As a health-conscious individual, you likely eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. But no matter how healthily you eat, you’re likely going to need medications at some point. Unfortunately, there’s one fruit you should avoid when doing so, at least while you’re taking certain medications.
What is this culprit fruit, you may ask? Why, it’s grapefruit (and many of its related products, including grapefruit juice).
Why is grapefruit dangerous?
Grapefruit may interfere with certain biological mechanisms in your body like enzymes and transporters. And these mechanisms are important for absorbing and breaking down pharmaceutical drugs. So when these mechanisms are meddled with, you can receive too much or too little of the drug’s active ingredient.
It can block enzymes, leading to excess drug levels.
CYP3A4 is an enzyme located in your small intestine that plays an important part in breaking down certain drugs. Unfortunately, this enzyme can be blocked by grapefruit consumption. Consequently, too much of the drug may enter and linger in the body. And a drug in excess levels can increase negative side effects.
It can also block transporters, creating inadequate absorption.
Other drugs are absorbed into our body’s cells with the help of a protein transporter, and grapefruit consumption can also interfere with these proteins. It can allow too little of the drug to be absorbed, which reduces the drug’s effectiveness.
What drugs react with grapefruit?
Many drugs can interact quite negatively with grapefruit. So if you take any of the following, try not to consume grapefruits or grapefruit products:
- Drugs called statins, such as LIPITOR® (atorvastatin) and CRESTOR® (rosuvastatin)
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as buspirone
- Drugs used to treat hypertension
- Antihistamine (i.e., allergy) medication, such as Allegra® (fexofenadine)
- Medications used to treat high blood pressure, such as nifedipine
- Corticosteroid medications, such as budesonide
Do note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list of all drugs that interact with grapefruit.
What else should you consider?
Your risk for a bad grapefruit-drug interaction can depend on several factors, including how much grapefruit you actually ingest. There can be a big difference in the amount of grapefruit content between a grapefruit product (like commercial juice) and an actual whole grapefruit.
Other fruit juices can also act in similar ways. For example, Seville oranges, a species commonly used in marmalade, can have a similar effect, as do tangelos. So it’s best to avoid these fruits as well if you’ve been told to avoid grapefruit.
It’s also important to note that products not advertised as grapefruit juice can still contain that ingredient. Even fruit juices like certain punches can contain small amounts of grapefruit in them.
Learn more, and find an alternative.
Learning about the dangers of grapefruit can be anxiety-provoking, especially since many of our favorite food products contain grapefruit products!
To lessen your worries, make sure you get as much information as possible when starting a new drug:
- Familiarize yourself with any pamphlets included with your medication, such as the medication guide materials that come with prescription drugs and the Drug Facts label that comes with over-the-counter drugs.
- Confirm with your health-care provider and pharmacist if there’s any risk to mixing grapefruit with your drug.
- See if you can get a drug that does not react poorly to grapefruit.
Responsible health-care providers should alert you of possible negative drug interactions. So if you choose to buy your medication online from an international or Canadian pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy, ask if you can speak to a licensed pharmacist if you have concerns.
A reputable, online drug company should be able to help you. Typically, they’ll have a licensed pharmacist on hand who is happy to answer your questions. These companies also come with the added benefit of offering substantially cheaper medications from licensed pharmacies abroad.
Minus bad drug interactions, grapefruit can still be part of a healthy diet!
If you enjoy the health benefits that come from grapefruit, talk to your doctor about only taking medication that won’t interact with the fruit. After all, this citrus fruit is rich in nutrients like vitamin C and potassium, so it can be a great addition to any diet.