Infographic of food-medicine interactions to avoid

15 Food-Medicine Interactions to Avoid

Certain drugs can interact with foods, producing detrimental effects to your body. Discover 15 food-medicine interactions and why you should avoid them.

by Jo-Kym New

We’ve seen the bizarre food combinations trend circling TikTok, YouTube and other social media. While fries and ice cream and pickles and cream cheese seem like odd pairings, many surprisingly say they taste amazing. Have you ever tested these unusual combos for yourself? Maybe not, but you probably have been mixing food and medications in your daily routine without realising its possible outcomes. Truth is, food-medicine interactions can be dangerous to the body. This article covers 15 different types of food-medicine interactions to avoid and why. 

What are food-medicine interactions?

First things first, let’s look at what food-medicine interactions mean according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration:

“Drug-food/beverage interactions result from drugs reacting with foods or beverages.”
– U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Have you ever wondered why some prescriptions must be taken before or after your meal? Here’s your answer. Certain foods contain substances that can either enhance or weaken the effects of the drugs.

1. Food can enhance medicine

  • Food stimulates bile secretion to help the body absorb certain medicines and enhance its effects.
  • Foods rich in fiber allow for better absorption of certain types of drugs.

2. Food can weaken medicine

  • Food stimulates the stomach to produce gastric acid to aid in the breaking down of food particles. However, some medicines do not work well in an acidic environment hence less medicine can be absorbed into the body.
  • Some foods can also eliminate important active ingredients and essentially deactivate the drugs.
  • Foods containing alcohol can slow down your nervous system thereby delaying or reducing the effects of drugs.

Common food-medicine interactions you should avoid

Now that we’ve covered how food improves or degrades medications, check out 15 common medications that interact unfavourably with food. Download the infographic below for easy reference:

Infographic of food-medicine interactions to avoid

Calcium

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are a type of antibacterial medicine that fights or slows the growth of bacteria. Some examples are tetracycline or norfloxacin which are used to treat urinary tract infection, strep throat and respiratory tract infections. Any dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, or cheese, contain large amounts of calcium that bind with the medicine. This will disrupt the absorption of the drug, making it less effective. It is advised that one prescribed with antibiotics should take them on an empty stomach, or 2 hours before or after taking the medication. 

2. Osteoporosis medications

Some drugs used to treat osteoporosis include etidronate, actonel and risedronate. These drugs are often coupled with other medicines or calcium metabolism modifiers to prevent the loss of bone density. Some people tend to take calcium found in multivitamins and supplements together with their medication. However, this causes a food-medicine interaction that prevents the absorption of the medicine in the body. 

Green vegetables

3. Anticoagulants

Blood-thinning medications or anticoagulants such as warfarin are administered to treat blood clots. These medications do not couple well with vitamin K which counteracts the anti-clotting action of warfarin. Vegetables that are packed with vitamin K are spinach, broccoli and lettuce. This drug interaction allows the risk of blood clot to increase. The good news is you don’t have to cut it out of your diet completely. Instead, keep a consistent intake.

Bitter oranges

4. Benzodiazepines 

Benzodiazepines is a drug primarily used to treat anxiety disorders and seizures. Certain Benzodiazepines such as triazolam do not interact well with bitter oranges. For instance, grapefruit and pomelo contain a chemical compound that inhibits enzymes that aid in metabolising the drug. As a result, the drug effects are intensified and this can harm the body.

5. Calcium chain blockers 

Calcium chain blockers are prescribed to lower blood pressure. It is used to treat heart conditions by preventing calcium from entering the cells and increasing the blood supply. However, a little juice can interact with these drugs to increase its effects, and in turn, influence blood pressure.

6. Statins

Statins work to block a substance in your body from making cholesterol. For example, atorvastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin. Similar to Benzodiazepines, eating grapefruit with statins will increase the drug uptake and too much of it stays in your body. This can lead to liver damage and kidney failure.

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High-tyramine foods

7. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Antidepressants like MAOIs are used to treat depression and other forms of mental health disorders. Foods rich in tyramine are aged cheeses, pickled food and cured meat can affect the use of the MAOIs. Not only does it reduce the drug’s effectiveness, it will also significantly increase blood pressure. This interaction could result in a fatal hypertensive crisis (nausea, severe headache) and hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain). 

Alcohol

8. Metronidazole 

Metronidazole is an oral antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections. Taking this drug with alcohol or any alcoholic products will cause a drug interaction such as severe vomiting. Experts recommend waiting at least 2 days after you consume the drug to have wine or beer.

9. Antidepressants (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are another form of antidepressant used to ease the symptoms of depression. It increases your levels of serotonin to boost your mood. Alcohol can interact with SSRIs to affect your coordination and motor skills. Consequently, this impairs your ability to focus attention and slows reaction time.

10. Paracetamol

Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is a drug used to relieve mild-to-moderate pain like headaches and joint pains. These over-the-counter painkillers should be used with caution, especially if you have a medical condition. Some people tend to take paracetamol after drinking alcohol to cure a hangover. This is not recommended especially for prescribed paracetamol because the interaction can markedly increase the side effects. Worst case scenario, it may result in severe liver damage.

