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Be Aware of Common Drug-Food Interactions

Be Aware of Common Drug-Food Interactions

Written by Madhumathi Palaniappan, B.Pharm
Article Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on November 30, 2016 at 3:25 PM
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  • Drug-food interaction occurs when the food you eat reduces the drug’s efficacy.
  • Grapefruit, dairy products, bananas, spinach and walnuts are some of the common foods that interact with medication.
  • Take note of these drug-food interactions to ensure the efficacy of the medication and avoid serious side effects.

The food you consume may greatly affect the efficacy of certain medication. It may either delay or decrease the absorption from the intestines.

Although there are some warning signs issued in avoiding certain foods while taking certain drugs, most people and sometimes even doctors are not aware of these drug-food interactions that can be dangerous.

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Here are some of the common daily foods that interact with certain medications

Grapefruit Juice and Statins


It is a citrus fruit rich in vitamin C and vitamin A and contains a high amount of antioxidant properties.

Statin drugs such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, rosuvastatin are used in the treatment of cholesterol and heart diseases.

Grapefruit can interact with statin drugs and might delay the absorption of the drug. Increased statin drug levels in the body may cause serious side effects like muscle pain and in extreme cases rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of skeletal muscle).

Grapefruit may also show interaction with other drugs that include:
  • Calcium Channel Blockers - Nifedipine, felodipine
  • Antiallergic medications - Terfenadine, fexofenadine
  • Hypnotics and Antianxiety medications - Midazolam, Alprazolam
  • Cardiovascular Drugs - Amiodarone, Disopyramide, Quinidine
  • Drugs used in Organ transplantation - Cyclosporin

Cranberry Juice and Anticoagulants

Cranberry Juice:

Cranberry is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C and salicylic acid. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and zinc are present in the fruit. It also contains vitamins like tocopherol, Vitamin K and Vitamin B6.

Cranberry juice is used for providing relief from urinary tract infections, kidney stones, diabetes, stomach disorders and helps to prevent cancers.

Anticoagulant medications - warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban prevent blood clotting and are used for the treatment of thrombotic disorders.

Drinking cranberry juice while taking anticoagulant medicines can further increase bleeding, resulting in severe gastrointestinal and heart complications.

Antibiotics and Dairy Products

Dairy Products:

Milk is a rich source of calcium that is required for strengthening the bones. Dairy products include cheese, butter, and yogurt.

Antibiotics are used to fight against bacterial infections and they contain microorganisms that fight against other microorganisms in case of infections. Interaction of certain antibiotics like tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones with dairy products may lead to discoloration or staining in the teeth.

This is because of calcium complexes formed between the calcium in the milk together with the antibiotic.

Antibacterial Medications and Tyramine - Rich Foods

Tyramine-Rich Foods:

Aged, pickled, fermented food, processed cheese, avocados, chocolates, dry sausage are all sources of the amino acid tyramine.

Metronidazole and linezolid which are used to treat infections caused by bacteria should be avoided with tyramine-rich foods as it is found to interfere with blood pressure.

Black Licorice and Heart Medications

Black Licorice:

It is the flavored extract of the licorice root. Black licorice candies often help to relieve gastrointestinal problems and ease indigestion; it is also used for the treatment of viral infections and respiratory ailments.

Digoxin used for the treatment of heart failure and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms) should be avoided with black licorice.

Glycyrrhizin, present in black licorice is a natural sweetener, capable of interacting with digoxin and might even lead to death.

Licorice is also found to reduce the efficacy of certain medicines like blood pressure medications, blood thinners, pain relievers and birth control medications.

Walnuts and Thyroid Medications


It is a rich source of fiber and essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids) and minerals like copper, molybdenum, biotin and manganese.

Walnuts improve brain power, helps to control weight, improves heart health and possess cancer-fighting properties.

High fiber containing foods like walnuts, soybean flour can prevent the absorption of thyroxine (thyroid medicine).

Blood Thinners and Spinach


It is a nutrient dense food which is found to be rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Spinach helps to remove the toxins from the body, fights cancer, reduces inflammation and also improves heart health.

Spinach being rich in Vitamin K when taken along with antiplatelet drugs like aspirin and anticoagulant drugs like warfarin would interfere with the activity making it less effective.

It is advisable to avoid broccoli, green leafy vegetables while taking blood thinner medications.

Bananas and Blood Pressure Medications


Bananas are well-known for their nutritional content and a wide range of health benefits. They are found to be a rich source of potassium and contain vitamins like Vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.

Blood pressure medications such as captopril, ramipril and enalapril increases potassium in the body and is used to lower the blood pressure.

Avoid taking bananas and potassium-rich foods that include oranges and green leafy vegetables along with blood pressure medications as it could increase the potassium levels drastically in the body leading to severe complications of the heart that might cause irregular heartbeats and palpitations.

How to Prevent Drug-Food Interactions

  • Consult the doctor or a health care professional about the type of food to be taken while being under medication.
  • Allow 3 hours time interval between certain antibiotics like tetracyclines and fluoroquinolone antibiotics while taking dairy products.
  • Educate the patient by bringing awareness about the dangerous side effects of drug -food interactions in the body.
  • Avoid taking medicines with alcohol and other drinks.
  • Follow the instructions exactly as given in the medication leaflet to prevent dangerous drug-food interactions.
References :
  1. Drug-Food Interactions - (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/drugs-procedures-devices/prescription-medicines/drug-food- interactions.html)
  2. Don't mix your meds with these foods - (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/11/don-t-mix-your-meds-with-these-foods/index.htm)
Source: Medindia

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