Coffee and medicine: what you need to know

Coffee is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world, and its interactions with medicines can be complex and unpredictable. As a coffee lover, it’s essential to be aware of how your daily cup may impact your ability to take certain medications safely and effectively.

The good, the bad, and the complex

On the one hand, coffee can have a positive impact on certain medications. For example, studies have shown that caffeine can improve the bioavailability of paracetamol (acetaminophen), making it more effective for pain relief. Additionally, coffee has been found to enhance the absorption of some medications, such as fexofenadine (Allegra), which can improve its effectiveness at reducing allergy symptoms.

On the other hand, coffee can also interfere with the action of certain medications. Caffeine can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, which may interact with medications used to treat conditions such as hypertension, angina, and arrhythmias. Furthermore, coffee can decrease the absorption of certain nutrients, including iron, which can exacerbate conditions such as anemia.

The big three to watch

There are three medications in particular that coffee lovers should be aware of when it comes to interactions:

  1. Warfarin (Coumadin): Caffeine can increase the metabolism of warfarin, which may lead to a decrease in its effectiveness. Patients taking warfarin should limit their coffee intake or avoid it altogether.
  2. Medications for migraines: Caffeine can exacerbate migraines and interact with medications such as triptans (e.g., sumatriptan, naratriptan) and ergotamines (e.g., ergotamine). Patients taking these medications should limit their coffee intake or avoid it altogether.
  3. Theophylline: Caffeine can increase the levels of theophylline in the blood, which can lead to an increased risk of side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Patients taking theophylline should limit their coffee intake or avoid it altogether.

The bottom line

While coffee can be a safe and enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s essential to be aware of its potential interactions with medications. If you’re taking any prescription medications, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor or pharmacist about safe coffee consumption guidelines. By being mindful of these interactions, you can enjoy your coffee while