When you’re taking a medication, you want it to be effective – but did you know that lurking in the kitchen, some of your favourite foods could actually be working against you?
Some of you may have known about these food and drug interactions for a while already – but others might have you scratching your head, saying, “WHAT!?” Keep an eye out for these foods when you’re cooking at home or dining out at a restaurant.
Yes m’am. Grapefruit is a top offender, affecting various medications for high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, some pain killers, statins, and many, many more.
It was discovered (entirely by accident in a separate lab test) that grapefruit contains chemicals that interact with key drug metabolizing enzymes in the body – making it one of the most delicious threats to your wellbeing if you’re on medication.
The good news is that you don’t really have to give up other citrus fruits – oranges, lemons and limes are, in most cases, all safe. Double check with your doctor if you’re worried you’re consuming too much citrus or are concerned it could be limiting the effectiveness of your current drug regimen.
Diuretics, beta blockers, MAOIs, ACE inhibitors – bananas are like grapefruit’s tricky side-kick. High in potassium and Tyramine, they should also be avoided by diabetics because they can spike blood sugar. The mighty banana has a ton of health benefits for many seniors, though, so this is another one to double check with your doctor. It may be that you need to limit the number of bananas without entirely excluding them.
Leafy Green Vegetables!?
After a lifetime of being told to “eat your veggies”, it may come as a shock that leafy greens can actually be bad for you if you’re taking blood thinning medication.
The reason? Our usual suspects – spinach, kale, broccoli and swiss chard – all contain high levels of vitamin K, which could prevent your medicine (like warfarin) from successfully preventing blood clots. Moderation is the key here! Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk and find out the right amounts of greens to pair with your meds.
Not everyone’s favourite treat, natural licorice contains glycyrrhiza root, which can deplete the body of potassium, while retaining sodium. This can cause complications with medication for heart failure (causing irregular heartbeat) or high blood pressure (resulting in clotting.)
If you can’t live without licorice, try to find unnaturally flavoured black licorice, which doesn’t contain glycyrrhiza.
Deli items like aged cheese and meats!?
Consider passing on salami, camembert, gouda, pastrami, pepperoni and other delectable deli items if you’re currently taking an MAOI for depression. Foods that are aged or fermented are rich in Tyramine and can cause a host of side effects, like vomiting, headache, chest pain (and more) in patients on these drugs, because MAOIs inhibit the body from metabolizing it. The good news is that there are tons of healthy alternatives to your favourite lunch meat or sandwich to try!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible food and drug interactions. When in doubt, there are websites that help you check your medication for possible interactions, but a conversation with your doctor is always best!