As a pharmacist, I have received lots of questions about taking one prescription medication with another, a new over-the-counter medication with prescription medications, and supplements, like herbal supplements or vitamins, with prescription medications. However – medications can also interact with foods and drinks!
How can foods and beverages affect how medications work?
There are a few ways foods or beverages can affect the way medications work:
- The food may increase the effects of the medication
- The food may decrease the effects of the medication
- The food may work with the medication to produce a new effect that wouldn’t happen from either the food or the medication when used alone
Usually, these increased, decreased, or new effects of the medication occur because of the way the medication is absorbed or processed by the body.
What are some common interactions between summer foods and medications?
- Kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and good-for-you greens interact with a common blood thinner, called warfarin, by increasing the levels of vitamin K in your body; these same green vegetables, when eaten in large quantities and taken with certain blood pressure medications, can cause a person’s potassium levels to become dangerously high
- Fruit juices, especially grapefruit juice, interact with many medications, like antibiotics, medications used to treat high cholesterol, certain anxiety medications, and anticonvulsants or anti-seizure medications, among others by affecting the enzymes your body uses to process the medications
- Ice cream, or any dairy products, interact with certain antibiotics and iron supplements, preventing them from being absorbed by your body and taking effect
- Your favorite summer cocktail, or any alcohol, interacts with a whole host of medications, including medications to treat diabetes, causing risk for low blood sugars. Also, consuming alcohol with narcotic pain medications or certain anti-anxiety medications causes increased effects of the medication, like drowsiness or sedation; alcoholic beverages also interact with prescription stimulants used to treat attention deficit disorder, causing the person to feel fewer effects from alcohol than they are experiencing—someone may think they’re “under the limit” to drive when it’s unsafe to do so!
- Picnic foods, including charcuterie board favorites, like matured cheese, salami, and dried fruits interact with certain antidepressants, called MAOI Inhibitors
What should you do if foods you’re eating may interact with your medications?
Always consult your pharmacist about the medication(s) you take to see if you should make changes to help you get the most out of your medications. Food-medication interactions are a complex topic! Some can be managed best by completely cutting out the food that interacts with the medication in question. Others can be managed by consistently consuming the same amount of the food that interacts with the medication. Still others are only impactful if you consume a large amount of the food that interacts with the medication. Your pharmacist is a medication expert, and he or she is the best resource for you to make a plan to manage any food-medication interactions!
Are there other times food can affect medications?
Every time you get a new medication, you should receive information from your healthcare practitioner (doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacist) about how to best take the new medication. If you don’t—ask! Often, taking medications with any food can affect the way the medication is absorbed and used in the body. For example, thyroid medication is typically recommended to be taken on an empty stomach to enhance absorption, and some cholesterol medications are recommended to be taken with food because taking them with food can enhance absorption! It’s important to always consult your pharmacist about the medication(s) you take to be sure you’re getting the most out of each and every medication.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.