Common Food-Drug Interactions that May Affect Seniors and Their Medications

For most seniors, taking some kind of a daily medication or two is all part of a healthy lifestyle—we rely on our medications to help our bodies operate normally, to improve our quality of life. It may be a prescription drug to regulate blood pressure, an over the counter antacid, or even just an herbal supplement to help with digestion… or for some of us, all of the above! But did you know that a spinach salad might reduce the effectiveness of your blood thinner, or that a glass of grapefruit juice could render your heart medication inactive? Being conscious of our diet and nutrition is obviously important as we age, and if we are taking any kind of medication on a daily basis it is crucial to watch out for potentially harmful interactions.

A recent study showed that nearly half of all seniors in the U.S. take five or more drugs every single day, so it is important that we educate ourselves on which foods interact with which medications, and why. The more drugs you take the more likely there is to be an interaction of some sort, so education is a must. Some of the most common foods that negatively interact with medications are leafy greens, grapefruits and related citrus, but there are many others. Some sodium-substitutes that seniors use in place of salt can affect your blood potassium levels, as can plain old black licorice.

So certain foods can cause an interaction, but did you know that some beverages can as well? It is common knowledge that over the counter drugs containing acetaminophen can cause liver damage when mixed with alcohol, but what is less well known is that alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of everything from Zoloft to sleeping aids. Furthermore, draft beer contains the amino acid Tyramine, which has been proven to interfere with many medications, including those used to treat Parkinson’s.

Draft beer is not the only seemingly harmless beverage or food to contain Tyramine, either—everything from chocolate to hot dogs to sharp cheddar contains the potentially dangerous amino acid. Given how common it is, anyone taking medications for Parkinson’s or depression is encouraged to research Tyramine and make a list of foods to avoid.

Making such a list of prohibited foods is actually a great habit to cultivate, regardless of which particular drugs you are taking. Spending a few minutes researching your medications and potential interactions is actually easier than it sounds, and might save your life.

If you are ever in the area of Heritage of Green Hills, an independent living Community in Reading, PA, stop in and one of our staff can help you put together a list of foods that might interact with one or more of your medications. We have one of the healthiest, most active senior communities in the country, and so we have plenty of experience in these matters. Regardless of how or where you make a list, though, just make sure it is thorough—after all, prevention is the best medicine!

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