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Food-Medicine Interactions

What is a food-medicine interaction?

A food-medicine interaction is when a food or drink changes how a medicine works. This can happen with both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. This includes:

  • Antacids

  • Vitamins

  • Iron pills

  • Herbs

  • Supplements

  • Drinks

Some nutrients can affect the way you absorb certain medicines by binding with the medicine's ingredients. This reduces their absorption or speeds their elimination. For example:

  • The acidity of fruit juice may lessen how well antibiotics such as penicillin work.

  • Dairy foods and drinks may lower the how well tetracycline fights infection.

  • Some green leafy vegetables can stop the effects of warfarin. This is a blood thinner (anticoagulant).

  • MAO inhibitors are not safe when mixed with foods or drinks that have tyramine. These include beer, red wine, chocolate, processed meat, avocados, and some cheeses.

  • Grapefruit juice can interfere with some blood pressure medicines and organ transplant medicines. It does this by increasing their metabolic breakdown.

  • Some medicines are only absorbed if they are taken with a full meal or a meal high in fat.

Not all medicines are affected by food. But many can be affected by what you eat and when you eat it. In some cases, taking medicines at the same time you eat may change the way your stomach and intestines absorb medicine. Other medicines should be taken with food. Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Ask for advice about how to take your medicine.

Taking medicines safely

Make sure to:

  • Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if there are foods, beverages, vitamins, or supplements you should not have with your medicines.

  • Read the label on the container. If you do not understand something, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

  • Read directions, warnings, and interaction precautions printed on all medicine labels. This includes OTC medicines. Even these can interact with foods, drinks, or supplements.

  • Take medicine with a full glass of water unless told otherwise by your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

  • Do not stir medicine into your food or take capsules apart unless directed by your pharmacist or healthcare provider. This may change the way the medicine works.

  • Check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before taking vitamin pills at the same time you take medicine. This is because vitamins and minerals can interact with some medicines.

  • Do not mix medicine into hot drinks. This is because the heat from the drink may lessen how well the medicine works.

  • Never take medicine with alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can change medicine absorption. And it may increase or decrease how well many medicines work.

  • Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you are taking. This includes both prescription and OTC medicines.

  • Get all your medicines from 1 pharmacy. Tell your pharmacist about any OTC medicines, supplements, herbs, or vitamins that you take.

  • Keep all medicines in their original containers. This is so they can be easily identified.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2018
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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