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A drug-food interaction occurs when your food and medicine interfere with one another. Interactions can happen with both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. These include antacids, vitamins and iron pills.
Not all medicines are affected by food. Some, though, are affected by what you eat or when you eat it. Taking a medicine at the same time that you eat can cause your not to absorb the medicine. Or certain foods may delay or decrease the absorption of the drug. For example, you should not combine dairy and antibiotics. This is why some medicines should be taken on an empty stomach (1 hour before eating or 2 hours after eating).
Some medicines cannot be taken with certain types of food. The food can cause a reaction that changes the effect of the medicine. It also can create or heighten side effects. An example of this is having grapefruit or grapefruit juice with cholesterol drugs. If you take an ACE inhibitor, you should avoid foods high in potassium, such as bananas.
On the other hand, some medicines are easier to handle when taken with food. If you don’t take them with food, you may feel nauseous or dizzy. This is often the case with some antibiotics.
Path to safety
Always talk to your healthcare provider or a pharmacist before taking a new medicine. They can tell you about possible drug-food interactions. Below are more important tips to follow.
- Read the prescription label on the container. If you don’t understand something, contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
- Read all directions, warnings and interaction precautions printed on medicine labels and packages. Even over-the‑counter medicines can cause problems.
- Take medicine with a full glass of water, unless your healthcare provider tells you differently.
- Don’t stir medicine into your food or take capsules apart (unless your healthcare provider tells you to) because this may change the way the drug works.
- Don’t take vitamin pills at the same time you take medicine because vitamins and minerals can cause problems if taken with some drugs.
- Don’t mix medicine into hot drinks because the heat may keep the drug from working.
- Never take medicine with alcoholic drinks.
Things to consider
Taking a new medicine can be hard, especially if there is a risk for interactions. Create a routine for taking one or all of your medicines. Things that may help are:
- Keeping a calendar for what day and time to take each one.
- Setting an alarm to remind you to take each one.
- Using a pill box to manage your medicines.