To eat or not to eat?

Published April 17, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD


Have you ever wondered if you need to take your medications with food or without food? Perhaps just like many others, you have not given it the slightest bit of thought. People complain to their doctors about medications which do not seem to be working at all because they have not experienced the desired effects after taking them for some time.

While some medications need to be replaced, there is also the possibility that these drugs may not have been absorbed efficiently in the body due to improper intake, as well as, the negative interaction with what we call, drug muggers.

Here are some common maintenance medications with corresponding list of drug muggers that impede their absorption or alter the way these medications are utilized in the body.

Statin is one of the most prescribed drugs worldwide to reduce blood cholesterol levels in order to prevent or decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. There are several statins readily available in the market but if you love grapefruit and pomegranate juices, pay close attention to three of these. Consuming grapefruit juice and pomegranate juice with atorvastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin may cause severe and irreversible liver damage. This is due to the fact that these fruits, albeit rich in nutrients and antioxidants, increase the levels of the three above mentioned statins in the blood. This leads to greater side effects. The statin also blocks the action of an enzyme called cytochrome P40 3A4 (CYP3A4). It does not matter what time of the day you take any of these three statins or drink the juices. The negative effect would still be the same.

If you cannot live without grapefruit and pomegranate juices, or if you want to incorporate these fruits into your diet for health benefits, inform your doctor. There are other statins available which can be safely taken with these fruits.

Thyroid medicines are used for individuals suffering from low levels of thyroid hormones, a condition known as hypothyroidism. This medication must be taken on an empty stomach. At least one hour before breakfast or upon waking up. Food in general impedes the absorption of this drug but some others are more detrimental. Tofu and soy products crash the thyroid hormone thus you will need higher dosage just to bring the level back to normal. Broccoli and cauliflower lower the circulating thyroid hormone, so do not consume more than three cups in a week. If you want to consume this every day, inform your doctor because there might be a need to increase the medication dose but you have to stay consistent with intake if these vegetables in terms of quantity. Otherwise your hormone level will go haywire and the dose needs to be adjusted.

Iron supplements, calcium supplements, dairy products and high fiber foods like oatmeal need to be consumed two to four hours before or after taking your thyroid hormone as these also impede the absorption.

Thyroid medications can also be taken at night, three to four hours after the last meal. Thyroid medications, however, have a stimulating effect, which could lead to difficulty in falling asleep.

Diabetes Medications have various classes with but one goal: to lower blood glucose or sugar level. Some herbs, spices, and supplements help keep the blood sugar at bay. These are Fenugreek, bitter melon extract, stinging nettle, myrrh, alfalfa, aloe vera, holy basil, turmeric, spirulina, wheatgrass, alpha-lipoic acid, and Vitamin D. If you are taking any of these in combination with diabetes medications, monitor your blood glucose and be alert for symptoms of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. You may experience dizziness, shakiness, sweating, cold clammy feeling, headache, irritability, confusion, and could even lead to fainting and convulsions. Immediately take something sweet like a glass of milk, fruit juice, softdrink or soda, sugar in water, and the like. Inform your doctor about any herbal supplement you are taking for proper management. In addition, diabetes medications must always be taken on time as prescribed by doctor.

When it comes to taking medications, it is prudent to ask questions especially if you are unsure of the proper way of taking them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


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