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Can what you eat affect your medication?

October 5th, 2009

Written by Valerie Houghton, RD LD

In the United States, the senior age group accounts for approximately 25% of all prescription drugs being dispensed and according to RX. Magazine, there are more than 140,000 hospital admissions each year in America due to adverse drug reactions. Taking medication to help control diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis is quite common but unfortunately, what is not so common is making sure the foods you eat are not negatively affecting how the drug(s) work to control your illness or ease pain and suffering.

One way to ensure your medications are doing the absolute most for you is to be aware of any food or beverage that may hinder the effectiveness, or in some cases, be a danger, to your health. Being aware of any possible food and medication interaction is essential for effective medication therapy and peace of mind that harm will not result due to improper food consumption.

So who can help you determine if you have any food and medication issues?

Several health professionals should be involved in this process but the best place to start is with your doctor. Review the list of medications with your physician and ask about any potential food or beverage that might impact the effectiveness of the drug.

Another health professional to consult regarding medications is a registered dietitian. These food and nutrition professionals work alongside medical staff in hospitals and clinics providing nutrition guidance and therapy to improve health, speed healing and educate patients on how to optimize food and medication for the best possible health outcome. Many of the patients the registered dietitian interacts with are on multiple medications and the dietitian can advise the doctor and the patient on potential foods that may interfere with the effectiveness of the medication.

The dietitian will often take a diet history from the patient asking specific questions about foods consumed to highlight any potential risk of food and medication interaction. The dietitian can then provide a list of foods to include or exclude from your diet that decrease the risk of food and drug interactions. For example; foods high in fiber like, bran cereals, can slow the rate of digestion in the stomach. If you take certain medications with high fiber meals it could lower the amount of a medication being absorbed into the system or slow the rate of absorption.

Another source of food and medication information is the local pharmacist who dispenses your medications; they can provide advice on what foods to avoid or incorporate into your diet that allow your medications to work properly. If you are taking more than one medication and seeing more than one doctor, make sure they all know what medications you are taking and inquire about any possible interactions between medicines.

As a reminder; don’t skip mentioning vitamins, supplements or herbal medicines that you may be taking.

The more informed your healthcare providers are about your medications and the foods you normally eat, the less likely you are to incur any negative health consequences from food and drug interactions.

Here is a list of common medications taking by seniors and the foods to avoid and include for each category.

Drug Group Common Drug Foods to Avoid Food to Include
Antibiotics Cipro® Dairy products and calcium fortified juices.
Anticoagulant to prevent blood clots. Coumadin® Cranberries and cranberry juice. Maintain a consistent intake of green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Anti-Inflammatory to limit swelling. Prednisone® Foods with large amounts of sugar: sweetened cereals, desserts, table sugar, candy, jams, jellies, honey, regular soft drinks. Sugar- free products.
Anti-Hypertensive for controlling blood pressure Lisinopril® Alcohol, salt substitutes.
Analgesic for pain. Tylenol® Alcohol.
Anti-Arrhythmic for controlling heart rhythm. Digoxin® Bran, high fiber foods 2 hours before/after taking medication. Milk, calcium containing dairy products, iron, antacids, 2 hours before or 6 hours after taking medication.
Limit garlic, ginger, gingko, and horse chestnut.
Avoid avocado.

Nardil® Alcohol, aged cheese, avocados, bananas, canned meats, yogurt, soy sauce, packaged soups and sour cream.
Arthritis Abitrexate® Alcohol.
Cholesterol lowering drugs

Lipitor® Alcohol, high fat foods; (butter, whole milk, cheese, fried foods, chips, fatty meats). Skim or low fat dairy products, baked or broiled food, lean meats.
Anemia-drugs to increase iron in the blood Feosol® Dairy products, egg. Take medication 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal. Drink coffee/tea 2 hour after taking medication.

Valerie Houghton is practicing registered dietitian and free lance writer for magazines and websites.

For more information, contact Valerie Houghton at valerieonperdido@yahoo.com

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