Medicines for diabetes
There are many medicines that are used for diabetes. There are tablets and injections that lower blood sugar levels or help our body’s to use our own insulin better as well as injectable insulin itself.
Alcohol and diabetes medicines
Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels. When alcohol is combined with other things that lower blood sugar levels there is a danger of the levels dropping too low which is known as hypoglycaemia. Symptoms of hypoglycaemia can range from feeling clammy and dizzy to death. Therefore alcohol should be avoided if diabetes medicines are being taken.
Vitamin D and diabetes medicines
Vitamin D is commonly taken as it is important in preventing and treating osteoporosis. Vitamin D can help our body to use insulin better and so blood sugar levels can be lower than anticipated. It is a good idea to monitor blood sugar levels if you are being treated for diabetes and start taking vitamin D. The amount of diabetes medicine needed may decrease.
Herbs that lower blood sugar levels
As is the case with commencing any herbs, vitamins, minerals etc it is important to discuss whether this is suitable with your health care professional. If you start taking a herb that lowers blood sugar levels there is a risk of your levels getting too low. Prescription medicines may need to have their dosages lowered in this case.
Examples of herbs that can lower blood sugar levels are:
- Aloe vera
- Stinging nettle
- Gymnema sylvestre
Fibre supplements and diabetes medicines
As fibre supplements decrease the absorption of many medicines it’s important to have these at least two hours away from diabetes medicines and insulin.
Appetite suppressants and diabetes medicines
These may reduce appetite and blood sugar levels. They may, however, have an effect on the heart. If blood sugar levels drop too low it can affect the beating of the heart.
Reference Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen
If you are not intolerant of gluten and do not suffer Coeliac Disease there is no benefit to avoiding gluten in your diet and in fact it may be detrimental to your health.
Those who need to avoid gluten do so to avoid symptoms that can be severe. These people must be careful to not only avoid gluten but also to eat healthily so that their overall health does not suffer because of this.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins that are found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten acts like a glue in the foods that it is in so that they hold their shape.
Gluten can also be found in things such as sauces, lollies, supplements, medicines and many more things you might not expect.
Why avoid gluten?
Only those who have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or those who have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance should avoid gluten.
In those with these diagnoses even a very small amount of gluten can cause severe stomach upset, sometimes with pain and diarrhoea lasting for days. The gastrointestinal lining also gets damaged leading to the inability to absorb nutrients so these people can suffer with deficiencies. Other health issues can result also.
Interestingly it is not always gluten that causes the digestive symptoms it is blamed for. It may, in fact, be FODMAPs (a group of carbohydrates) that cause the symptoms. FODMAPs and gluten often occur in the same foods and so gluten gets the blame.
Problems with avoiding gluten
You can’t avoid hearing about the importance of the gut microbiome lately. What this means is that it is important that there is a wide range of healthy bacteria in our digestive system to ensure that we have good general health.
Gluten free diets lower our microbiome diversity which can be detrimental to our health.
If gluten containing foods are avoided there can be a problem with low fibre in the diet so fibre needs to be consumed in other ways.
Gluten actually lowers cholesterol.
There are many gluten free products available now in supermarkets and restaurants. Many of these are very unhealthy!
What should I eat?
If you have been diagnosed as being unable to tolerate gluten, as I have, then avoid it but don’t just avoid it because you think it’s healthy.
Gluten free foods from the supermarket and restaurant are great as treats but it really comes down to eating real food and avoiding “food” from a package as much as possible.
A lot of diets that have been studied and found to be good for overall health and longevity are actually high in carbohydrates (such as the Mediterranean Diet) however they contain unrefined carbohydrates that are good for our health and microbiome.
Reference Food as Medicine lecture Sydney Health (The University of Sydney)
A lot of us use anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation, pain and temperature that can occur when we injure ourselves or are unwell. Some anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Nurofen, Advil), diclofenac (Voltaren), naproxen (Naprogesic), mefenamic acid (Ponstan) and also aspirin are available over the counter. Higher strengths of these are also available on prescription as well as stronger anti-inflammatories such as celecoxib (Celebrex) and meloxicam (Movalis).
