Summary of Interactions with Vitamins, Herbs, & Foods
Replenish Depleted Nutrients
Neomycin can decrease absorption or increase elimination of many nutrients, including calcium, carbohydrates, beta-carotene, fats, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Surgery preparation with oral neomycin is unlikely to lead to deficiencies. It makes sense for people taking neomycin for more than a few days to also take a multivitamin-mineral supplement.
Several cases of excessive bleeding have been reported in people who take antibiotics. This side effect may be the result of reduced vitamin K activity and/or reduced vitamin K production by bacteria in the colon. One study showed that people who had taken broad-spectrum antibiotics had lower liver concentrations of vitamin K2 (menaquinone), though vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) levels remained normal. Several antibiotics appear to exert a strong effect on vitamin K activity, while others may not have any effect. Therefore, one should refer to a specific antibiotic for information on whether it interacts with vitamin K. Doctors of natural medicine sometimes recommend vitamin K supplementation to people taking antibiotics. Additional research is needed to determine whether the amount of vitamin K1 found in some multivitamins is sufficient to prevent antibiotic-induced bleeding. Moreover, most multivitamins do not contain vitamin K.
Oral corticosteroids reduce absorption of calcium and interfere with the activation and metabolism of the vitamin, increasing the risk of bone loss. Doctors can measure levels of activated vitamin D (called 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol) to determine whether a deficiency exists; if so, activated vitamin D is only available by prescription. A study of rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with low amounts of prednisone found that those who received 1,000 mg of calcium per day plus 500 IU of vitamin D per day for two years experienced no bone loss during that time period. An analysis of properly conducted trials concluded that supplementation with vitamin D and calcium was more effective than placebo or calcium alone in protecting against corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. Most doctors recommend 1,000 mg of calcium and 400–800 IU vitamin D per day for the prevention of osteoporosis.The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
Preliminary data suggest that corticosteroid treatment increases chromium loss. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
Corticosteroids may increase the loss of vitamin B6. One double-blind study of people with asthma failed to show any added benefit from taking 300 mg per day of vitamin B6 along with inhaled steroids. Therefore, while small amounts of vitamin B6 may be needed to prevent deficiency, large amounts may not provide added benefit. Some doctors recommend that people taking corticosteroids for longer than two weeks supplement with at least 2 mg of vitamin B6 per day.The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
Reduce Side Effects
Calcium and Vitamin D
Oral corticosteroids reduce absorption of calcium and interfere with the activation and metabolism of the vitamin, increasing the risk of bone loss. Doctors can measure levels of activated vitamin D (called 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol) to determine whether a deficiency exists; if so, activated vitamin D is only available by prescription. A study of rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with low amounts of prednisone found that those who received 1,000 mg of calcium per day plus 500 IU of vitamin D per day for two years experienced no bone loss during that time period. An analysis of properly conducted trials concluded that supplementation with vitamin D and calcium was more effective than placebo or calcium alone in protecting against corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. Most doctors recommend 1,000 mg of calcium and 400–800 IU vitamin D per day for the prevention of osteoporosis.
Preliminary data suggest that supplementation with chromium (600 mcg per day in the form of chromium picolinate) may prevent corticosteroid-induced diabetes. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm these observations.
A common side effect of antibiotics is diarrhea, which may be caused by the elimination of beneficial bacteria normally found in the colon. Controlled studies have shown that taking probiotic microorganisms—such as Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, or Saccharomyces boulardii—helps prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
The diarrhea experienced by some people who take antibiotics also might be due to an overgrowth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which causes a disease known as pseudomembranous colitis. Controlled studies have shown that supplementation with harmless yeast—such as Saccharomyces boulardii or Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's or brewer's yeast)—helps prevent recurrence of this infection.
Treatment with antibiotics also commonly leads to an overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans) in the vagina (candida vaginitis) and the intestines (sometimes referred to as "dysbiosis"). Controlled studies have shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus might prevent candida vaginitis.
When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone. This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.
In one study, taking 500 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii twice daily enhanced the effectiveness of the antibiotic vancomycin in preventing recurrent clostridium infection. Therefore, people taking antibiotics who later develop diarrhea might benefit from supplementing with saccharomyces organisms.
Zinc and Biotin
Children with alopecia areata who supplemented 100 mg of zinc and 20 mg biotin each day, combined with topical clobetasol, showed more improvement compared to children who took oral corticosteroid drugs. Controlled research is needed to determine whether adding oral zinc and biotin to topical clobetasol therapy is more effective than clobetasol alone. However, until more information is available, caregivers should consider that children with alopecia who are currently taking oral corticosteroids might benefit from switching to supplements of zinc and biotin along with topical clobetasol.
Khat (Catha edulis) is an herb found in East Africa and Yemen that has recently been imported into the United States. Studies have shown that chewing khat significantly reduces the absorption of ampicillin, which might reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotic. Therefore, people taking ampicillin should avoid herbal products that contain khat.
Potential Negative Interaction
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies. If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in licorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men. Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and licorice supplements is unknown.
An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body. More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take licorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.
In animal research, applying aloe (Aloe vera) gel topically along with a topical corticosteroid enhanced the hormone's anti-inflammatory activity in the skin. No human research has investigated this effect.
Corticosteroids may increase the body's loss of magnesium. Some doctors recommend that people taking corticosteroids for more than two weeks supplement with 300–400 mg of magnesium per day. Magnesium has also been reported to interfere with the absorption of dexamethasone.
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Last Review: 03-24-2015
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