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Food and Drug Combinations that Kill

Avoid these potentially deadly food and drug combinations.
Can these things mess with your medications?

It all started with a can of soda. I was at a picnic and a friend asked me to grab a drink. I pulled a Fresca from the ice chest and handed it to him. That's when he said, "I can't drink that, it has grapefruit juice in it and it'll mess with my heart medication."

At first, I thought he was kidding. Fresca can screw up medicine? So I made a few calls and it turns out, he's probably right. Grapefruit juice is the issue. Several drugs interact with grapefruit juice and cause an increase, or decrease in the drug potency.

The third ingredient in Fresca is concentrated grapefruit juice.

A 2012 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found "more than 85 drugs, most of which are available in Canada, are known or predicted to interact with grapefruit." The list of drugs included antibiotics, calcium channel blockers used for high blood pressure, statins that lower cholesterol, drugs to treat cancer, treatments for HIV and medicines that suppress the immune system of organ transplants.

The lead researcher in the study, David G. Bailey said, "Half of these drugs actually can cause sudden death... (interactions can cause) acute kidney or respiratory failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, or other serious effects."

Lemon and orange juice don't seem to be a problem, but lime and the juice from Seville oranges (a type of sour orange) are also considered dangerous. It made me wonder what other common foods should people be careful with?

Bananas are something I keep at our facility for people when they finish a workout. They provide simple carbohydrates and potassium. When a banana is combined with protein it's an excellent recovery food. But, people who take ACE inhibitors might want to skip them. ACE inhibitors work by relaxing blood vessels and decreasing blood volume so your blood pressure goes down.

ACE inhibitors also increase the amount of potassium in your body. When you combine that with the potassium from a banana, you might experience potentially deadly changes in heart rhythm or heart palpitations. Other potassium-rich foods to avoid include oranges and salt substitutes with potassium.

Cheese is widely used in lots of recipes, but some cheeses have high levels of tyramine which can cause blood pressure to spike. If you combine antidepressants that are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) with cheese, the combination can cause a sudden and dangerous increase in blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke.

Milk is a fixture at breakfast for millions of people. In moderation, it's not a bad choice, unless you're taking antibiotics. The dairy binds to the medicine and reduces the effectiveness of the antibiotic, because your body absorbs less. Avoid dairy at least one hour before and two hours after taking antibiotics.

Leafy green vegetables would seem to be the ultimate good-for-you food. But if you're on a blood thinner, the Vitamin K in the greens make the medicine less effective. You might also have problems with broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, spinach and turnip greens. Talk to your doctor about any changes you may need to make.

Black licorice is found in candies, some cakes and other sweets. It also has glycyrrhizin, which when combined with glycosides that treat abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure, can create an opposite effect. The combination can cause irregular heartbeat and a heart attack.

Alcohol warnings are on numerous prescriptions but you might not realize they can also affect over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen. Liver damage is one of the side effects and if you're drinking more than two glasses a day, your risk of severe liver damage is higher.

For people 60 years or older, according to research published in Gerontologist, there's an 81% chance that you're on at least one prescription medication. Do yourself a favor and read the warnings that accompany the prescription. Take time to talk with your doctor as well. Avoid these potentially deadly combinations.

Learn more! Click Here to download: "Avoid Food-Drug Interactions | A Guide from the National Consumers League and U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

UPDATE: 10/9/2015

Another bummer for grapefruit. Researchers found that people who ate grapefruit at least once a week had a 30% higher risk of melanoma than those who didn't. The researchers tracked about 64,000 female nurses and 42,000 male health professionals for nearly 25 years.

The study also found that people who drink orange juice five times a week or more, had a 22 percent higher risk of melanoma than those who didn't drink the juice. Our recommendations have always been, don't drink the juice, eat the fruit. The findings were reported online June 29, 2015, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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