Ignoring drug label warnings can make you worse

AdTaxi-PharmAdv-MedsMixing1Chances are you’ve glanced at labels on medication bottles and seen the do’s and don’ts: Take with food; Take on empty stomach; Avoid dairy.

Maybe you think such warnings don’t really matter, that they are just legal mumbo jumbo required on the label. But they do matter.

Food and drugs join together in the body. Ignore these warnings and the consequences could include delayed response to your medications, decreased effects, or greater absorption of a medication — none of which you want and all of which can be avoided.

Healthy choice culprits
Nutritionists are always advocating that we eat more greens. But if you’re on blood thinners such as warfarin (coumadin), beware. Eating a large spinach salad one day and then not again for days can be a real problem because the vitamin K in many greens interferes with the drug. It’s not that you can’t have greens — you just can’t binge. It’s a question of balance. If you’re not consistent, your blood-thinning meds can’t effectively manage your condition.

Grapefruit juice is another healthy choice. But this citrus fruit (and some others) is a no-no with a number of medications. For example, it is not for patients taking certain blood pressure-lowering drugs or for those who have had organ transplants and take cyclosporine. The juice can increase the levels of those medications in your body, which in turn can lead to more side effects.

Harvard University has a handy health guide that lists those medications as well as related drugs that do not react to grapefruit.

When it comes to alcohol, just say no. Alcohol can increase or decrease the effect of medications. And caffeine? Dozens of drugs interact adversely with caffeine — check your prescription here.

Vitamins and herbs can and do interact with medications. A lot of people are reluctant to tell their doctors about taking supplements. Don’t fall into that trap. Tell your doctor, or ask your pharmacist if your supplements will interfere with your prescription. It’s better to know.

For example, St. John’s wort, ginseng, gingko biloba and vitamin E can all alter how medications work in your body. Learn more about supplement and medication interactions here.

Likewise, some medications might strip your body of important nutrients. Should you therefore take supplements? Antibiotics, for example, destroy both good and bad bacteria. Yogurt with live cultures might be a good idea while you’re taking antibiotics. To be sure, ask your doctor.

In the end it’s really up to you manage your meds and your diet. When in doubt, talk to a pharmacist. Most pharmacists will be happy to meet with you. Call in advance and take your pill bottles in with you.

Pharmacists do a whole lot more than just put pills in a bottle. They are there to help you get well and better manage your conditions. All you need do is ask.