Grapefruit is a highly nutritious food. It’s nutrient-dense, low in calories, and may improve your heart health. This slightly sour tropical fruit contains several key vitamins and minerals. It includes high quantities of vitamins A, C, and beta carotene as well as the mineral potassium, vital for regulating the heartbeat and generating muscle contractions. Unfortunately, due to an organic compound in this fruit, a furanocoumarin called bergamottin, just one small glass of grapefruit juice can also interfere with a number of different medications. This particular compound, found in large concentrations not only in grapefruit but also in certain other citrus fruits such as limes and pomelos, typically causes one of two issues with medications. Here’s what you need to know about grapefruit side effects with medication.
In most cases, bergamottin tends to inhibit certain metabolizing enzymes… enzymes tasked with the essential job of metabolizing drugs. When our body metabolizes certain drugs it breaks them down, preventing much of the actual medication from reaching the bloodstream. When the enzymes are inhibited, more of the medication reaches the bloodstream, often leading to symptoms of overdose.
In some cases, however, the organic compounds in grapefruit have the opposite effect. Instead of allowing more medication to reach the patient’s blood, furanocoumarin blocks the cells that transport the medicines into the bloodstream. This reduces the amount of medication that makes it to the bloodstream, sometimes rendering the medication almost completely inactive.
There are many common types of medications that react dangerously with grapefruit. Several varieties of statin drugs for high cholesterol and antianxiety medications, for example, have dangerous interactions when taken with grapefruit. The compounds in grapefruit may even alter the effectiveness of certain OTC medications such as painkillers and allergy relief medications.
Always check the labels on your medications for stated interactions, such as grapefruit or grapefruit juice.
The most common problem caused by grapefruit interactions is an increase in the medication in the blood. This leads to an overdose of the medication, resulting in a number of different symptoms, depending on the medication.
Some drugs have immediately noticeable overdose effects, such as the irregularities of the heartbeat related to erythromycin interactions or hallucinations and seizures caused by too much of the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Others, especially statins, cause their damage over time. These medications cause muscle damage that leads to aching, painful muscles, and damaged kidneys due to the breakdown of tissue. The amount of overdose will vary depending on the medication as well. The amount of medication in the blood can range from just a small overabundance to massive increases. According to the National Capital Poison Center, drinking a single glass of grapefruit juice per day for three days caused a 300% increase in blood levels of simvastatin, a common cholesterol medication.
When the transport cells are blocked rather than the enzymes, it reduces the effectiveness of the medication. Although this type of response is less common than the previously mentioned interaction, it may cause frustration for allergy sufferers. Fexofenadine (brand name Allegra) is a well-known OTC medication rendered ineffective by this process.
It is essential that consumers are aware of the serious damage that can be caused by ingesting grapefruit with certain medications. While there are many varieties of drugs that can be affected by grapefruit, there are many that are not. If you are a fan of grapefruit, limes, or even marmalade, check with your doctor about choosing alternative medicines that don’t react with bergamottin.
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