Different medications have different instructions for taking them. Some require an empty stomach; others recommend taking with food for better absorption. (And still others discourage some food combinations, such as grapefruit and cholesterol medication.) But what constitutes “with food”?
According to the New York Times, your stomach is empty about two hours after you eat a meal. So if you’re instructed to take your medicine with food, you’ll want to do it within an hour of eating.
Here are a few recommendations for what to eat when taking medicines that require something in the stomach. But remember that everyone is different and it’s a good idea to check with your pharmacist or your doctor if you have concerns about what to eat with your medicine.
As we mentioned before, grapefruit can interfere with some common medicines, but, according to the National Institutes of Health, other citrus foods and juices can, too. Crackers, rice, bread, peanut butter, and other neutral foods do a good job coating your stomach and prompting digestion, which helps your body to metabolize your medication efficiently.
Ideally, you’ll take your medications right before, after, or during a meal, reports The Californian Magazine. But sometimes that’s not an option, depending on your schedule, your routine, or the instructions on your medication.
If you take your medicine right before bed when you don’t have much of an appetite, for example, it’s a good idea to have a few crackers or a glass of milk. Just a small amount of food to buffer your stomach is what you’re aiming for.
You may find that your stomach lets you know if you haven’t had enough food for your body to metabolize your medicine comfortably. Right after taking your medicine with your meal or your snack, wait 15 to 30 minutes to gauge how you feel. Nausea or discomfort likely indicates you should have a little more to eat. Try a granola bar, carrot sticks, or yogurt.
Again, it’s best to check in with your pharmacist or your physician to find out for sure what to avoid (if anything) while taking your medication. But in general, these are the foods that can interfere with common medicines, according to Consumer Reports. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat them! It just means you should avoid them within two hours of taking your medication.
Depending on the medication, eating grapefruit with some medications can be similar to an overdose, according to Poison Control. So get in touch with your doctor to be absolutely sure you’re not at risk if you have any doubts about your medication routine. And if you love your morning grapefruit, talk to your doctor about that, too. There may be a substitute you could be prescribed, too.