Get a better understanding of how different types of medications work with certain foods.

Usually, when the words “drug” and “interaction” are used together we think about drugs interacting with other drugs, but this is not always the case. When a food or beverage prevents a medication from working correctly or causes a side effect, this is known as a food-drug interaction.

There are a number of food-drug interactions that can cause changes in a drug’s breakdown, efficacy and potential side effects. For instance, many people who have had the pleasure of enjoying a delicious grapefruit are also able to appreciate the joke that grapefruit has more juice than “meets the eye.” Grapefruit and grapefruit products can alter the way the body processes certain medications. If you drink greater than 10 ounces of grapefruit juice daily with cholesterol medications, commonly referred to as “statins” (simvastatin, atorvastatin, lovastatin), the medication can end up staying in your bloodstream longer and put you at increased risk for liver damage and muscle breakdown.

If you take warfarin, vegetables high in vitamin K (broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc.), can decrease the effectiveness of this medication. It isn’t necessary to give up these vegetables altogether, but it is important to remain consistent in the amounts you consume daily. You should avoid eating large amounts or making sudden changes in your daily vegetable intake, and it is important to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

All medications work differently and may need to be taken on a specific schedule considering your meals and other medications.

For example, Advil® (ibuprofen) and Aleve® (naproxen) need to be taken with food to avoid upset stomach. However, thyroid medications, Synthroid (levothyroxine) or osteoporosis medications, Fosamax (alendronate) need to be taken on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before your first meal of the day to work efficiently. And other medications, such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro and Levaquin) need to be separated from products containing calcium, iron or zinc by two hours before or six hours after.

It is important to carefully read and follow the instructions on the label or packaging anytime you take a medication, whether it is a prescription or over-the-counter. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist. As your healthcare provider and a medication expert, they will be happy to help you learn more about how to take your medications.