By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
The popular saying ‘food is medicine’ was based on the words of the father of Western medicine Hippocrates who said: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”
It is important to consume a nutrient-dense diet to prevent chronic illnesses. This type of diet must also be composed of mostly whole or minimally processed food to reduce the intake of unhealthy fats and refined sugars, which are both associated with increased risk of developing diseases with increased intake.
Food items, which boast of being nutrient-rich and are considered functional (have potential health benefits beyond basic nutrition), may be harmful when taken with some medications. Certain medical conditions can be aggravated, leading to complications. Sad to say, food that heals can also kill.
Here are some that could interact with drugs or worsen illnesses.
Soy – This legume is high in protein and low in saturated fat. Soy and soy products are good for the heart and may help prevent breast cancer when consumed at an earlier age as some studies show. Soy is best avoided or consumed in moderation by breast cancer patients who are estrogen-sensitive since soy contains isoflavones, which act like weak estrogen. Estrogen promotes the growth of breast cancer cells.
Soy must be avoided by individuals who have high uric acid or gouty arthritis as well as those who have hypothyroidism. Soy prevents the absorption of thyroid medication. If you cannot avoid soy and soy products, allow at least four hours between taking your medication and consuming it.
Turmeric – This spice contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that has been found to reduce tumor size and prevent the growth of cancer cells. It also has blood thinning effects and can lower blood pressure therefore be careful in taking supplements if you are taking anticoagulants or antihypertensive drugs.
Turmeric stimulates the flow of bile, which is needed for fat metabolism but it should be avoided if you have gallstones or gallbladder disease. Turmeric causes painful contractions of the gallbladder and may even cause obstruction in the common bile duct, which is a medical emergency.
Grapefruit – This bitter tasting fruit is high in vitamin C, lycopene, potassium, and other vitamins and phytonutrients that promote a healthy heart and decrease cancer risk. But like every other superfood on this list, grapefruit has its flaws. Substances in grapefruit as well as pomelo and pomegranate block the action of an enzyme that breaks down some medications that lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and other medications for the heart. It could also interact with psychiatric drugs, immune suppressants, medicines for erectile dysfunction, and sedatives. The accummulation of drugs in the blood due to the impaired breakdown and excretion leads to muscle, kidney, or liver damage.
Cinnamon – This spice is a potent anti-inflammatory that reduces arthritic pain and can improve blood glucose control and cholesterol levels. It contains coumarin, a substance that has blood thinning effects. An anticoagulant known as Warfarin is derived from coumarin. Therefore, it is important to avoid large doses of cinnamon when taking Warfarin and other blood thinning drugs like aspirin to prevent bleeding.
If you are on medication or have any medical condition, consult your physician and dietitian for proper management to prevent adverse effects.
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