Why does grapefruit interact with drugs?
If you’re someone who takes prescription medication on a regular basis, it’s possible that you’ve been warned to avoid grapefruit. Yes, the innocent-looking fruit that could be mistaken for an orange is actually notorious for interfering with a wide range of drugs, including some lifesaving ones.
So what makes grapefruit so special? Why does it seem to have this unique ability to mess with medications in a way that no other food or drink does? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind grapefruit’s drug interactions and explain why you should keep it off your plate if you’re taking certain meds (sorry).
A Strange Phenomenon
The first thing to understand is just how unusual grapefruit’s effects are. After all,it’s not every day that doctors tell their patients “hey, watch out for citrus fruits when you take these pills.” And yet there are more than 85 drugs on the market today known to interact with grapefruit–and new cases are still being discovered.
In fact,grapefruits can cause such severe reactions with some medications that they’ve landed people in hospitals (you might want to rethink using fresh-squeezed juice in those mimosas). But here’s the catch: nobody knows exactly why or how this happens…yet…
Unraveling The Mystery
Scientists weren’t even aware of fruit-drug interactions until 1989,when researchers in Canada made an unlikely discovery…while testing a blood pressure medication called felodipine. To their surprise, consuming even small amounts of grapefruit juice led to higher levels of felodipine in participants’ bloodstreams.
This wasn’t supposed happen since felodipine was supposed last way longer inside our bodies without touching any liver enzymes controlling its degradation, but seemingly something in grapefruits was inhibiting these enzymes’ activity….But what?
It turned out that grapefruit and other citrus fruits contain high levels of natural chemical compounds known as furanocoumarins. These substances block certain enzymes in the liver and intestines–the very ones responsible for breaking down many medications.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a spelling test,but knowing about furanocoumarins’ chemical structure does help to understand how they disrupt drugs uptake physiology…They’re part of a larger class of molecules called coumarins, which are found in numerous types of plants (grasses, clovers, sweet woodruffs)…that’s why cow’s milk can interfere too.
Coumarins have an important function: they protect plants from being eaten by insects or animals by inhibiting enzymes like CYP3A4 … our drug-metabolizing enzyme on steroids!. In low concentrations these compounds won’t affect your meds but when you consume grapefruits with some unknowingly toxic medication you’re increasing the potential chemical interaction exponentially!
The Importance Of Enzyme Inhibition
So, what exactly do those pesky CYP3A4 enzymes do anyway? Well! As usual – we dive deep into biochemistry here folks… When we take orally administered medicines,the liver processes them before releasing them into general circulation affecting their efficacy depending on their drug profile(this is also how alcohol is destroyed).
Here come CYP’s heroes right on time to power up their swords and start breaking down all “invaders” (in our case it would be foreign chemicals) before sending sequestered smaller waste molecules back safely home . Fun fact-This process makes us unique compared beings who don’t rely heavily on oral treatments such as cows.
But this brings us back to the problem at hand.• Certain chemicals in grapefruits (i.e:furanhuhwhat??) have the ability to inhibit CYP3A4’s action by binding to it and stopping its destruction of the drug molecules. And you have a drug over-concentration problem!
This phenomenon is too complicated for some medications that they run a risk for serious and life-threatening side effects when grapefruit juice is consumed at any amount….So let’s dive deep on this axis of chemical warfare shall we ?
The Impact On Medications
We cannot talk about every single medication known but here are some examples:
If you’re taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor, Zocor or Crestor, combining them with grapefruit can be dangerous because instead of metabolizing in lipids & liver, those statins will accumulate in your blood—a condition known as rhabdomyolysis (characterized muscle pain/soreness weakness), increasing an already high possibility of kidney failure!
People undergoing organ transplants often need medicines called immunosuppressants which work by shutting off their immune system so that it won’t attack/reject new foreign organs.
Instead interfering with these drugs’ metabolism/absorption rates,resulting in super high drug concentrations(or toxicity)performing unwanted microbial attack…all resulting from just a simple orange-resembling fruit.
What Are You Gonna Do About It?
After all discoveries made till now,if you’ve been warned not to eat grapefruits while using certain meds – THE WORD IS OUT ON THE STREET THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS ADVICE HAPPILY and FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. Stick strictly only what was prescribed without adding random foods/citrus fruits/beers/alkaline water etc..not unless instructed otherwise.
Once again,even if mixing citrus fruit/juice doesn’t seem counterintuitive-since “vitamin C,Sweet tropics and prescription pills never harm anyone”,but remember, these compounds might just chemically interact and possibly harm someone Instead.
So, in short! Save your daily dose of grapefruit for a time when you’re not taking any specific meds instead make spinach or broccoli juice instead…You never know.. that powerful sulforaphane could have potential future drug interactions too but at least you won’t get cramps or die.