Super foods and over the counter medications

As a transplant recipient, you will be on immune suppressing medication for the rest of your life. You may also be on other medications to control your blood pressure or blood thinners. While you are on these medicines you must be careful not to take any over the counter herbal or dietary supplements that have not been prescribed by or discussed with your transplant doctor.

Many over the counter diet supplements and herbal medicines can have interactions with your other prescription medications that can change or reduce the way they work. This may put your health at risk and even reduce the effectiveness of your immune suppressing medication, putting you at risk of rejection. In addition, many of these products are manufactured overseas and there are not good quality checks in place to prevent the risk of contamination with potentially dangerous ingredients.

Some of these products include Goji Berries, raw acai juice and Echinacea. There have also been a number of cases of rejection in people using St Johns Wart.  Many of these products may appear harmless to the general public but they have not been tested well enough to establish the way they interact with your transplant medications.

It is best not to take any probiotic capsules or tablets unless advised by your transplant doctor. This is because there is a large amount of live culture in these capsules that your immunosuppressed body may not be able to tolerate. Small doses of probiotics from products such as yoghurt are considered safe.

You may have also heard the word ‘superfoods’ before. There is no real definition for this but is usually relates to foods that are high in anti-oxidants, vitamins or other nutrients. Foods such as berries, leafy greens and some grains are often referred to as superfoods and these are perfectly fine for you to include in your diet, in fact they are encouraged. However, it is best to avoid any tablets, powders or drinks that claim to be concentrated products of superfoods. These products have not been tested and do not have enough research to prove that they are safe. They may potentially interact with many of your medications. In some cases, high doses of antioxidants can actually be harmful for your health.

To ensure your safety and make sure that your medications are working as well as they can for you, it is best to stick to a balanced healthy diet and only those medications prescribed by your doctors.

Super Foods and over the counter supplements

Acknowledgement

Transplant Australia gratefully acknowledges Arian Chong (Clinical Dietician, Royal Prince Hospital) as the author of this article.