

A 1998 study from London Health Sciences Centre, Ontario,
Canada says that the link was found accidentally, and that
since the effect of grapefruit juice can last 24 hours,
repeated consumption of the juice can have a cumulative
impact on medications.

Compounds in grapefruit juice affect the workings of
certain drugs.

Specifically, grapefruit juice interacts with statin cholesterol
drugs like atorvastatin (Lipitor) and lovastatin (Mevacor).

The FDA lists these drugs that interact with grapefruit juice.
Drinking grapefruit juice can multiply the power of drugs
and cause an accidental overdose:

statin drugs to lower
cholesterol, such as Zocor
(simvastatin), Lipitor
(atorvastatin) and Pravachol

•blood pressure-lowering
drugs, such as Nifediac and
Afeditab (both nifedipine)

• organ transplant rejection
drugs, such as Sandimmune and
Neoral (both cyclosporine)

•anti-anxiety drugs, such as
BuSpar (buspirone)

• anti-arrhythmia drugs,
such as Cordarone and Nexterone
(both amiodarone)

Grapefruit juice will in some cases reduce your body's
ability to absorb a drug, as is the case with

• antihistamines, such as
Allegra (fexofenadine)

Drinking grapefruit juice amps up the power of the drug
and can increase the risk of side effects like leg pain. Other
medications are also affected by grapefruit juice including
antihistamines, birth control pills, thyroid replacement
drugs, and stomach acid blocking medication.  ( Read more
85 medications that interact with grapefruit juice.)

Kale Does Not Mix Well with Blood-thinning Meds

Vitamin K in kale and other leafy vegetables like
spinach and broccoli doesn’t mix well with blood thinners
like warfarin.

The vitamin K in kale reduces the anti-clotting effects of the
medication According to a 2010 study from the Sackler
School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel. Kale also
negatively affects drugs like the antidepressant fluoxetine.

But you don’t have to give up
greens entirely, since they
are so good for you. Problems come about when you
significantly increase your intake, so don’t start drinking
kale smoothies for breakfast if you are not used to them.

Walnuts Are Not Friends with Thyroid Meds

Walnuts are a wonderful addition to almost any diet. But
don’t mix walnuts and high-fiber foods like soybean flour
with thyroid drugs like levothyroxine. They can prevent
your body from properly absorbing the medication.

If you happen to eat a lot of walnuts or you have a high-
fiber diet, you will need to take
more thyroid medication.
See your doctor of course to calibrate how much more you
should take.

Milk Will Neutralize Antibiotics

Drink your milk, but don’t use it to wash down an antibiotic
including tetracycline antibiotics (Sumycin).

The calcium in milk and other dairy products like cheese
and yogurt prevents the body from properly absorbing the
drug. It binds to the medication and forms a complex –
which is bad news for your health.

5. Smoked Meats Counteract Depression and Parkinson
Meds and Can Spike Your Blood Pressure

All tyramine-containing foods like aged and matured
cheeses, smoked meats, salami, hot dogs, fermented soy
products, red wine, fermented cabbage, broad beans, and
draft beers as well as foods that have spoiled or not been
refrigerated, should be avoided if you are taking MAOIs for
depression, or to treat Parkinson’s disease.

High levels of the tyramine in these foods can cause a blood
pressure spike, and are “capable of producing hypertensive
crisis in patients taking MAOIs” says a study from Friedrich-
Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany in 1998.

Bananas Can Make You Overdose on ACE Inhibitors

Love bananas? Avoid them if you are taking ACE inhibitors
for helping relax blood vessels and allow blood to flow
more easily.

These medications can increase the amount of potassium
you have in your body so if you eat potassium-rich foods
like bananas you risk too much of the nutrient, which can
cause heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.

Also avoid oranges, green leafy vegetables, and salt
substitutes that cause a potassium spike.

Licorice and Heart Meds Don't Mix

You know those twisted licorice sticks they sell you in
cinemas?  Don't eat them if you're on heart medications.

Black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, which can cause an
irregular heartbeat. Don’t mix licorice with digoxin
(Lanoxin), which is used to treat heart failure and
abnormal heart rhythms – the interaction could be fatal.

The extract greatly enhances the action of the drug which
leads to heart problems.

Licorice also tends to make other drugs less effective like
pain relievers, birth control pills, and blood thinners.

Experts such as the authors of a 2012 study from the
Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago say warnings
should be posted on licorice products warning of these
drug interaction dangers.

By the way, it’s only the extract that makes a difference –
licorice flavoring is not to be feared.


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