Ignoring prescription drug warning labels can be hazardous to your health. Those little labels attached to your medicine container contain valuable information meant to keep you as safe as possible. To avoid potentially serious side effects, ranging from drowsiness and nausea to serious liver damage, some medicines shouldn’t be combined with certain types of food or drinks, or they should be spaced out as far as possible.
To make sure your medicines work as they should, here are some of the most common food-and-drug combinations to avoid.
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Many people enjoy having a piece of grapefruit or a glass of grapefruit juice at breakfast or as a snack later in the day. But if you’re taking certain types of medicines for your heart, to manage anxiety, or to control seizures, you may need to slice this fruit from your diet. Grapefruits contain a substance that can cause some drugs to be absorbed too quickly, dangerously increasing their effect. Or the drugs may absorb too slowly, so they don’t work as well. Check your drug label to see if it specifically says to avoid grapefruit while on that medication.
Licorice: some people love it and others hate it. If you count yourself among the licorice lovers of the world, you may have to stay away from this treat if you take certain heart medicines or blood pressure drugs. A compound in licorice called glycyrrhizin can lower the amount of potassium in your blood, resulting in an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure.
Some people take licorice supplements to deal with problems like heartburn, sore throats, or even ulcers. If you use licorice supplements, ask your pharmacist if you should stop taking them while on your prescription drug.
Many medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, come with warnings to avoid alcohol. This doesn’t only mean you’re not supposed to drink alcohol when actually taking the medicine–it means don’t drink alcohol at all. Alcohol can cause bad reactions when mixed with certain drugs: drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, memory problems, and more. Alcohol mixed with some medicines could also cause internal bleeding and liver damage, and it can even slow blood clotting.
Medicines may also change how you react to alcohol itself, causing you to get drunk faster than you would otherwise, potentially exposing you to additional risk.
What’s better than a hot cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning? While you may enjoy the jolt the caffeine brings you, if you take bronchodilators, you may need to avoid that morning routine. These medicines, which open your airways so you can breathe more easily, may make your heart beat faster and cause nervousness. Caffeine can make this worse.