Nearly everyone has to take some type of medication at some point in their lives. These meds are important in keeping us healthy and managing our conditions. And while we may trust that our medications will work as intended, there are several factors that can affect how well they work.
Some of these factors may be within our control, while others may not. But knowing about them can help us to be more proactive in managing our medications and our health.
Eating and drinking can affect how well your body absorbs and processes medication.
- Grapefruit (and potentially other citrus foods) can provoke serious side effects when taken with many medications.
- Milk and dairy can prevent some types of antibiotics from working properly.
- Coffee (or anything else with caffeine) can make some medications (including aspirin) less effective and worsen side effects.
- Alcohol can be very dangerous when combined with certain medications.
Some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach, while others work better when taken with food. Generally, it would help if you drank a full glass of water with your pills unless your doctor or pharmacist instructs explicitly otherwise.
Read the instructions on your medication bottle or talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out what you should or shouldn’t do.
Herbal Remedies and Supplements
You must tell your doctor if you take any herbal remedies or supplements. Some of these can reduce the effectiveness of your medication or cause dangerous side effects.
- St. John’s wort
- Ginkgo biloba
- Iron supplements
Consult with your doctor or pharmacist before adding any alternative treatments that may affect your current treatment plan.
Oral medications should be taken while sitting or standing upright. Don’t lie down immediately after taking them.
This is because lying down can slow the medication’s passage from your stomach to your intestines, which is absorbed into your bloodstream. Leaning or lying on your left side can be even worse. Your stomach empties into your intestines on the right side of your body, so lying on your left side can keep the medication in your stomach longer. Leaning or lying on your right side can potentially speed up how quickly the medication is absorbed.
If you have trouble staying upright, talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Our beliefs about our medications can actually affect how well they work.
For example, if you believe that medication will help you, you may be more likely to respond positively. On the other hand, if you think that medication will produce terrible side effects, that may very well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In some cases, the act of taking medication can produce positive results even if the pill doesn’t actually have any active ingredients. This is known as the placebo effect.
And if you believe you are helpless and nothing will work, you might not even bother taking your medication as prescribed.
The conversations you have with your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, friends, family, and others can influence your mindset, affecting how well your medications work.
For example, your doctor may help you understand that the side effects you may experience are not actually a bad thing—they are a sign the medicine is working. This can help you better tolerate the side effects and stick to your medication regimen with a positive mindset.
Your relationships and social support systems can also make a big difference. If you have people in your life who are negative and critical, this may make it difficult for you to make progress and get better.
On the other hand, if you have people in your life who are supportive and understanding, this can make it much easier for you to take your medication as prescribed, even when you’re feeling down.
It’s important to be mindful of your conversations about your condition and treatment plan and how they may affect you. Healthy expectations and a positive attitude are crucial to the healing process.