You probably know you shouldn’t drink alcohol if you’re taking certain medications, but you may be surprised to learn that some medications can have dangerous side effects or become less effective when taken with certain foods and drinks.
Below is a list of some of the most common medications and the foods and drinks you should avoid while taking them. (Note: This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to read warning labels on any medications before you start taking them or ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking them.)
Blood pressure medications
ACE inhibitors under the name brands Monopril, Zestril and Univasc as well as generic brands can raise the potassium levels in your body, which may cause irregular heartbeat or, in severe cases, cardiac arrest.
To prevent your potassium from reaching dangerous levels, limit your intake of potassium-rich foods like bananas, spinach and other leafy greens, sweet potatoes and salt substitutes that contain potassium. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but don’t eat them all in one day, either! Having a banana today and a spinach salad tomorrow shouldn’t cause a problem.
Certain cholesterol medications, like Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Lipex, atorvastatin, lovastatin and simvastatin, should not be combined with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Grapefruit can prevent these drugs from being broken down by the liver, which means toxic amounts of the drug may accumulate in your body. If you are taking one of the medications listed above, it’s probably best to avoid grapefruit altogether, but you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about your particular prescription.
If you have had a heart attack or are at high risk for blood clots, your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner like Coumadin, Jantoven or warfarin. If you are taking any of these drugs, you should limit your intake of leafy greens. Vitamin K, which is found in most leafy greens as well as green tea, can block the effects of warfarin, increasing your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot. On the flip side, garlic, ginger and cranberries may increase the drug’s blood-thinning abilities, so these foods may need to be avoided as well.
Calcium can lessen the effectiveness of some antibiotics, including Sumycin, Dynacin, Monodox, tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline. If your doctor prescribes any of these medications, avoid dairy products for at least a couple of hours after taking your daily dose. Calcium binds to the antibiotic, preventing your body from absorbing the drug and rendering it essentially ineffective. Not all antibiotics have the same effect if taken with dairy; just those listed above.
Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid and levothyroxine are all commonly prescribed for thyroid problems. Eating soy products like tofu or drinking soymilk can prevent your body from absorbing the drug. Walnuts can have the same effect. If you’re taking any of the thyroid medications listed, limit or avoid soy altogether to get the full effect of the drug.
Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, alprazolam, donazepam, diazepam and lorazepam are all medications that act as sedatives. If you are on any of these drugs, it’s best to avoid alcohol. When mixed with alcohol, these medications can make you feel drunker and/or sleepier and can cause difficulty remembering things.
When in doubt, ask your doctor
Before you begin taking any medication, be sure to ask your doctor if there are any foods or drinks you should avoid while you’re on the medication. It’s also important to remember that some medications can have negative interactions with other medications, so be sure your doctor has a complete list of medications and supplements you’re taking to avoid any potentially dangerous interactions.
If you have any questions or concerns about prescription medications, contact a primary care provider with Goshen Physicians.