Some medications should be taken with food, and some should not. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the consequences of drug interactions with food and beverages may include delayed, decreased, or enhanced absorption of a medication. Moreover, mixing certain foods with medications can cause serious side effects. For this reason, learning about food's effect on your medication can be crucial to your health. 

First, it's important to understand the factors affecting the extent of interaction between food and medication.

Factors Affecting the Extent of Interaction

  • The dosage of the drug
  • Your age and size
  • Your state of health
  • When the food is eaten and when the medication is taken

Food's Effect on Your Medications

Second, it's important to learn about the specific foods (and beverages) that interact with your medications. The following information comes from the FDA:

Alcohol. Alcohol can increase or decrease the effect of many drugs. If you are taking any sort of medication, it's recommended that you avoid alcohol.

Chocolate. MAO inhibitors (used to treat depression) are just one category of drugs that shouldn't be consumed with excessive amounts of chocolate. The caffeine in chocolate can also interact with stimulant drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), increasing their effect, or by decreasing the effect of sedative-hypnotics such as Ambien (zolpidem). Talk to your doctor about what other drugs are affected my eating chocolate.

Dairy Products. Tetracycline and dairy products should be taken at separate times. When you eat tetracycline and calcium at the same time, some of the tetracycline binds to the calcium in your stomach. When it is bound like that, your body can't use it.

Grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice shouldn't be taken with certain blood pressure-lowering medications or cyclosporine for the prevention of organ transplant rejection. This is because grapefruit juice can cause higher levels of those medications in your body, making it more likely for you to experience side effects from the medication. Grapefruit juice can also interact to cause higher blood levels of the anti-anxiety medication Buspar (buspirone); the anti-malaria medications Quinerva or Quinite (quinine); and Halcion (triazolam), a medication used to treat insomnia.

Licorice. For someone taking Lanoxin (digoxin), used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms, some forms of licorice may increase the risk for Lanoxin toxicity. Licorice may also reduce the effects of blood pressure medications or diuretic (urine-producing) drugs, including Hydrodiuril (hydrochlorothiazide) and Aldactone (spironolactone).

Tips to Avoid Problems

  • Make sure your doctor knows about every drug you that you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and supplements.
  • Ask your doctor what you need to avoid when you are prescribed a new medication. Ask specifically about food, beverages, dietary supplements, and other drugs.
  • Talk with your doctor about how to lower the risk of interactions.
  • Learn about the warnings for all the drugs you take. Ask your doctor and pharmacist, and do your own research.
  • Always read drug labels carefully.
  • Keep medications in their original containers so that you can easily identify them.

Note: If you feel that your medication is not working as described by your doctor or you are experiencing any side effects, call your doctor immediately to discuss options.


Avoiding Drug Interactions. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed March 4, 2010.

How Food Can Affect Medication. CNN. Feb. 17, 2010. Accessed March 4, 2010.

Mehta, B. Adverse Drug-Drug and Food-Drug Interactions. The Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio University. Senior Series. Aug. 2007. Accessed March 4, 2010.

Zeratsky, K. Consumer Health, Grapefruit Juice: Can it cause drug interactions? Accessed March 4, 2010.