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Should I avoid certain foods, or alcohol, while on this medication?

Avoiding certain foods, or alcohol, while taking certain medications

When we take certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications, we need to be aware of how they may interact with the foods or drinks we consume while on them.

The Effects of Alcohol on Prescription Medication

If you’re taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) for example to ward off the hangover from the night before you may be putting yourself at risk. Combining acetaminophen with alcohol increases the risk of liver toxicity. Aspirin would be a better alternative especially if you have more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day.

Also, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants to treat depression called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs combined with alcohol may cause stomach or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Metronidazole (Flagyl), commonly used to treat infections like the vaginal infection bacterial vaginosis, interact horribly with alcohol. This drug interferes with alcohol metabolism and causes severe vomiting if taken with alcohol.

Avoiding Dairy

There are also certain antibiotics that should not be taken alongside dairy products like milk, yogurt, or cheese since they interfere with the antibiotic’s effectiveness. These dairy products bind to the medicines like Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Levaquin (levofloxacin), Avelox (moxifloxacin) and prevent their absorption into the bloodstream.

Avoid Grapefruit

And if you’re on certain statins for high cholesterol like Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Zocor (simvastatin), you should avoid grapefruit. An important enzyme in the body called CYP3A4 oxidizes small organic molecules like toxins or drugs so they can be removed from the body however grapefruit juice (which contains compounds called furanocoumarins) stop CYP3A from doing its job. As a result, more of the drug is absorbed, making it more powerful than it’s meant to be — even toxic in some cases. Orange juice does not contain these compounds so it’s a better alternative to grapefruit juice.

Ask Your Pharmacist

Although it’s important to read the labels on your prescription medications you can always ask your pharmacist if there are certain foods or drinks you should avoid while taking them.  Even the most common medications like Tylenol contain risks that can be avoided with a little knowledge. Also speak to your medical professional about food interactions with your prescriptions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Petersen

Christopher Petersen has over 25 years of experience in the Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) and Managed Care industries. Chris began his career developing pharmacy management software in the late 1980s and is a subject matter expert in pharmacy claims adjudication and discount drug card practices. He has extensive experience in PBM Sales, Account Management, and Client Services servicing Taft-Hartley groups, large and mid-sized employers, TPAs, and large payor organizations.

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