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Food and Drug Interactions Affecting Seniors

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If you or a loved one takes medication on a regular basis, it is extremely important to be aware of the risk of food and drug interactions. Certain types of foods can change the way a medication behaves; it might prevent it from working altogether, increase potential side effects, or even create new side effects. This is why it is so important to read the labels of each medication, paying particular attention to the following questions. The section below will review several senior food and drug FAQs.

Senior Food and Drug FAQs

Senior Food and Drug FAQs – Should the medication be taken with or without food?

Having food in the stomach when a pill is taken may affect the way the medicine works. Some medications are best taken on an empty stomach in order to increase their absorption, while others are better taken with food to avoid stomach upset. If you can’t find this information on the medicine’s label, your best bet is to ask the doctor or pharmacist for advice. And don’t forget the package insert; it warrants at least a skim-through to catch anything pertinent that isn’t included on the back of the bottle.

Senior Food and Drug FAQs – Should a certain food be avoided while taking this medication?

Many medications should not be taken with alcohol, for example, as it may heighten side effects such as drowsiness. If your loved one drinks any alcohol at all, even if it’s just a glass of wine once a week, check with their doctor to make sure this will not interact adversely with their medications. Likewise, some medications should not be taken with caffeine or dairy products. Even something super healthy, like Vitamin-K rich leafy greens, can cause issues for someone taking blood thinners. This works by decreasing the body’s production of Vitamin K, a vitamin responsible for clotting blood. Some foods need to be avoided entirely while on a certain medication, but often it is simply a matter of timing; if the drug and a particular food can be taken sufficiently far apart, adverse effects may be avoided.

Senior Food and Drug FAQs – What should the medication be washed down with?

Dairy products inhibit the absorption of some antibiotics, but it is usually fine to still drink milk – just not at the same time as the antibiotic, and preferably at least two hours later. Grapefruit juice is a surprising culprit in several adverse food and drug interactions. It can interact with blood pressure and cholesterol lowering meds, among others. Some medications are best taken with a full glass of water. When in doubt, this is usually a safe choice.

Senior Food and Drug FAQs – What about over-the- counter medications?

Don’t forget about those over-the-counter medications and vitamin supplements! They can also interact with food and other medications, so be sure to read the labels. Even something as mild as acetaminophen can have adverse liver effects if taken regularly by someone who has a couple of glasses of wine with dinner each night. It is usually best to take multivitamins at a separate time from prescription medications to avoid potential interactions. Don’t assume that herbal or natural supplement are safe to combine with your meds either; most of these are not regulated by the FDA and some, including St. John’s Wort and kava, have been shown to cause negative interactions with several prescription drugs.

The easiest way to avoid food and drug interactions is to keep careful track of all medications. This can include over-the counter medications, that you or your loved one regularly takes. Don’t forget to include pain relievers, vitamin and mineral supplements, topical lotions, and cold medications. Keep a copy in your wallet so that you can easily share this information with your loved one’s medical team. Also, try to fill all prescriptions at the same pharmacy. The pharmacist will then be able to warn you about any potential interactions with existing medications and point out any new dietary restrictions.

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