Medications have become an integral part of life for many people. Medicine serves to help people when they are sick and allowing them to live longer, healthier lives. With rapidly growing research and technology, medications are more beneficial, and new ones continue to be discovered. Drugs do need to be taken with caution, however.
All medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or bought over-the-counter, are capable of harmful side effects. The foods you eat contain nutrients that are used by the body to produce energy. Sometimes, certain medications interact with both the food eaten and the nutrients the food gives to the body for proper functioning. When the body is unable to use a nutrient due to a drug that has been taken, a nutrient-drug interaction has occurred.
Function of a Drug
A drug is taken to prevent or treat sickness and disease. It is important to know what happens in the body when a drug is taken in order to better understand the interaction between nutrients and drugs.
The action of a drug taken orally generally occurs in four steps: (1) the drug dissolves in the stomach, (2) the drug is absorbed into the blood and moves via the blood to the area of the body that needs it, (3) the body reacts to the medicine, and (4) the body gets rid of the drug by way of the kidney, liver, or both.
A nutrient-drug interaction may impact the body in several ways. The most common effect is for foods to interfere with drug absorption. This can make a drug less effective because less gets into the blood and to the site of action. Second, nutrients in food can also speed up elimination from the body, which can also impact a drug's effectiveness.
For example, the acidic ingredients in fruit juices are capable of decreasing the power of antibiotics such as penicillin. Tetracycline, another infection-fighting drug, is impacted by the consumption of dairy products. Many medications that are taken to fight depression can be dangerous if mixed with beverages or foods that consist of tyramine, which is found in items such as beer, red wine, and some cheeses.
Third, for some drugs, food can also impact the effectiveness of a drug due to the way it is consumed. Generally, these kinds of medicines should be taken at the same time food is eaten. This is because the medicine may upset the stomach if the stomach is empty.
Grapefruit juice contains a compound that increases the absorption of some drugs. This can enhance their effects. This compound is not found in other citrus juices. It's best to not take any medications with grapefruit juice. Drink it at least two hours away from when you take your medication.
It is also possible for drugs to interfere with a person's nutritional status. A drug may speed up or slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and/or proteins, which results in less energy being available to be used by the body. Other drugs affect the body's use and/or excretion of nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.
If less of a nutrient is available to the body because of these effects, this may lead to a nutrient deficiency. Appetite may be stimulated by a certain drug, resulting in an increase in nutrient intake due to more food being eaten. Alternatively, drugs may also cause a decrease in appetite, leading to a decrease in nutrient intake.
Below is a list of some common nutrient/drug interactions:
- Aspirin (Anti-inflammatory/pain reliever): Taking large amounts of these drugs will cause a loss of Vitamin C in the body.
- Birth control pills (Oral contraceptives): Women who take these drugs often have low levels of folic acid and Vitamin B6 in the blood.
- Dyazide/Thiazide Diuretics (water-eliminating): Taking diuretics often leads to a loss of potassium in the body.
- Tetracycline (Antibiotic): Calcium may interact with the effectiveness of the antibiotic. Avoid dairy products for two to three hours before and after taking the medicine.
- Lipitor/Zocor Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs): Antioxidants (Vitamin A, C, E, B, folic acid) may interact with the drug by reversing its effect.
- Prednisone (Corticosteroid): The drug may increase appetite thus increasing nutrient intake.