Some Dont

Taking medications may not seem like a nutrition issue. Yet, when food and medicines are taken together, they often interact. That's not surprising, since the chemistry of the stomach and the intestine differs before and several hours after eating. Food and the substances released in your body during digestion

Common Interactions between Food and Some Medications

Medicine Cabinet Kitchen Cabinet: Common Food and Drug Interactions*

Prescription Drugs and (For specific information about your medications, ask your doctor or

Over-the-Counter Products your pharmacist.)

Pain relievers

  • Aspirin (e.g., Anacin, Bayer)
  • Ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)


  • Tetracycline (e.g., Achromycin, Sumycin)
  • Penicillin (e.g., Pen-Vee K)

Blood-thinning medication/anticoagulants


Antacids containing

  • Aluminum (e.g., Maalox, Amphojel)
  • Calcium (e.g., Tums)
  • Sodium (e.g., Alka-Seltzer)

Garlic pills


(Prednisone, Solumedrol, Hydrocortisone)

Medications for cancer treatment (Tamoxifen, Methotrexate)

Take these with food to avoid irritating your stomach. Also limit other stomach irritants, such as alcohol and caffeine.

The calcium in dairy foods and in calcium and iron supplements can block the absorption of tetracycline-based products. Take these medications one hour or more before or after consuming dairy products or calcium supplements. When taken together, citrus fruits and fruit juices can destroy a type of penicillin.

Eat in moderation a consistent amount of foods with vitamin K, such as dark-green leafy greens; spinach; kale; turnip greens; green tea; and some soy burgers. Too much vitamin K can make your blood clot faster.

When taken with foods high in tyramine (an amino acid found in protein foods), these medications may lead to increased blood pressure, fever, headache, vomiting, and possible death. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for a list of foods to avoid, such as beer, cheese, red wine, cured meats, aged cheese, avocados, sour cream, and yeast products.

Wait two to three hours after taking an aluminum-containing antacid before you drink or eat citrus fruits. Citrus fruits can increase the amount of aluminum your body absorbs. Antacids with aluminum also can cause a loss of bone-building calcium.

Some antacids can weaken the absorption of heart-regulating medications such as digoxin (e.g., Lanoxin). Some antacids can weaken the effect of antiulcer medication (e.g., Tagamet) or drugs that treat high blood pressure (such as Inderal). Be sure to read all the alerts on the labels. If you have high blood pressure, read the label of antacids for the amount of sodium present.

It is important for your blood to clot if you suffer a cut or undergo surgery. Substances in garlic appear to thin the blood. If you are already taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications, taking garlic supplements may thin the blood too much.

Because these medications increase sodium and water retention, which may lead to edema, go easy on foods high in sodium, such as ham and other cured meats, pickled vegetables (pickled beets, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, others), processed foods, cheese, salty snacks, and salt added in cooking and at the table.

Flavonoids in citrus fruits can help tamoxifen inhibit cancer cell growth. Methotrexate promotes folate deficiency; a folate supplement may be prescribed.

*Many supplements including herbal products may interact with medications, too. See "Warning: Supplement Interactions!" in chapter 23.

Adapted from: To Your Health! Food & Activity Tips for Older Adults (National Council on Aging, National Institute on Aging, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and Food Marketing Institute). Used with permission.

may either enhance or hinder the effectiveness of some medications. Some medications alter appetite, taste, or smell, and may cause mouth sores or a dry mouth, making swallowing difficult. Others may induce nausea or irritate the GI tract. Medications also can improve or interfere with nutrient absorption or use.

Your goal? To get the full benefits of both food and medicine. To do that, all medications, even aspirin, should be taken as directed:

  • Some medications should be taken with meals. With food, they're less likely to irritate the stomach. Aspirin and ibuprofen are two examples.
  • Some medications should be taken on an empty stomach, perhaps an hour before or three hours after eating. Food may slow their absorption and action. That's true of some antibiotics, for example.
  • Some food and medications shouldn't be consumed within several hours of each other. For example, fruit juice (including grapefruit juice) and other high-acid foods can destroy one type of penicillin. And calcium in dairy foods and calcium supplements binds with tetracycline, so it passes through the body without being absorbed.
  • Some medications should be taken with plenty of water. That's true of most cholesterol-lowering medications.
  • Many medications shouldn't be taken with alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can block the effects of some medications, and amplify the effects of others to potentially harmful levels. Medication also can intensify the effects of alcohol in your body.

How do you know to take medicine with a meal or on an empty stomach? Read the directions printed on the container or on an accompanying information sheet. You'll find information about when, how much per dose, and how long to take the medication. The directions also may state what to do if you miss a dose.

Ask the doctor or the pharmacist if you don't fully understand. You can ask that directions be printed in large type. Note: With the long-term use of some medications, your doctor also may prescribe a dietary supplement. See chapter 23.

You can't know about the potential interactions between all medicines and food. That's where the advice of your doctor, a pharmacist, or a registered dietitian comes in. For a quick reference for some medications see "Common Interactions between Food and Some Medications" in this chapter.

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  • Alison
    Why can't mix tetracycline and penicillin?
    8 years ago

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