The holiday season is upon us and that usually means one thing – food and lots of it.
But for the seven out of 10 Americans who take prescription drugs, it may be more complicated than just piling everything from the table onto your plate.
Many foods may negate the intended effects of prescription medicines and others can even be harmful. It’s a subject Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom knows well – she’s a clinician, the health and nutrition editor for NBC, and the author of “Don’t Eat This, If You’re Taking That: The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine.”
“In a perfect world, you would think that all this information would be at everybody’s fingertips, but as we found in researching this book, that’s the reason that it was reason it was written,” she says. “In these times, you really have to be your own health advocate and know more than what’s on the pill bottle.”
Fernstrom shares three things to watch for in your diet:
“Grapefruits – and even grapefruit juice – have a component as part of the fruit that interferes in the digestive track with the normal breakdown of all kinds of medications,” she says. “Many people know this connection from statins, cholesterol-lowering agents . . . so your body is seeing way too high of a dose of the statin, and that could lead to a lot of side effects.”
According to Fernstrom, the fruit can also affect certain anti-depressants and diabetes drugs.
“When it comes to pain medications, more isn’t always better,” Fernstrom says.
She cautions against drinking alcohol – not even a glass of wine – as a means to relax.
“That is the absolutely wrong thing to do, because pain medicines act on the brain and so does alcohol on some of the same brain centers,” Fernstrom says, “You’re gonna have an effect that can be way too sedating for brain activity and alcohol is a real no-no in terms of mixing that with any kind of pain medications that you take.”
“It kinda looks like a lifesaver, so you don’t even think of this as something that’s really medication, and most of these contain a lot of calcium as part of the active ingredient,” Fernstrom says.
She cautions that if a person’s diet already includes calcium supplements or plenty of dairy products, too much may place a person beyond the safe limit.
“People don’t count the total amount of calcium and many people don’t realize that the antacids they’re taking everyday has almost their whole day’s need of calcium,” Fernstrom says.