If You're Swallowing Your Medication With This, Stop Immediately

The FDA says this combination could have dangerous consequences.

When it comes to taking medicine, you may think that as long as it gets in your system, it doesn't matter how. You might swig back that pill with a glass of water, a half-empty cup of coffee, or whatever drink you have close by. Unfortunately, this practice may not always be safe. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there's one drink you shouldn't be swallowing your medication with—and no, we're not talking about alcohol. Read on to find out what you shouldn't take your pills with, and for more on essential guidance on your meds, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

You shouldn't take your medication with grapefruit juice.

Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice (close-up shot) on vintage wooden background
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In a 2017 statement, Shiew Mei Huang, PhD, deputy director for the FDA's Office of Clinical Pharmacology, said that the administration has "required that some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs taken by mouth include warnings against drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit while taking the drug."

"Grapefruit juice, in itself, is fine as part of a healthy, balanced diet. It is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and other essential nutrients that make up a well-rounded dietary intake," Scott McDougall, MPharm, co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Online Pharmacy, explains. "However, when taken with some medications, it can cause problems." And for more FDA warnings, If You're Using This to Relax, the FDA Says Stop Immediately.

Grapefruit juice can alter how medicine enters and stays in your body.

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According to the FDA, many medications are broken down, or metabolized, with the help of an enzyme called CYP3A4 in the small intestine. McDougall says that grapefruit juice actually stops this enzyme from working, which could make medicines "becomes less or more effective," depending on how they use CYP3A4 to work.

According to Jessica Nouhavandi, PharmD, lead pharmacist and co-founder of the accredited online pharmacy Honeybee Health, some medications will stay in the blood longer, while others will be blocked from entering efficiently. "Medications staying in your blood for longer can increase the risk of serious side effects," she says. "It can also lead to the opposite, where not enough of a drug enters the blood, preventing the drug from working." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Many different types of medication can be affected by grapefruit juice.

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Spencer Kroll, MD, a board-certified internal medicine specialist, says that not all medications are affected by grapefruit juice because not all medicines rely on the use of the CYP3A4 enzyme. At the same time, it is still important that people are aware that many medications do run this risk because "grapefruit juice and medications are commonly consumed together at breakfast," Kroll says. According to the FDA, some of the medications that interact negatively with grapefruit juice include statin drugs to lower cholesterol, drugs that treat high blood pressure, anti-anxiety drugs, and even antihistamines. And for more combinations to avoid, Dr. Fauci Just Said Don't Take This Medication With the COVID Vaccine.

You should talk to your doctor and read your medication's instructions before drinking certain fruit juices.

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It can be hard to know for sure if your medication is affected, which is why experts recommend you talk to your doctor and carefully read the instructions of your medicine before drinking certain fruit juices, like grapefruit. "The severity of the interaction can be different depending on the person, the drug, and the amount of grapefruit juice you drink. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other healt care provider and read any information provided with your prescription or OTC drug," the FDA recommends. This should help you find out if your specific medication is affected, how much (if any) grapefruit juice you can have, and what other fruits or juices may affect your medication in a similar way. According to McDougall, "other juices, specifically those made with Seville oranges, tangelos, and pomelos, can possibly have the same interaction as grapefruit juice." And for more issues to bring up with your physician, If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.

And you should pay attention to any increased side effects from your medication.

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According to McDougall, the adverse reactions you could experience from taking your medicine with grapefruit juice depend on the medication. Kroll says that some medications can build up to dangerous levels in the bloodstream, potentially causing life-threatening heightened side effects. For example, he says increased muscle pains could indicate that a statin medication you took had a negative interaction with grapefruit juice. "Low blood pressure and different rhythm disturbances may be seen when grapefruit juice is consumed with calcium channel blockers, while tremor, dizziness and an upset stomach may be the first sign of an interaction of juice with cyclosporine," he adds. Let your doctor know if you're experiencing any unusual reactions to your medication. And for more on side effects, This Is What It Means If You Have No Vaccine Side Effects, Doctors Say.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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