Potential Food-Drug Interactions

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Medications can be affected by certain foods, caffeine, or alcohol. This is called a food-drug interaction. Some food-drug interactions can alter or prevent some medicines from working the way it should. They can cause side effects from medications to be altered or they can create a new side effect. Some medications can change the way your body uses some foods. Any of these interactions may be harmful so it is important to be aware of them. You should ask your doctor, pharmacist, dietitian, or nurse about any medications you are taking and the potential food-drug interactions. The Food and Drug Administration approves these interactions. These interactions should appear on the label when your medication is dispensed. Always follow the directions on your medications. This is one of the reasons why the pharmacist will always ask you if you have any questions about your medication. Pharmacists are armed with a wealth of valuable information and are there to help you.

Some other things that affect your medication include age, weight, sex, other medical conditions, and any vitamins, herbals, and dietary supplements that you may be taking. Also, whether you should take your medicine on a full or empty stomach is important. Some medications can work faster, slower, better, or worse when you take them properly or improperly. Some medications can cause a lot of stomach upset. If the label does not guide you, your pharmacist can explain to you how to take the medication so you can ease stomach upset.

Be aware of the caffeine content of your food and drinks. Caffeine can also impact how a medication works. Some food and drinks that contain caffeine include coffee, cola, chocolate, tea, some of the high energy drinks, and other soft drinks.


Alcohol use can add to the side effects of medications. The way your medication works can be altered when you take medication with alcohol, before, or after drinking alcohol. You should always speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the effects of combining alcohol with the medications that you are taking.

It is important to note that prescription medications can interact with each other and with over the counter medications. The same can be true for over the counter medications interacting with each other.

Here is a quick review for some of the more common medications.

Bisphosphonates (for osteoporosis) – only work on an empty stomach. Take with eight ounces of water in the morning without any other medication or food. Two common examples are alendondrate and cholecalciferol.

Sedatives and hypnotics (for sleep) – Do not take with a meal or right after a meal. No alcohol as it can add to the side effects of the medication. One example is zolpidem.

Antidepressants (for depression, general anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and some eating disorders) – Take on a full or empty stomach. No alcohol as it can add to the side effects such as drowsiness. Examples are fluoxetine and sertraline.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (for GERD) – Follow the directions carefully as different medications have different interactions. Examples are omeprazole and pantoprazole.

Diuretics (remove water and minerals from body) – Some raise or reduce potassium and other minerals so follow the directions carefully. Some require supplementation. One example is hydrochlorothiazide.

Narcotics (for pain) – Alcohol increases the dangerous side effects, such as coma or death. Be aware of addiction. Follow the advice carefully. Examples are morphine, hydrocodone or oxycodone with acetaminophen.

Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about any medication that you start taking and alert them to any herbal supplements, vitamins, or minerals that may impact how the medications are utilized.


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