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Is Your Diet Ruining The Effect Of Your Medicines?

posted on 7/3/2016 Facebook Facebook

Did your doctor ever ask you to avoid eating a particular food or several other foods after prescribing a particular drug? While a few may have asked the reason behind it, most just nod at the doctor’s advice without giving the recommendation much thought. Similarly, your dietician, doctor or even pharmacist may have asked you to take certain pills on an empty stomach, with milk or even at a specific time of the day. If we have got you wondering why, already, then read along. 

Certain foods are known to interfere with the metabolism of a particular drug(s) in the body. This may negate the therapeutic effect of the drug or result in unwanted side effects. In this article, we discuss the various ways in which certain foods interact with prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

So first things first, what is a food-drug interaction? 
In simple terms, if a particular food decreases, increases or negates the therapeutic effects of a particular drug by influencing its metabolism and absorption is called a food-drug interaction.  

The interaction can be of three types:
1. Interfering with the digestion and absorption of the drug in the body

2. Blocking the breakdown and metabolism of the drug by inhibiting enzymes

3. Mimicking the action of the drug(s) in the body. 

While certain interactions may work in the favor of the drug improving its availability in the body others may shoot them up to toxic levels which can result in serious side effects as opposed to effects. And this discussion doesn’t just limit to conventional allopathic drugs but also natural health products and dietary supplements. The natural phytochemicals found in natural herbs or supplements can also alter the metabolism of prescription drugs. 

Don’t Mix Your Meds With These Foods 
Have you just started on a new medication but don’t find it effective at all? Don’t just blame the drug! It may be something that you’re eating. Here are six food-drug combinations you should avoid:

1. Vitamin K Rich Foods & Blood Thinners
One of the most well-recognized food-drug interactions is that of anticoagulants or blood thinners like Coumadin (Warfarin) mostly prescribed for heart diseases and vitamin K rich foods. So what’s the problem here? Vitamin K along with being a potential antioxidant is also a blood coagulant itself. This means—it completely negates the effects of blood thinning medicines. So if you’re on blood thinners like warfarin you may want to watch your vitamin K intake. Avoid eating cabbage, broccoli, spinach and other cruciferous vegetables. Speak to your doctor for advice. 

2. Dairy Products &Antibiotics
Do you have the habit of downing your antibiotics with a glass of milk? If so then you should stop now. Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products are known to prevent the absorption of antibiotics such as tetracycline and ciprofloxacin. Calcium present in these foods interacts with the antibiotics drugs to form an insoluble compound. Result—less of the drug in the system and hence less effects. 

3. Tyramine Containing Foods & Antidepressants
Beer, wine, chocolate, processed cured meat and stinky cheese are all rich in tyramine which interferes with the action of MOAIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors), a type of antidepressants. Tyramine slows down the metabolism of these drugs in the body and can result in a serious rise in your blood pressure levels. 

4. Grapefruit & Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
If you start your morning with a grapefruit or a glass of its juice then you may want to rethink your breakfast. One of the most well publicized drug-food interaction; several studies have confirmed the interaction of grapefruit with more than 50 prescription drugs ranging from cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart medicines, immunosuppressant’s as well as thyroid medications and birth control pills. 

Grapefruit contains a molecule—bergamottin which is believed to inactivate the drug metabolizing enzymes found in the liver, resulting in a buildup of these drugs to toxic levels. Other drugs that may be affected by grapefruit consumption are calcium channel blockers prescribed for high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction drugs

5. Natural Licorice & Digoxin (Heart Medications)
Popularly recognized as Mulethi in India, natural licorice is known to reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications as also digoxin—a drug for heart failure or abnormal heart rhythm. It contains glycyrrhizin which reduces the absorption of these medicines. 

6. Coffee & A Lot Of Things
Seriously, your morning cup of java does interfere with the absorption of a lot of things. Anti-anxiety, asthma and thyroid medications can all interact with coffee and result in unwanted side effects. What’s more worrying is that certain medicines like antibiotics can impact the breakdown of caffeine in the body and cause extreme side effects.  

Make sure to read the labels on your medicines and talk to your doctor with respect to any specific foods to be avoided with your prescription. Also, if you think your medicine is not making you feel any better or perhaps making your condition worse then approach your doctor immediately. 

References:
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3. Chang CH, Wang YW, Yeh Liu PY, Kao Yang YH. A practical approach to minimize the interaction of dietary vitamin K with warfarin. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014 Feb;39(1):56-60. doi: 10.1111/jcpt.12104. Epub 2013 Oct 28. PubMed PMID:24383939.
4. Won CS, Oberlies NH, Paine MF. Mechanisms underlying food-drug interactions: inhibition of intestinal metabolism and transport. Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Nov;136(2):186-201. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Aug 4.Review. PubMed PMID: 22884524; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3466398.
5. Diaconu CH, Cuciureanu M, Vlase L, Cuciureanu R. Food-drug interactions: grapefruit juice. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2011 Jan-Mar;115(1):245-50.PubMed PMID: 21682192.
6. Flockhart DA. Dietary restrictions and drug interactions with monoamine oxidase inhibitors: an update. J Clin Psychiatry. 2012;73 Suppl 1:17-24. doi:10.4088/JCP.11096su1c.03. Review. PubMed PMID: 22951238.

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