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Food & Drug Interactions

Written by Sue Duran

Things to know about food and drug interactions and precautions.

If you are mixing medications and food, stop and think about what you are putting into your body. Some foods increase drug absorption, while others keep the drug from entering your body altogether. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the safety of medications, but this is a huge job. You must be a steward of your own body.

Pharmacists and physicians can answer questions about your medications and supplements, as consumer references are for guidelines only. Always ask the healthcare professionals who oversee your health, because the wonderful thing about modern technology is the number of sources available to physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nutrition specialists, and other healthcare professionals.

prescription medicationsThere are also some very good consumer websites, such as www.fda.gov/drugs. Just search for “food and drug interactions.” The site offers an extensive list of food-drug interactions with some excellent tips about what to avoid.

In addition to food, there is information about caffeine and alcohol precautions with certain drugs. Alcohol should be avoided when taking pain medications, antihistamines, and cold and cough preparations, because alcohol can increase side effects. Especially important to know is that acetaminophen (Tylenol) should not be taken if you are consuming more than three or four drinks a day, because the combination can cause severe liver damage. If you are a cat owner, make sure you never give your cat acetaminophen, as it is very toxic. If a cat ingests acetaminophen, call your veterinarian.

looking at prescription medicationsIf you are taking acetaminophen already and buy other products over the counter (OTC) with acetaminophen, you can overdose. Be very careful about the amount you give children and use only the recommended total daily dose. You need to read the label to understand everything that is in the medication, even over the counter medicine. The OTC medication might have the same active compound as a prescription drug that you are taking on doctor’s orders.

And are you aware that chocolate has a large amount of caffeine and may increase your blood pressure if consumed in excess? Chocolate (especially baker’s chocolate) and artificial sweeteners in sugarless gum and candles are also very toxic to dogs and cats. Also, drinking plenty of water is extremely important when taking medications, because the drug needs to be washed from your body after it has done its job.

The FDA also regulates dietary supplements (often called nutraceuticals) such as glucosamine. Neutraceuticals are not as tightly regulated as medications, so the buyer should beware. Ask your pharmacist for a quality product, and remember that these too may interact with medications. A good way to monitor your medicines is to give a list of all medications, vitamins, nutraceuticals, herbs, and OTC drugs that you take to your pharmacist. Also include everything you take when you fill out forms at the doctor’s office.

The FDA website also covers topics such as how to buy drugs online and how to make sure they are safe. This is an excellent reference, as you should be aware of the dangers of ordering medications over the Internet if they are from an unknown company. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (www.nabp.net) offers a listing of safe online pharmacies that have received the association’s VIPPS accreditation. Also, there is a list of pharmacies not to use.

Auburn University operates three human pharmacies and a veterinary pharmacy to assist you with your prescriptions and questions for humans and animals.

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