Choosing Food Wisely When Taking Medications Helps You Avoid Interactions That Reduce Their Effectiveness
Have you noticed unexpected side effects or inconsistent effectiveness of medications? It’s possible that the problem is due to what you are eating or drinking. Pegasus home healthcare professionals in Reseda and elsewhere know the importance of choosing food wisely when taking medications.
Medications are substances you apply or consume to change something in your body. Medications are used to cure, prevent, or treat a disease or medical condition. They also can relieve the symptoms of an illness.
For most people, the word medication implies something prescribed by a healthcare practitioner. However, many other substances have significant medicinal uses. These include herbs, over-the-counter drugs (OTC), supplements, and vitamins.
Foods and all of these products can affect how your medications work. That’s true whether they are natural or synthetic.
Some medicines, such as aspirin, can treat more than one condition. Others can be taken in different ways. For example, antibiotics can be taken orally, applied as creams, or administered via an IV.
Each Medication Has A Specific Target
Once inside your body or applied to your skin, the medication travels to its “target.” That’s known as its receptor. It is ineffective until it finds, and attaches to, its specific receptor.
Swallowed medicines are dissolved by your digestive system in order to travel. Their receptors may be in your intestines. Others cross cell walls and enter the bloodstream to travel their receptors.
Receptors may be in the blood. Others may be in or on a particular cell. Some receptors are in the fluids surrounding cells.
You experience side effects when the medication attaches to the wrong receptors. If a dosage is wrong, the medicine may not attach at all. Food can also keep a drug from attaching correctly to its receptor.
Interactions With Food Affect The Effectiveness Of Medications
Essentially all substances in your body interact with other substances. Many of the interactions are harmless. Some are not.
Interactions involving medications can increase or decrease the effects of the drug. Sometimes the interactions lead to a completely unexpected result. The three primary kinds of interactions are:
- Drug-drug; For example, combining aspirin with a prescribed blood thinner can lead to excessive bleeding.
- Drug-food/beverage: St. John’s Wort, a herb, can’t be taken with many kinds of drugs. Grapefruit interacts with numerous drugs. Alcohol can also lead to adverse drug interactions.
- Drug-disease: Some illnesses, such as kidney disease, preclude taking certain medications for other conditions. The medical condition may be worsened by the drug, or it may keep the drug from working.
Mistakes or lack of knowledge are the primary causes of most interactions.
Informing your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all prescribed and OTC medications you take is essential. You also need to tell them about other products, such as herbs, supplements, and vitamins. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from telling them about your alcohol consumption and the foods you typically eat.
Help Is Available
It’s also essential that you read all the information supplied with prescription and OTC drugs, tedious as that may be. And yes, you need to read the labels, instructions, and package inserts each time, because the information changes.
The “warnings” section is where you’ll learn about the drug interactions and side effects. The “directions” section usually tells you whether or not the drug should be taken with food. Additionally, ask your doctor and pharmacist about:
- Foods or beverages to avoid
- Interactions not specified in the warnings information
- Timing it with other drugs you take
- What to expect when taking the drug
Ultimately you are the one responsible for avoiding most interactions, especially those related to food and beverages.
You probably can’t list every food you eat, especially if you have a varied diet. Nor can drug manufacturers list every potential interaction. Every individual metabolizes drugs differently, creating an infinite number of potential interactions.
You’ll need to learn what the active ingredients are in each product you take. Then you can progress to discovering which nutrients to avoid. Common examples include:
- Dairy products – reduces the absorption of specific antibiotics
- Fruit or acidic juices – reduces the effect of antibiotics
- Leafy green vegetables – interferes with anticoagulants
- Tyramine, found in avocados, beer, cheese, chocolate, processed meat, and red wine – can adversely affect antidepressants that contain MAO inhibitors
You can type in the name of a drug, beverage, or supplement in any search engine to find lists of potential interactions. Reliable sites to start with include:
- Consumer Reports
- Drug Watch
- Drugs.com Interactive Drug Checker
- Pharmacy Times
- Today’s Geriatric Medicine
- UConn Health Drug – Food Pharmacy Handout
- U S Pharmacist
Even if a particular food or other product isn’t on a list, you may still have an interaction,
Your prescriber or pharmacist will tell you what to expect with any medication. Keep a record of what you consume or use and how you feel afterward. If your experience is different than expected, then talk to them about changes you can make.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our home healthcare services in Reseda and our other locations include assistance with dietary choices. We know that choosing food wisely when taking medications is part of maintaining your quality of life.