Section: Barnabas Health News

Understanding Food and Drug Interactions


The holidays are often a time of celebration with family and friends. These gatherings center around special meals and treats – some of which are items we only indulge in during this festive season. We may even choose to sample new foods and drinks that we've never had before.

As you enjoy time with loved ones, Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacies encourage individuals to be aware of potential food and drug interactions that can occur with both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including antacids, vitamins, iron pills, herbs, supplements and beverages.

What is a food and drug interaction?

A food and drug interaction occurs when nutrients from foods and beverages affect the way you metabolize certain drugs, by binding with the drug ingredients, thus reducing their absorption or speeding their elimination. Not all medications are affected by food, but many can be affected by what you eat and when you eat it. Sometimes, taking medications at the same time you eat may interfere with the way your stomach and intestines absorb medication.

To ensure your safety, Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacies offer the following recommendations:

  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor if there are foods, beverages, vitamins, or supplements you should avoid with your medications. Be sure to ask if there are specific directions on eating prior to taking the medication.
  • Read the prescription label on the container. If you do not understand something, or think you need more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Read directions, warnings, and interaction precautions printed on all medication labels and instructions. Even over-the-counter medications can interact with foods, beverages, or supplements.
  • Take medication with a full glass of water unless told otherwise by your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Do not stir medication into your food or take capsules apart (unless directed by your pharmacist or doctor). This may change the way the drug works.
  • Check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking vitamin pills at the same time you take medication — vitamins and minerals can interact with some drugs.
  • Do not mix medication into hot drinks, because the heat from the drink may destroy the effectiveness of the drug.
  • Never take medication with alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can change medication absorption and may increase or decrease the effectiveness of many medications.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all medications you are taking, both prescription and nonprescription.
  • Obtain all your medications from one pharmacy and tell your pharmacist about any OTC, supplements, herbs, or vitamins that you take.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers so they can be easily identified.

For more information about food and drug interactions, consider talking to your local pharmacist. Pharmacists at Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacies at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center, Clara Maass Medical Center, Jersey City Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center are also available to answer any questions you may have. To speak to a pharmacist at any of these locations, call:

  • Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacy at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center: 973-322-7315
  • Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacy at Clara Maass Medical Center: 973-450-2581
  • Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacy at Jersey City Medical Center: 201-915-2166
  • Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacy at Monmouth Medical Center: 732-923-6111
  • Barnabas Health Retail Pharmacy at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center: 973-926-7422
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