Food for thought - top 5 food and drinks that may affect your medications

While recently on a self-guided food tour of Japan, I was struck by an acute attack of gout.  Painful as it may be, I tried my best to cope and not let it ruin my vacation.  This made me think of 5 types of food and drinks that may affect your medications and your health. 

1)      Stay away from grapefruit.

Grapefruit and Seville oranges may affect how your body absorbs and breaks down medications.  In some people, this may sufficiently increase the amount of medication in your body leading to serious and life-threatening side-effects.  Most citrus fruits are thought of not to have this effect, but if you are not sure please ask your pharmacist.

2)      Watch what you drink.

Alcohol can have a variety of effects on your medications.   In some cases, it may either speed up or delay the breakdown of medications in your body which may affect how well your medications work.   Alcohol may also interact with some drugs causing additive effects leading to sleepiness and intoxication.  Refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages while on drugs that cause drowsiness like some cough and cold medications or sleeping pills.

3)      Read food labels for caffeine content.

While most of us associate caffeine with coffee, a significant amount may also be found in tea, pop, chocolate and energy drinks.  Consuming large amounts of caffeine may cause excitability, nervousness and rapid heartbeat.  This may become of concern for people taking anti-anxiety medications and medications that help you breathe better like bronchodilators.   Keep your caffeine consumption to a minimum!

4)      Tyramine-rich foods may affect your blood pressure

As food ages, ferments or cures, the amount of tyramine increases.  When taken with some antidepressants called MAOIs, tyramine may cause severe increases in blood pressure that may lead to a stroke.  Foods that are high in tyramine include aged cheeses, fermented vegetables and cured meats.  In order to prevent this, it is important to follow a tyramine-controlled diet. 

5)      Purine-rich foods may lead to painful gouty attacks.

Purine is commonly found in organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms, and it is a naturally occurring substance found in our bodies.  Our bodies break down purine into a substance known as uric acid. In patients with high uric acid levels, crystals may form and accumulate at a joint such as the big toe on the foot.  Reducing the amount of meat, seafood and beer in our diet and choosing low-fat dairy foods may reduce the chance of painful gouty attacks.

Your pharmacist is a valuable resource of how to take your medications properly.  Keep them in mind while travelling.  Bon voyage!

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