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It’s routine to ask your doctor or pharmacist if a new prescription drug could interact with other medications you’re taking. But have you inquired about potentially problematic foods? It turns out, a handful of commonly consumed fruits, veggies, snacks and drinks can affect the way medicines are absorbed or metabolized in the body.
“It’s an issue that’s not on a lot of people’s radar screens. Honestly, it’s not on many doctors’ radar screens, either,” says Bethanne Brown, a professor of pharmacy practice at the J.L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati. “This information can be found in the packet you receive when you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, but it can get lost in all the written information provided.”
It’s especially important for older adults to be aware of potential food-drug interactions. Research from the Lown Institute shows that 42 percent of U.S. adults 65 and older take five or more prescription drugs per day and nearly 20 percent take 10 or more, complicating matters when it comes to remembering how to take each medication.
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In some cases consuming a specific food could make a particular drug less effective or potentially increase blood levels of the drug. In other instances the combination could trigger bad, or even dangerous, side effects. That’s why it’s important to always ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any foods that can interact with the medicines you’re taking.
In the meantime, here are some commonly used medications and the foods and beverages that could create a problematic pairing.
1. Dairy and some antibiotics
With antibiotics in the tetracycline class (including doxycycline and minocycline, which are prescribed to treat bacterial pneumonia and other infections) and ciprofloxacin (from the quinolone class, also prescribed for pneumonia and other infections), the calcium in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt could inhibit drug absorption, which could compromise the medication’s ability to treat your infection effectively.
Your best bet is to avoid calcium-containing foods an hour before, or two hours after, taking one of these antibiotics, Brown says.