4 Common Food and Drug Interactions You Need to Be Aware Of

common food and drug interactions

7,000 people die each year due to adverse drug reactions (ADRs), according to the FDA. Learning about the most common food and drug interactions can help you avoid experiencing a serious negative reaction.

If you take medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), you may be surprised to learn that the food you eat has an impact on how your medication is digested and can even change its chemical composition. Always talk to your pharmacist about common food and drug interactions associated with your medication before you take it home.

1. Alcohol

One of the most common food and drug interactions happens with alcohol. Alcohol interacts badly with antihistamines such as Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin. Alcohol is a depressant and can increase the drowsiness and confusion that are common side effects of antihistamines.

Alcohol also interacts poorly with acetaminophen, or Tylenol, because they are both processed through your liver. If taken together in large quantities or over a sustained period, Tylenol and alcohol can cause irreversible liver damage. NSAIDs (or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin (trade names such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve) can increase the possibility of stomach bleeding when taken with alcohol because of their blood thinning properties.

On the prescription drug side, Statins or Lipid-Altering Agents used for high cholesterol can also cause liver damage if taken with alcohol. Vasodilators-Nitrates used for chest pain can lead to dangerously low blood pressure when taken with alcohol, which depresses your respiratory systems.

Alcohol can also make antibiotics less effective, most likely because it lowers your immune system, allowing bacterial infections to take a stronger hold. In general, it is best to avoid ingesting alcohol if you are taking any medications.

2. Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice causes a chemical reaction with the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is the main active ingredient in Robitussin, NyQuil, and Vicks. The vitamin C in grapefruit increases and prolongs the effects of dextromethorphan that can be dangerous if you plan to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Prescription medications like statins, thyroid drugs, blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and stomach acid-blocking medication all interact with grapefruit juice poorly. It can also interact with the effectiveness of birth control pills and cause side effects like nausea and cramping.

The vitamin C in grapefruit juice can cause higher or lower levels of the drug in your bloodstream, depending on how the medication is meant to metabolize in your body. Either way, you are not getting the correct dose, which can be very dangerous.

Grapefruit has a very high concentration of vitamin C, but other sources can have similar effects. Do not drink orange juice or concentrated lemonade for an hour before or after taking your medications.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and many sports and energy drinks. Medications that have negative interactions with caffeine include bronchodilators such as Albuterol—which treats asthma, bronchitis, and COPD—and antibacterial medications such as ciprofloxacin and linezolid.

Caffeine is a stimulant and when mixed with other stimulants like steroids and albuterol it can make you feel jittery and sick. Caffeine also constricts your blood vessels, which can keep your medication from distributing through your blood stream properly and raise your blood pressure. Ask your pharmacist if you should switch to decaffeinated coffee if you are taking blood pressure medication, cardiovascular medications, asthma aids, or ADD medications like Adderall or Vyvanse.

4. Milk and Dairy Products

Even something as seemingly benign as milk and dairy products can wreak havoc on certain medications. Bisacodyl, which is found in laxatives like Dulcolax and Fleet Laxative, has an enteric coating that prevents the medication from being absorbed through the stomach and instead gets absorbed in the intestines. Milk and dairy products will dissolve that coating, which makes the medication useless and causes stomach irritation.

Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin will interact with the calcium in milk and yogurt (or a calcium-fortified drink), causing irritation and gas. With tetracycline antibiotics, you need to avoid ingesting milk and milk products one hour before and two hours after taking the drug because the calcium will neutralize its effectiveness.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of drug and food interactions, so please be sure to ask you pharmacist about possible interactions with each medication you take. And always consult you’re your pharmacist when you have particular concentrations of acidic foods, proteins, or sugars in your diet due to a new diet plan like Paleo, HCG, Vegan, or carb-free.

For more information about the common food and drug interactions to watch for, contact Smith Caldwell Drug Store at 501-392-5470 to speak with one of our experienced pharmacists.