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Friday February 23, 2018

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Don't Eat This if You're Taking That

If a prescription label says "take with meals," does it matter what you eat? I currently take eight different medications for various health problems and would like to know if there are any foods I need to avoid.

It depends on the medication. Many meds should be taken with food — any food — to increase their absorption and reduce the risk of side effects. But some foods and medications can interact, reducing the medications' effectiveness or increasing the risk of harmful side effects.

To stay safe, you should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your prescriptions, along with what foods and beverages to avoid while you are taking them. In the meantime, here are some foods you should avoid when taking some commonly prescribed drugs.

Cholesterol Medications: If you take a certain statin drug to control high cholesterol such as Lipitor, Zocor, Altoprev, Mevacor, or generics atorvastatin, simvastatin or lovastatin, you should avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice. Grapefruit can augment the amount of the drug in your bloodstream and increase the risk of side effects, especially leg pain.

Blood Pressure Medicine: If you take an ACE inhibitor drug including Capoten, Vasotec, Monopril, or Zestril to lower your blood pressure, you should limit foods that contain potassium, like bananas, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes and salt substitutes that contain potassium. ACE inhibitors raise the body's potassium levels. Eating too many potassium rich-foods while taking an ACE inhibitor can cause an irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations.

Blood Thinning Medications: If you are taking Coumadin, Jantoven, or the generic warfarin, you should limit kale and other greens, including broccoli, cabbage, spinach and brussel sprouts. These foods can block the effects of blood-thinning medications, which could put you at risk for developing blood clots. You also need to watch out for garlic, ginger, vitamin E and fish oil supplements because they can increase the medication's blood-thinning abilities, which could put you at risk for excessive bleeding.

Antidepressants: If you take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressant like Marplan, Nardil, Emsam, Parnate, or generics isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline or tranylcypromine, you should avoid aged cheeses, chocolate, cured meats and alcoholic drinks. These contain tyramine, which can raise blood pressure. Normally, the body controls tyramine levels with an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, but MAOI antidepressants block that enzyme.

Thyroid Medications: If you take a medication for hypothyroidism like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid or generic levothyroxine, you should avoid tofu, walnuts and soymilk because these can prevent your body from absorbing your thyroid medication.

Anti-Anxiety Medications: If you take medication for anxiety like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, or generics alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam or lorazepam, you should avoid alcohol. These medications act as sedatives, binding with the brain's natural tranquilizers to calm you down. If you mix these drugs with alcohol, the side effects intensify and can cause you to feel lightheaded, sleepy or forgetful.

Antibiotics: If you are taking an antibiotic like Sumycin, Dynacin, Monodox, or generic tetracycline, doxycycline or minocycline, you should avoid dairy and calcium supplements for a couple hours before and after taking the medicine. This includes milk, yogurt and cheese. The calcium in dairy products binds to the antibiotic, which can prevent your body from absorbing it and may make the medication ineffective.

To find more dietary guidance on the drugs you take, see reliable health websites like MedlinePlus.gov or MayoClinic.org. Also consider the excellent new AARP book "Don't Eat This If You're Taking That: The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine" available at Amazon.com and BN.com for $13.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 5, 2018
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