By MUIREANN PRENDERGAST, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Zantra, Gantra, Yonoex, Tillix. No, this isn't a strange riddle but a few, among many, of the blood thinning medications that are on the market today. The Maryland-based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a body of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that over 2 million people take blood thinning medication in the United States daily and as such are among the most heavily-prescribed medications in the country. So, if you are prescribed such medications, what changes should you make to your diet and lifestyle? Are there foods you should avoid?
What Are Blood Thinning Medications?
The National Institute of Health explains that blood thinning medication is prescribed for patients with heart or blood vessel disease and also for people with poor blood flow to the brain. The Institute sets out that these medications are also prescribed for people considered to be at risk from heart attack and stroke.
The Institute also reveals that there are two different types of blood thinning medications. Anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin (also known as Coumadin), which work on chemical reactions in the body delaying the amount time it takes to for a blood clot to form. There are also antiplatelet drugs, like as aspirin, which prevent blood cells called platelets from clumping together and forming a clot.
The British Heart Association reminds us that medication called statins should also be considered here. Stains are used to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol made by the body and also prevent cholesterol from clumping in the blood. Statins normally target the liver cells where cholesterol is made.
What Foods Should You Avoid When Taking Blood Thinning Medications
Numerous studies have been carried out on the dangers of mixing blood thinning medications with certain foods. We have scoured our resources to bring you a list of 10 of them. Remember to consult your medical provider before altering your diet.
1. Vitamin K
A 2006 study carried out at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that, following an investigation carried out on 60 outpatients over a five-week period, Vitamin K interfered with the effects of the active ingredient in the anticoagulant drug warfarin.
The liver uses Vitamin K to make blood-clotting proteins while warfarin reduces the liver's capacity to use Vitamin K for this purpose. The study found that the irregular, rather than consistent, consumption of Vitamin K, in particular, interfered with warfarin's anticoagulation effects. Natural sources of Vitamin K are green-leafed vegetables like spinach, parsley and green tea.(Read more about side effects of Vitamin K supplementation.)
2. Grapefruit Juice
A 2011 Japanese study completed at Kanazawa University found that grapefruit juice could interfere with the absorption of anticoagulation medications in the intestine and as a result can provoke a build up of them in the blood stream. This can be extremely harmful to patients.
In November of 2012, Canadian researchers confirmed the earlier Japanese study's warning about the dangers of mixing grapefruit juice with medications. The Canadian study led by Dr. David Bailey and George Dresser listed 43 medications, many of them statins, which, if mixed with grapefruit juice, can increase the potency of these drugs to dangerous limits. For example, drinking a 200 ml glass of grapefruit juice for 3 days while also taking simstatin amplifies the effect of the drug by 330%. Side effects of mixing grapefruit juice with drugs include bleeding in your stomach, kidney problems and even death. As a rule, you should avoid eating grapefruit (or related fruit such as blood oranges) if you are on any type of medication, just to err on the side of safety.]
Another example of a natural anticoagulant is Fenugreek which can intensify the effects of blood thinning medication and also lead to over-anticoagulation in patients, says a 2005 Italian study completed at the University of Naples.
4. Wheat Bran
The same 2005 University of Naples study revealed that wheat bran can also react negatively with anticoagulant medications. The study found that wheat bran decreases the blood's plasma digoxin concentration and therefore intensify the effects of blood thinning medications to potentially dangerous levels.
A 2004 study from the University of California set out that Ginseng interferes with the effective functioning of warfarin following a study carried out on 20 patients over four weeks. The study suggests that ginseng supports the function of enzymes that break down warfarin, clearing it from the blood stream more quickly.
6. Cranberry Juice
A 2011 study undertaken at Memphis' Regional Medical Center concluded that mixing warfarin with cranberry juice can be harmful to patients. The study found that cranberry juice potentiates the effects of warfarin by elevating INR levels. INR stands for international normalized ratio, a standard measure of the blood's clotting time.
A 2011 Thai study completed at Naresuan University revealed a negative relationship between anticoagulant drugs and tobacco. The investigation found that of 1,240 patients monitored, smoking caused significant interaction with warfarin by increasing warfarin clearance, which led to reduced warfarin effects.
8. Red Yeast Rice
Red Yeast rice is often used as an herbal alternative to statin medication due to its capacity to reduce cholesterol levels naturally, according to a 2009 study undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. However, a 2009 study carried out at Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy found that red yeast rice can have adverse side affects on the body such as myopathy, a muscular disease in which the muscle fibers do not function, and reduced liver function. The study found that since red yeast rice is a natural statin because it contains monacolin K, a similar property to that contained in stain medications, mixing both lead to a harmful surplus of statins in the body according to the report.
9. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants and as such can interfere with interfere with the metabolism of statin medication as well as causing harmful side effects according to a 2006 study carried out at Hartford Hospital, Connecticut. The study was carried out on a 48 year old man with underlying myopathy who experienced thigh pain and increased blood serum creatine kinase levels as a result of the interaction between his consumption of 200ml of pomegranate juice twice weekly and his statin treatment with rosuvastatin. The study concluded that a condition called rhabdomyolysis, or the rapid breaking down of muscles fibers, can result from the combination of the two forms of statins.
If you are already taking anticoagulant medication, it might be harmful to mix it with anti-platelet drugs like aspirin. Bleeding complications can result from the combination of anticoagulation medication and aspirin according to a 2005 Canadian study from McGill University Health Centre Research Institute. The study carried out on almost 22,000 survivors of acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, found however that the overall risk of this was small.