Grapefruit Not The Only Food That Can Affect Medication

From grapefruit to calcium to licorice, some foods and their nutrients can interfere with the way your medicines work.

From milk and cookies to chocolate and peanut butter, some foods make a tasty combination. But attention to medical labels, and not your taste buds, is needed when combining certain foods with medications.

Milk and other calcium products, for example, can block the absorption of certain antibiotics. And eating large quantities of chocolate while taking some antidepressants can cause a sharp rise in blood pressure. Even some licorice can reduce the effects of certain blood pressure drugs and diuretics.

A recently published review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that found an increasing number of prescription drugs could have potentially dangerous interactions with grapefruit and grapefruit juice highlights the importance of consumers being aware of possible food and drug interactions.

It’s been known for some time that grapefruit juice can “both increase or decrease the absorption of a small number of drugs,” says Hartmut Derendorf, chairman of pharmaceutics at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Derendorf was not involved in the Canadian review.

“If the drug is metabolized in the gut wall to a large extent and this metabolism is blocked, then the concentrations in the blood will go up. An example is the lipid-lowering drug simvastatin (Zocor),” says Derendorf. “For other drugs such as the antihistamine fexofenadine (Allegra), grapefruit juice blocks the uptake into the bloodstream and the concentrations in blood will go down.”

In all such cases there are alternative medications available that will not interact with grapefruit and the other citrus fruits that contain furanocoumarins, the culprit behind the “grapefruit juice effect,” Derendorf says. These include Seville oranges (often used in marmalade), limes and tangelos, a cross between tangerines and grapefruit. Sweet oranges, such as navel and Valencia, do not contain furanocoumarins.

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