Drug-Food Interactions

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What is a drug-food interaction?

A drug-food interaction happens when the food you eat affects the ingredients in a medicine you are taking so the medicine cannot work the way it should.

Drug-food interactions can happen with both prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including antacids, vitamins and iron pills.

Are all medicines affected by food?

Not all medicines are affected by food, but many medicines can be affected by what you eat and when you eat it. For example, taking some medicines at the same time that you eat may interfere with the way your stomach and intestines absorb the medicine. The food may delay or decrease the absorption of the drug. This is why some medicines should be taken on an empty stomach (1 hour before eating or 2 hours after eating).

On the other hand, some medicines are easier to tolerate when taken with food. Ask your doctor or your pharmacist whether it's okay to take your medicine with a snack or a meal or whether it should be taken on an empty stomach.

Facts to remember about drug-food interactions

  • Read the prescription label on the container. If you don't understand something, ask your doctor 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 doctor tells you differently.
  • Don't stir medicine into your food or take capsules apart (unless your doctor 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.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 09/00

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