Medical essentials

Taking Medications: Before or After Meal?

Taking Medications: Before or After Meal?

Taking Medications: Before or After Meal?

I believe some of you are confused about whether it would be better to take your medication before or after eating. In short, my answer to this question is it depends. Different drugs work and get metabolized differently. Therefore it is important to know which specific type of drugs should be taken before and after eating, or if it matters at all.

The concept behind is rather simple; in order for certain medications to be absorbed effectively into the bloodstream, they are preferred to be taken on an empty stomach to avoid mixing with the food and eventually get passed on distally in the bowel.

Some drugs are advised to be taken before meal to prevent interaction between the drug and food that you eat. There is an array of drug and food interactions that can occur, some of which have been discovered while others have not. You might want to pay attention to food combinations such as:

Grapefruit + antihistamines, blood pressure lowering drugs, thyroid replacement drugs, contraceptive pills or gastric acid inhibitors because it can cause these drugs to be metabolized abnormally and lead to higher blood level of the drugs in the body.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and lettuce contain high amount of vitamin-K which is a substance that plays crucial role in blood coagulation. So if you are on blood-thinning medications like Warfarin (Coumadin), taking too much green leafy vegetables may reduce the ability of this drug to prevent blood from clotting.

Tyramine containing food such as chocolates, aged-cheese, smoked meats or soy products may lead to an increase in blood pressure. Some medications like the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO-I) which is used to treat depression and relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are known to interfere with the breakdown of Tyramine and therefore should be taken carefully.

Milk contains high amount of calcium, studies have shown that the calcium in dairy products may interfere with the absorption of antibiotics such as Amoxicillin, Cephalosporin, Ciprofloxacin, Clindamycin and Metronidazole.

Next, you probably know that alcohol can cause great harm to your liver, but did you know that taking alcohol with anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen can lead to severe stomach bleeding or even death in rare cases? Alcohol on its own is corrosive, when coupled with drugs that prevent the formation of gastric lining protective factors, severe complications are much more likely to occur.

Many people are unaware that high level of potassium in the body can lead to heart palpitations or even cardiac arrhythmias. An anti-hypertensive drug group called ACE-inhibitors like perindopril and lisinopril acts by preventing the reabsorption of salt and inhibits the excretion of potassium from the body. Therefore food that is high in potassium such as bananas should not be taken together with drugs that can increase potassium level in the body.

On the other hand, some medications are designed to be taken right before meal for optimal pharmacological effects. A classic example is anti-reflux medications like antacids or anti-histamines. These drugs are used to decrease or neutralize the pH in the stomach to preventing gastric acid from irritating your stomach lining. In some diabetic patients, they are required to take rapid-acting insulin before meal to stabilize their blood sugar level.

One of the main reasons why some medications are advised to be taken only AFTER eating is because they are known to cause nausea and vomiting, taking them with food will help to lessen these side effects. Some examples of these medications are Allopurinol which is used to treat gout or Bromocriptine which is used for treating pituitary tumour or Parkinson’s disease.

Earlier I mentioned that NSAIDs may irritate the gastric lining especially to those with peptic ulcer disease. To prevent this from happening, you can have something light like biscuits, sandwich or a glass of milk to counter the side effect of this class of drug.

To wrap this up, there really isn’t one answer that fits all, it takes some research effort to find out whether the type of medication you take works better before or after meal. Alternatively, you can consult your doctor or the pharmacist for some advice before taking the medications.

Read my previous post here.

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