Are you the reason your medication doesn’t work?

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Medication organizer -- The Hot Mess Press

When your prescription medication doesn’t work in the way your doctor promised, it might be your own fault. Make sure you mention all the other medicines you take, including over-the-counter products. Similarly, mention any other drugs you take when your pharmacist suggests medication for an ailment. Most importantly, this applies regardless of whether it is something you have used before. Why? Because what you drink and eat could affect the efficiency of medications you take. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about things to avoid.


Licorice can interfere with medication

In October, I wrote about a construction worker who died from heart failure. His love for licorice caused an imbalance in his potassium after he overindulged. Here’s another reason to avoid eating too much licorice. Some people use it as a flavoring in their food, and others believe it is an effective remedy to improve digestion. However, it contains a chemical that weakens the efficiency of some medicines. One example is cyclosporine, which transplant patients take to prevent rejection of new organs.

Grapefruit slices
Grapefruit Slices

Grapefruit can weaken or strengthen medication

Did you know that this citrus fruit could affect over 50 types of medicine? Grapefruit modifies specific gut cells, changing the way some drugs work as they move through your body. For example, allergy meds like Allegra or fexofenadine lose strength when mixed with grapefruit. In contrast, eating this citrus can make some medications stronger. Among the medicines in this group are those you take to lower your cholesterol, like Lipitor or atorvastatin.

Medication alcohol warning
Avoid alcohol while you’re on medication
Image credit: Flickr

Alcohol and medication don’t mix

Drinking alcohol while on medication can make heart and blood pressure medicines useless or less effective. Importantly, this mixture can make some meds stronger and cause potentially dangerous side effects.

Woman sneezing
Antihistamine for Allergies
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Avoid antihistamine when on blood pressure medication

You can treat allergies, runny nose and sneezing effectively with antihistamines. However, they weaken the effects of blood pressure while also raising your heart rate. With the guidance of your physician, you could find other methods to manage allergies.

Milk and sunflowers

Avoid milk while taking antibiotics

Casein, a protein in milk, along with the minerals magnesium and calcium, compromise your body’s ability to process some antibiotics. Ask your doctors about the foods and beverages to avoid.

Chocolate shavings
Chocolate shavings
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Here’s the bad news — no chocolate!

No chocolate if you take sleep medication or meds to calm you. For example, Ambien, which contains zolpidem tartrate. If you eat chocolate, especially dark chocolate will counteract the effects of the medication. Furthermore, chocolate can increase the strength of Ritalin and other stimulant drugs. Also, if you are on depression medication like an MAO inhibitor, chocolate can cause dangerously high blood pressure.

Coffee grinder and mugs
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More bad news — no coffee!

The bad news is only for those who take antipsychotic drugs like clozapine and lithium. Coffee boosts its effect, which is dangerous. Similarly, it could cause side effects for those taking aspirin, inhaler for problems with breathing like albuterol, and epinephrine to treat serious allergic reactions. Also, coffee can compromise your body’s absorption and use of iron.

Medication capsules
Iron supplement

Iron supplement and thyroid medication clash

Synthroid, or levothyroxine, is a medication to treat hypothyroidism. It provides hormones for patients whose bodies don’t make enough. However, it is not effective if combined with an iron supplement. Also, check the label on multivitamins for iron. If you must take iron, your doctor might suggest how you can take both medications at different times.

Medication in hand
AEDs Medication for Seizure Control
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Seizure control or birth control — not both

AEDs control epileptic seizures. However, if you take AEDs, your birth control pills might not prevent pregnancy. Research continues, but right now, more potent drugs could have dangerous side effects.

Ginseng on plate
Ginseng Roots
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Ginseng needs careful consideration

Ginseng can work against several medications. It lowers the effects of anticoagulants or warfarin. Similarly, those who take blood thinners like aspirin or heparin, anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen or ibuprofen along with ginseng can increase risks of internal bleeding. In like manner, combining MAO inhibitors with ginseng could lead to sleep problems, headaches, nervousness and hyperactivity.

Green Leafy Vegetables
Vitamin K in Leafy Green Vegetables
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Warfarin also doesn’t work well with Vitamin K

Vitamin K can make warfarin less effective in preventing blood clots. It can increase the risk of deadly blood clots. If you take anticoagulants, monitor your Vitamin K intake. Foods high in this vitamin include leafy greens like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, parsley and kale. Most importantly, if you can manage the same Vitamin K intake per day, the warfarin level in your blood will not fluctuate and work effectively.

Ginko Biloba fruit
Ginko Biloba Fruit

Ginkgo Biloba weakens the efficiency of drugs

Research has not proven Ginko Biloba’s efficiency in treating any of the conditions for which people take it. For example dementia, high blood pressure, tinnitus or ringing in the ears and more. However, what research proved is that this herb weakens the efficiency of various seizure control drugs.

St. Johns Wort flowers
St. Johns Wort flowers

St, John’s Wort — ineffective herbal remedy

Some people believe that St. John’s Wort helps to treat depression. However, what it does is stimulate the release of enzymes by the liver. These enzymes weaken medications such as Altoprev and Mevacor for cholesterol, Viagra for erectile dysfunction and Lanoxin for heart condition treatment.

Doctor writing prescription
Doctor writing prescription
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Most importantly — take as directed

Always discuss other medications with your doctor and also ask about foods to avoid. Many people do not take the prescribed dose or at the right times. Leaving longer than prescribed time gaps between taking the drugs weakens the desired effect. Failing to follow the doctor’s instructions is detrimental to your health and a considerable waste of money.

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