8 Common Medications That Can Have Severe Interactions With Foods
For anyone who is caring for someone after a stroke or TBI, the number of medications being used to maintain health can often be overwhelming.
You want to ensure that you are eating all of the right things to improve and maintain health. Here is a previous article if you are looking for ways to improve your diet after a hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury:
While a good diet is a wonderful thing that you can do to improve your outcomes, if you or the person you are caring for is also taking any medications, there are a few things you should look out for. I know, who can keep it all straight?
Pharmacists are a great resource to help avoid interactions of medications with other medications or over-the-counter supplements or medications, but did you know you also have to be careful about the intake of certain foods?
Drug-food interactions can happen and generally are often overlooked because they are not talked about to patients and caregivers.
As a nurse practitioner, I have seen that some pharmacies will put warning labels on prescription bottles to help notify patients and caregivers that they need to avoid certain foods when taking some prescriptions. However, I also know that there is a lot of information on that tiny little bottle and that most patients and caregivers are not actually reading those labels!
I will break down the list of the most common medications and foods to avoid in this article, but as always, if you are not sure, ask your provider or pharmacist. Better safe than sorry!
ACE Inhibitors are often prescribed for high blood pressure. Medications in this class may be known as:
Lisinopril, Benazepril, Monopril, Vasotec, Zestril
These are just a few in the class. If you are on any blood pressure medication, your pharmacist or physician can tell you if they fall under ACE Inhibitors.
If you are taking an ACE Inhibitor, you may need to decrease or limit your intake of foods that are high in potassium. Including:
Bananas, dried fruit like raisins or apricots, spinach, broccoli, winter squash, and avocado.
The combination of ACE Inhibitors and increase potassium can cause a heart arrhythmia or change in your heart rhythm. Arrhythmias can lead to stroke, heart failure, or a heart attack.
Aspirin or Warfarin (Coumadin)
If you have suffered an ischemic stroke or have a history of blood clots, you may be on a blood thinning medication like aspirin or warfarin. For those of you who are taking these types of medications, here is a list of food you should use caution when eating:
Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley
These foods are high in vitamin K, which can decrease the effectiveness of your medications, putting you at greater risk of blood clots. While these foods do not need to be avoided, if you are eating them, you should try to eat the same amount daily, so that your medication effectiveness can be better managed by your provider.
This medication is often used for individuals who have thyroid issues, generally an underactive or hypothyroid.
For individuals who are taking this medication, foods that are high in fiber:
Walnuts, grapefruit juice, dietary fiber, juices with extra calcium
These foods can interact with levothyroxine, making it less effective in treating the underactive thyroid.
These foods do not need to be eliminated completely but rather eaten several hours after the medication is taken.
Statins (Cholesterol Lowering Drugs)
Statins are prevalent medications and may also be known as:
Simvastatin, Atorvastatin, Rosuvastatin, Pravastatin
These are just a few, again if you are on cholesterol medication and are not sure if it falls under this category, get in touch with your pharmacist or provider.
The big one to avoid with this drug class is grapefruit juice and grapefruits. They interfere with the effectiveness of the medications and should be avoided altogether.
Calcium Channel Blockers
These medications often treat high blood pressure, chest pain or angina, irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmias.
They may go by the following:
Amlodipine, Diltiazem, Nefedipine (Procardia), Verapamil
For these medications, unfortunately, grapefruit and grapefruit juice are also off-limits. Alcoholic beverages are also discouraged while using this medication. These foods and drinks can change the way the medications work in your body, causing severe side effects.
This medication is prescribed for individuals to treat diagnoses like Atrial Fibrillation or AFib, Heart Failure,
I am sorry if you are a lover of grapefruit and grapefruit juice, this is another medication that will not play well with these! The increase in the severity of side effects has been noted in some individuals, so your best strategy is to stick with other citrus fruits like oranges.
Antibiotics are fairly common and used to treat a variety of infections. However, in my practice and even in my own family, I’ve noted not many people know you need to avoid:
This includes butter, milk, cheese, and yogurt. You should at least have a 3 hours window of time between the antibiotic before you indulge in any ice cream or other dairy product.
Dairy can decrease the effectiveness of the antibiotic, making it more difficult to fight off whatever infection you are taking it for!
You don’t need to stay off of it completely, but just make sure you wait in between the dose and eating your favorite cheese!
Tylenol or Acetaminophen
Because these common painkillers are processed in your liver, it is important to avoid alcoholic beverages while taking these types of medications.
Mixing these 2 things together can increase the risk of damage to your liver, which is basically the filter of your body!
This wonderful organ has big responsibilities including:
- Bile production and excretion.
- Getting rid of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs.
- Helping your body process fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
- Keeping important things safe, such as glycogen, vitamins, and minerals.
- Creation and use of plasma proteins, such as albumin, and clotting factors.
Trust me, you don’t want to make your liver sad. So just make sure if you take any acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol, you avoid any adult beverages.
This class of medication is used for depression treatment. They are also often used for panic disorder and social anxiety.
Some of these may include:
Isocarboxazid (Marplan), Phenelzine (Nardil), Selegiline (Emsam), Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
For anyone taking these medications, there is a risk of toxic levels in the blood if too much tyramine builds up in the system. Foods to be avoided include:
Processed meats (hot dogs, lunch meats, bacon, smoked fish)
Fermented foods (Sauerkruat, kimchi, tofu)
If these foods are consumed while taking MAOIs, the risk of extremely high blood pressure can result in a hypertensive crisis.
As with all medications, remember your pharmacist is a great resource and the prescribing provider should always be willing to help you stay safe with your prescriptions.
If you are currently taking prescriptions, it’s likely that you have had or are preventing a severe health issue from happening. Take the time to ensure you are staying safe and doing all you can to maintain and even improve your health.
There are even tools online that can help you do your own detective work about your diet and medications.
The little efforts you make now will likely save you from potentially life-altering changes to your health later! Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
As always I am a real person and read and answer any and all emails. If you have specific questions, please reach out to me at: