Using Food to Improve a Drugs Performance

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Not every food and drug interaction is an adverse one. Sometimes a drug works better or is less likely to cause side effects when you take it on a full stomach. For example, aspirin is less likely to upset your stomach if you take the painkiller with food, and eating stimulates the release of stomach juices that improve your ability to absorb griseofulvin, an antifungus drug.

Table 25-2 lists some drugs that may work better when your stomach is full.

Table 25-2_Drugs That Work Better on a Full Stomach

Purpose Drug

Analgesics (painkillers) Acetaminophen

Aspirin Codeine Ibuprofen Indomethacin Mefenamic acid Metronidazole Naproxen/naproxen sodium Antibiotics, Antivirals, Antifungals Ethambutol

Griseofulvin Isoniazid Ketoconazole Pyrimethamine Antidiabetic Agents Glipizide


Purpose Drug



Cholesterol-Lowering Agents Cholestyramine

Colestipol Lovastatin


Gastric Medications Cimetidine


James J. Rybacki, The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2002 (New York: Harper Collins, 2001)

oj^NG.' Don't guess about drugs and food. Every time you take a pill, read the package label or check with your doctor/pharmacist to find out whether taking the medicine with food improves or reduces its ability to make you better. Or thumb through your brand-new copy of The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs.

With this medicine, who can eat?

Interactions aren't the only drug reactions that keep you from getting nutrients from food. Some drugs have side effects that also reduce the value of food. For example, a drug may

I Sharply reduce your appetite so that you simply don't eat much. The best-known example may be the amphetamine and amphetamine-like drugs such as fenfluramine used (surprise!) as diet pills.

I Make food taste or smell bad or steal away your senses of taste or smell so that eating isn't pleasurable. One example is the antidepressant drug amitriptyline (Elavil), which can leave a peculiar taste in your mouth.

I Cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea so that you either can't eat or do not retain nutrients from the food you do eat. Examples include the antibiotic erythromycin and many drugs used to treat cancer.

I Irritate the lining of your gut so that even if you do eat, your body has a hard time absorbing nutrients from food. One example of a drug that causes this side effect is cyclophosphamide, an antitumor medication.

The moderately good news is that new medications appear to make some drugs (including anticancer drugs) less likely to cause nausea and vomiting. The best news is that many drugs are less likely to upset your stomach or irritate your gut if you take them with food (see Table 25-2). For example, taking aspirin and other nonprescription painkillers such as ibuprofen with food or a full glass of water may reduce their natural tendency to irritate the lining of your stomach.

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