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Drug interactions are common and put on the labels of your prescription meds or found in literature accompanying your medication, but do you consider foods and their interactions? Some foods can cause serious side effects, even death, when combined with some types of prescription drugs, and the list of them is growing.

From 2008 to 2012, the number of drugs with an interaction to grapefruit increased from 17 to 43! This is just one food! A team of doctors wrote in the Canadian Association Medical Journal that the increase represents more than 6 drugs per year. This increase is the result of new chemical entities and formulations and according to their study, there are more than 85 drugs which can cause reactions with grapefruit juice.

Other foods that can cause unwanted reactions include Seville oranges, very common in your grocery store and most commonly used to make marmalades. These contain a compound called furanocoumarins which can effect the way some medications are absorbed and metabolized in your digestive system. This can cause more than the desired amount to enter your blood stream, with devastating effects.

Taking one tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice is like taking 20 tablets with a glass of water,” author David Bailey, a clinical pharmacologist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Canada, said to the CBC. Those most at risk are the 45 and older age group, who are more likely to consume grapefruit juice, and have a higher probability of taking medications at risk for interaction.

Certain drugs, in high concentration, can cause kidney damage, respiratory failure, bleeding and in individuals with a suppressed immune system, such as those with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, a bone marrow suppression that can cause severe illness and even death.

Some of the drugs that carry this risk include blood pressure medications and some of the cholesterol medications like Zocor and Lipitor. Pharmacists and doctors urge patients to read the insert that accompanies each medication and to check with their pharmacist when they pick up their meds to ensure they are not getting a toxic dose due to food interaction.

If you are a regular consumer of grapefruit juice or some citrus products and are concerned they may have an adverse reaction, consult your doctor or pharmacist, and always, always, always read your medications’ accompanying literature, even if you have been taking it over a period of time, as warning labels and interactions change. Be aware, be safe, and as always, be well!

Shelli Rossignol lmt/cr January 2013

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