Should I take my medicine with food or not?

medicines and food

To eat or not to eat


Should you take your medicine with food or not?  This is quite a complex topic and the answer really depends on the medication and the type of meal.  Generally taking a medication with food means it will take longer to work and may be less effective.  With some medications it does not make a big difference however with others there are strict guidelines around when to take it in relation to food.  If there is a medication that you take regularly be consistent with the timing of it with food.


Taking a medication away from food is generally classified as taking it one hour before or two hours after food.


Reasons some medicines should be taken with or after food

  • So they are absorbed in to the blood stream properly. Some medicines need food in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract so that they can be absorbed properly.
  • To minimise nausea and vomiting. Medications that can cause these symptoms are less likely to cause them if there is food in the stomach.
  • To minimise stomach irritation. Some foods can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and in severe cases cause ulcers.  Even having a biscuit or glass of milk can help prevent irritation.  This is why aspirin and related anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen and diclofenac are usually best taken with food.  It is not as big a deal as first thought but certainly regular users and those who find they have a sensitive stomach should have food first.
  • To help the body process the meal. Some medicines help with the processing of meals and so need to be taken with food.
  • To make sure the medicine is not washed away. Examples of this include mouthwashes and drops/gels for mouth infections.  They should be used after eating so that they don’t get washed away and can stay in the mouth as long as possible.


Reasons some medicines should be taken away from food

  • To make sure the medicine is processed and absorbed properly. Calcium in dairy products stops the absorption of iron and some antibiotics.  Thyroxine, to treat hypothyroidism, should be taken away from food so that it is absorbed properly.
  • To make sure the medicine breaks down properly in the intestines and liver. Grapefruit juice has such an unpredictable effect with a lot of medicines that it should not be consumed unless you are sure it is safe with your medicines.
  • Because the “food” acts in a similar way to the medicine. This is like having an overdose.  This is why alcohol should not be consumed with medications that cause sedation and caffeine should not be used with stimulating medicines.


Consumer Medicine Information leaflets are available for all prescription medications and these are the best place to look to see when you should take your medicine in relation to food.  Alternatively ask your Pharmacist what is best for your medicines.


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