Foods to Avoid When You're on Medication
Find out which foods can interfere with these 5 common prescriptions
Having a health condition that requires daily medication can add stress to your already busy life. And with some medications, remembering to take the pill isn’t enough. You may also have to remember what not to take with it. Here are five commonly used medications and the foods you may have to avoid with them.
1. Certain types of statins
Examples: lovastatin (Altocor, Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor)
Food to approach with caution: Grapefruit. You don’t have to cut this completely out of your diet, but some experts advise people on these types of statins to keep grapefruit juice to a quart a day or less.
Why: Grapefruit juice contains a chemical that can keep you from breaking down these statins, resulting in a large amount of the medication in your system. This increases your chances of side effects, which can range from mild muscle and joint pain to kidney failure. While side effects usually occur in people on high doses of these types of statins, be sure to speak to your doctor before taking your first sip of juice.
2. Blood thinner
Example: warfarin (Coumadin)
Food to approach with caution: Foods high in vitamin K, such as kale, broccoli, cabbage and spinach. You don’t have to avoid these healthy foods if you’re on warfarin, but you do need to eat them consistently. The danger occurs if you eat them every day one week then not at all the next. If you eat the same amount each week, your warfarin dose can be adjusted so it works best with your diet.
Why: Warfarin and vitamin K are on two sides of the same coin. Your body uses vitamin K to help make your blood clot and prevent excess bleeding. Warfarin is a medicine that keeps blood from clotting too much, preventing blood clots that may result in stroke or sudden death. It does this by slowing down vitamin K’s ability to clot. So if you add more vitamin K once you’re already on warfarin, the medication might not be able to keep up with the increased vitamin level, which keeps it from doing its job.
3. and 4. ACE inhibitors and Potassium-sparing diuretics
Examples of ACE inhibitors: benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), fosinopril (Monopril), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
Examples of potassium-sparing diuretics: spironolactone (Aldactone), triamterene (Dyrenium)
Food to approach with caution: Large amounts of foods that contain potassium, such as bananas. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a banana-themed snack, you just can’t enjoy a banana-themed feast. But just laying off bananas won’t do it. High amounts of potassium can be found in a lot of foods, such as potato chips, almonds, dried fruit, cooked spinach and salt-substitutes. Check the nutritional information on your food and ask your doctor if you’re not sure how much potassium is safe.
Why: Both of these types of medications are used to help those with high blood pressure or heart issues. They do so by stopping production or blocking certain hormones in the body. As a result, potassium stays in your body, rather than exiting with your urine. Too much potassium can result in your heart beating irregularly, which can become life threatening.
5. Thyroid medication
Examples: levothyroxine (Levo-T, Levothroid, Levoxyl, Novothyrox, Synthroid)
Food to approach with caution: Walnuts, calcium supplements and soybean flour (found in some soy milks). You don’t have to stop eating these altogether. Just consume them a few hours before or after you take your medication.
Why: These foods can keep your body from absorbing your thyroid medication, which can make it very tricky to get your medication dosage correct. Be sure to take this medication on an empty stomach and check with your doctor to ensure you're taking the right dose.