Anti-inflammatories are very effective when used in the correct way. They can have side effects and these can become more likely if they are taken in conjunction with certain other supplements and foods.
Alcohol and anti-inflammatories
Gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding is something that can occur with anti-inflammatories and with alcohol. The combination of anti-inflammatories and alcohol therefore makes gastrointestinal damage more likely.
Ginger, garlic, ginkgo biloba and ginseng and anti-inflammatories
These supplements and foods that start with G can have a blood thinning effect in our bodies. Anti-inflammatories can also have a blood thinning effect. The combination of these supplements/foods and anti-inflammatories thus increases the risk of blood thinning. What this actually means is that bleeding can occur more easily and is more difficult to stop.
There are many prescription and over the counter medications as well as herbal medications and medical conditions that interact adversely with anti-inflammatories. Always discuss with your Doctor or Pharmacist whether an anti-inflammatory is suitable for you before taking one.
Medicines for depression
There are several different groups of medicines used to treat depression. There are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s) and other antidepressants that don’t fall in to these groups.
SSRI’s are the most commonly used group of antidepressant medicines. Examples of these medicines include paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram and escitalopram.
TCA examples include amitriptyline, doxepin, clomipramine and nortriptyline.
As well as treating depression antidepressants are used for anxiety, panic attacks, incontinence and hot flushes amongst other uses.
The antidepressants that interfere most with alcohol are mirtazepine and the TCA’s due to the fact these medicines cause a lot of drowsiness. Combining these medicines with alcohol makes the drowsiness much more likely. There can also be difficulty breathing with the TCA’s.
Whether caffeine is consumed from coffee, tea, soft drink or even chocolate (which has a bit of caffeine) it can be a problem with the SSRI’s. The combination can cause anxiety, difficulty sleeping and feeling jittery.
Some antidepressants can cause weight gain. Eating a healthy diet will help to prevent this as well as help with feelings of depression and anxiety.
St John’s Wort
St John’s Wort is taken by some people as a natural antidepressant. The way this works is by increasing serotonin levels. This is a problem because prescription antidepressants also increase serotonin levels. Having serotonin levels that are too high can cause severe side effects.
Codeine and other opioids
Strong pain medications like codeine and other opioids are a problem with antidepressants because they too increase serotonin levels which can be very dangerous. The dose of pain medicines needs to be monitored by your Doctor to make sure serotonin syndrome doesn’t occur from levels that are too high.
Medicines for indigestion
There are three types of medicines used for indigestion (also known as reflux, heartburn and gastro-oesophageal reflux).
Antacids eg Mylanta, Gaviscon and Rennie contain ingredients such as calcium carbonate, aluminium and magnesium hydroxide.
H2 antagonists eg Zantac and Tazac contain ingredients such as ranitidine and nizatidine.
Proton Pump Inhibitors eg Nexium, Somac and Losec contain ingredients such as esomeprazole, pantoprazole and omeprazole.
These medicines work in different ways but neutralise stomach acid to prevent damage and the uncomfortable burning feeling.
St John’s Wort and indigestion medicines
Taking St John’s Wort while taking H2 antagonists or PP Inhibitors can make you more likely to burn in the sun so be extra sun safe if taking these medicine combinations.
Feverfew and indigestion
Feverfew is used to prevent migraines. It can thin the blood so it may also increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Taking Feverfew if you take indigestion medicines is not a good idea.
Cranberry juice and indigestion medicines
Drinking cranberry juice if you take H2 antagonists or PP Inhibitors is a good idea! These medicines make it difficult to absorb B vitamins (amongst many others) however adding in cranberry juice improves B Vitamin absorption!
Alcohol and indigestion
Alcohol isn’t so much a problem with indigestion medicines but alcohol itself causes irritation to the stomach lining. If you have symptoms of indigestion or have a stomach ulcer you should not drink alcohol!
Tea, coffee and indigestion
The stomach contents can be regurgitated more easily when tea and coffee is consumed and so indigestion symptoms are worse.
Fatty and sugary foods and indigestion
The good bacteria in our stomachs is reduced by these foods and enzymes needed for digestion are also reduced. This basically makes it very difficult for us to absorb any nutrients!