Grapefruit Can Cause Serious Problems with Certain Medications

Grapefruit can interfere with the body's ability to absorb medications, leading to potentially dangerous consequences

Grapefruit Can Cause Serious Problems with Certain Medications
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May 9, 2018

While it can be part of a balanced and nutritious diet, grapefruit can have serious consequences when taken with certain medications. Currently, there are more than 50 prescription and over-the-counter drugs known to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that can have negative interactions with this fruit.

One CUp is All it Takes

As little as one cup of juice or two grapefruit wedges can change how your medicines work. When taken with medicine, it can delay, decrease, or enhance the absorption of certain drugs. As a result, the patient does not receive the prescribed dosage of the medication.

If the label on your medicine reads "DO NOT TAKE WITH GRAPEFRUIT" or something similar, heed the warning. It can save you many problems.

How It Does (or Doesn't) Work

Depending on a drug's active ingredient, grapefruit can reduce its effectiveness or, even worse, create potentially dangerous drug levels in the body. Grapefruit can interfere with transporters in the intestine that help absorb drugs. When this happens, less of the drug reaches the bloodstream and the patient receives no benefit.

The fruit can also interfere with enzymes that break down drugs in your digestive system. This can lead the body to absorb too much of the drug, potentially causing serious problems.

Help May Be On the Way

Scientists are currently working on breeding hybrid grapefruits that will be safe to mix with medications. In the near future you may be able to enjoy these tasty mounds without compromising your safety. But until the new fruit starts to arrive, follow these tips:

  • Ask your pharmacist or other health care professional if you can have fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice while using your medication. If you can't, you may want to ask if you can have other juices with the medicine.
  • Read the Medication Guide or patient information sheet that comes with your prescription medicine to see if it interacts with grapefruit juice. Some information may advise not to take the drug with the juice. If it's okay to have it, there will be no mention of it in the guide or information sheet.
  • Read the Drug Facts label on your non-prescription medicine, which will let you know if you can have grapefruit or other fruit juices with it.
  • If you can't have grapefruit juice with your medicine, check the label of bottles of fruit juice or drinks flavored with fruit juice to make sure they don't contain grapefruit juice.
  • Seville oranges (often used to make orange marmalade) and tangelos (a cross between tangerines and grapefruit) affect the same enzyme as grapefruit juice, so avoid these fruits as well if your medicine interacts with grapefruit juice.