11. Insulin

Insulin contains protein hormones used as a medication to treat high blood glucose. They are effective in the treatment of diabetics and diabetic complications. Insulin and other diabetic pills do not mix well with alcohol as alcohol hampers the insulin’s effort to lower glucose. In consequence, this leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Any food

12. Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are prescribed in the treatment of bone loss for osteopenia (softened bones), osteoporosis (brittle/broken bones), and bone cancers. Any food or beverage intake, except for water, can starkly reduce the effectiveness of the drug. Even other types of drugs can interact with this medication. Medical experts advise to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before taking any other medications or supplements.

13. Hypothyroid drugs

Levothyroxine and other hypothyroid drugs work to restore your thyroid levels. Typically, doctors prescribe this drug at different dosages with the specific instruction to take half-to-one hour before any meals. This is due to the fact that food can block the drug absorption in your small intestine, causing the drug to lose its effectiveness. Other foods you should particularly avoid when you have thyroidism are soy, gluten, fatty and sugary foods.

14. Hyperthyroid drugs

Hyperthyroid drugs, or antithyroid agents, work to inhibit the production of thyroid hormones. Two first-line antithyroid treatments are carbimazole and methimazole which prevents iodine absorption in the stomach. Hence, it’s a good idea to stay away from iodine-rich foods like seafood and to some extent, meat and dairy.

15. Digoxin 

Digoxin or cardiac glycosides help with different heart conditions like heart rhythm disorder and heart failure. It slows the heart rate, strengthens heart muscles, and reduces shortness of breath. Unlike other drugs, digoxin does not work well with insoluble fiber such as oatmeal, wheat bran and cereal. The food-medicine interaction lowers the drug absorption. Herbs like hawthorn and licorice can also elevate blood levels of digoxin, causing digoxin toxicity.

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Tips to take medicine at the right time

Not all medicines are affected by food. That said, it is important to stay informed about the common foods-medicine interactions in your road to recovery.

5 tips to take with you when you get your prescriptions:

  1. Consult your doctor or any medical professional for precautions whenever you’re unsure about what foods-medicine interactions to avoid.
  2. Check the prescription label on the medicine container to make sure you’re taking the right doses.
  3. Take down any specific instructions given to you by the doctor in a notebook or in your mobile phone.
  4. Inform your doctor if you are taking any prescriptions at present.
  5. Keep all medicines in their original medicine container so you can easily identify them.  

Hassle-free, home nursing for you

Sometimes it can be tough to keep tabs on your prescriptions while dealing with the stress of avoiding food-medicine interactions. That is why we are here to help with home nursing. Receiving nursing care at home enables you to focus on recovery and rehabilitation in a comfortable and familiar space.

From simple nursing care to complex nursing procedures, Homage Care Professionals are licensed and equipped to be there for you or your loved one in their time of need. We deliver personalised and dedicated care to your loved ones in the comfort of their homes.

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References
  1. Anderson, L. A. (2019). Diabetes Medications and Alcohol Interactions. Drugs.com. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.drugs.com/article/diabetes-medications-alcohol.html 
  2. Beckerman, J. (2020). Heart Disease and Calcium Channel Blocker Drugs. WebMD. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-disease-calcium-channel-blocker-drugs 
  3. Carter, A. (2020). The benefits and risks of benzodiazepines. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809 
  4. Carter, A. (2019).What to know about antibiotics. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10278 
  5. Council on Family Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021). Drug Interactions: What You Should Know. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.fda.gov/media/76562/download 
  6. Fookes, C. (2018). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Drugs.com. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/ssri-antidepressants.html 
  7. Hall-Flavin, D. K. (2018). MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?. Mayoclinic. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/maois/faq-20058035 
  8. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2021). Cardiac glycosides (Digoxin). Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart-disease/treatments/medications/digoxin 
  9. Is It Dangerous to Use Paracetamol and Alcohol?. (2020). MedNews.com. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.medsnews.com/health/is-it-dangerous-to-use-paracetamol-and-alcohol/ 
  10. Mayoclinic. (2021). Statins: Are these cholesterol-lowering drugs right for you?. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statins/art-20045772 
  11. Medbroadcast. (2021). Do not take with dairy – Medications and Your Health. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.medbroadcast.com/channel/medications-and-your-health/what-drug-label-warnings-mean/do-not-take-with-dairy 
  12. MIMS. (2021). Hyperthyroidism. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://specialty.mims.com/hyperthyroidism/treatment 
  13. Naim. K. Z. A. (2017). Medicines: Before / After Food. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/why-must-some-medicines-be-taken-with-or-after-food/ 
  14. Thompson, B. (2020). 9 Foods to Avoid if You’re Diagnosed With Hypothyroidism. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from  https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/thyroid-pictures/foods-to-avoid/ 
  15. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. (2017). Warfarin, your diet, and vitamin K foods. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://uihc.org/health-topics/warfarin-your-diet-and-vitamin-k-foods 

WebMD. (2021). Drugs & Medications A-Z. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/index

About the Writer
Jo-Kym New
Jo-Kym is an inbound marketer who is deeply passionate about mental health and family relationships. Her creative outlets are journalling, mobile photography, food and fashion.
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