Avoid these 3 Foods when taking certain Medications

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Whenever you receive a prescription from your doctor pay attention to the instructions he gives you as regards how to take the medications, whether you have to eat or not before taking the drugs, and whether or not there are certain foods, drinks and other drugs you should totally avoid when taking the medications. Even if the doctor forgets to give you a detailed instruction due to his busy schedule, it is your right to ask him questions, especially concerning the food to avoid while on medications for conditions like hypertension, depression or certain infectious diseases.

This is very important because medications are chemical substances which depend on certain chemical reactions in the liver, the intestine and in the blood to safely carry out their treatment function with little or no harmful effects to the body. These chemical reactions are responsible for converting the medications into their active forms that go on to treat the conditions for which they are being taken; the reactions also deactivate the medications that are already in their active forms into very less poisonous forms that are quickly cleared from your body systems by the kidneys. Without these chemical reactions, the medications you swallow will either be very dangerous to your body or will not have any treatment effect on the conditions for which you're taking them. These chemical reactions can be made less effective on acting on some medications by things like other drugs, certain foods (fruits, vegetables, and processed food) and drinks, especially alcoholic ones.

Therefore, you should avoid these 3 groups of food or drinks if you're on medications for certain medical conditions:

1. Grapefruit

If you love taking grapefruit first thing in the morning, you may need to take a break from it if you're taking medications for conditions like hypertension, HIV or high cholesterol in the blood. This is because grapefruit contains a group of compounds which have been found to prevent chemical reactions in the intestine responsible for converting these medications into less harmful forms. This makes the medications remain in their active, harmful forms longer than normal, meaning they cannot be cleared from the body by the kidneys. The end result is the medications staying longer in your body, increasing the likelihood of you having their serious side effects.

2. Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream

These foods are rich in calcium. Calcium binds antibiotics such as tetracycline and quinolones (ciprofloxacin for example) in your stomach thereby preventing your body from absorbing them into the blood. This reduces the efficacy of the antibiotics meaning you will need more than the healthy dose to achieve the desired treatment effect. If your doctor prescribes any of these antibiotics for you, you should try to avoid taking these dairy foods until you complete the medications; or you should take such milk or yoghurt about 2 hours before or 6 hours after taking these antibiotics.

3. Beer, red wine and chocolate

If you're taking medications for depression, especially those called MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors, it is advisable you avoid beer, red wine, and chocolate, or discuss with your doctor on the safety of taking these drinks and food. Beer, red wine, chocolate, processed meat, avocados all contain a compound called tyramine which can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure when taken with these MAO inhibitors for depression.

The efficacy of any medications you're taking not only depends on adhering strictly to taking them, but also on avoiding drugs, drinks and certain foods that can interact with them to make them very dangerous or less effective. Always ask your doctor for a comprehensive explanation whenever he or she prescribes any medications for you.

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Published Tuesday, March 14th 2017

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