Beware of food and drug interactions

A little grapefruit in the morning could be the source of a few aches and pains later in the day.

It’s a problem that can occur when the fruit is consumed alongside some commonly prescribed medications, said Saskatoon pharmacist Amanda Jacobson.

She said the fruit can interact with medications, including those taken for cholesterol management, resulting in increased side-effects.

“I don’t eat a whole lot of grapefruits, so oftentimes I just assume nobody else does either,” said Jacobson. “It’s a thing that we should probably be reminding people of.”

Jacobson, also a registered dietitian, addressed the Manitoba Women’s Institute conference in Russell, Man., April 15 about drug-food interactions.

“I try to focus on the different types of interactions there are,” she said. “So not just drug-drug interactions, but what kind of interactions can occur between food and the medications you take or herbal products, natural medicines … because that seems to be a huge area that people are getting into now.”

Interactions with medications can occur as people take supplements like omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine, calcium and vitamin D.

Jacobson said it’s not fear mongering. For the most part, supplements like calcium and vitamin D aren’t affecting people’s prescription medications. More often, it’s the other way around, she said.

Understanding how they interact, and when to take medication and supplements, is important. A calcium supplement can be taken anytime of day, but absorbs better with a meal, said Jacobson.

Bisphosphonates, prescribed for bone health, need to be taken on their own.

“I think we’re in such an information age. People are wanting to know more about their medications, wanting to know more about their health,” she said. “Fifteen, 20 years ago, we didn’t have all these different herbal or natural medicines or complementary treatments that we do now. People are looking more into those kinds of things as an alternative to taking their prescription medications.”

The internet is a useful tool for curious patients, but might not be accessible for everyone. For those, she recommended talking to the local pharmacist.

“If you have a concern or you have a question, ask your pharmacist, ask your doctor, because sometimes we try to point or highlight the more common things that people should know about but sometimes we miss those things too,” said Jacobson.

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