Mixing Food and Medications

Be aware: certain foods and beverages can interact with your meds.


If the prescription label says “take with meals,” does what you’re eating matter? If it says “take with a glass of water,” will a cup of coffee or glass of juice work just as well?

That depends on the medication. Many should be taken with food – any food – or liquid to increase their absorption and reduce the risk of side effects, but sometimes your food and beverage choice matters. Some foods and medications can interact, reducing the medications’ effectiveness or increasing the risk of harmful side effects.

When beginning a new prescription, you should always discuss potential food and beverage interactions with your doctor or pharmacist, but here are a few you should keep in mind.


Perhaps the greatest risk of a food or beverage interaction is with alcohol. Alcohol can dangerously increase sedative effects of analgesics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs; raise the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding when taken with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prednisone; and lead to liver damage when combined with acetaminophen or methotrexate. If you drink, it’s important to discuss with your doctor how much is too much before beginning any medication.

Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice

Don't mix with: cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune), a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug; colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare), a gout medicine; amitriptyline (an antidepressant); statins

Why: Grapefruit has been shown to increase blood levels of these drugs, making it difficult to control the dosage and possibly leading to dangerous drug levels in the body.

Dairy Products

Don't mix with: tetracycline, an antibiotic; bisphosphonates, including alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia) and ibandronate (Boniva)

Why: Calcium can interfere with the absorption of these drugs and make them less effective.

Coffee and Other Caffeinated Beverages and Foods

Don't mix with: prednisone

Why: Prednisone inhibits caffeine metabolism, which can increase caffeine levels and caffeine’s effects, including sleeplessness, jitters and possibly increased gout attacks.

Aged Cheeses, Red Wine, and Fermented Foods

Don't mix with: MAO inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of antidepressants, including isocarboxazid (Marplan), tranylcypromine (Parnate) and phenelzine (Nardil)

Why: MAOIs inhibit the body’s ability to break down a chemical called tyramine in foods. Eating fermented foods, which are high in tyramine, can lead to high levels of the chemical, which can cause the blood vessels to narrow, resulting in very high blood pressure.

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