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Answers to Common Medication-Related Questions

Ask an ExactCare Pharmacist

Everyone has questions from time to time about their medications. Your pharmacist is a great resource to help answer these types of questions! Pharmacists are the medication experts on your healthcare team. They have extensive education about medications, how they interact with one another, and how they can support your health. Here, we provide some answers to common medication-related questions featuring one of ExactCare’s own clinical pharmacists, Reeya Patel, PharmD, BCMTMS.


Reeya Patel, PharmD, BCMTMS

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Why do I have to take some medications with food and others on an empty stomach?

Food and drink can impact the way some medications work. Sometimes, food and drink is needed to help medications work. Other times, food and drink prevents medications from working as well as they should—or prevents them from working at all.

It’s all about creating the right environment for a medication to be digested and absorbed into your body.

Important things to know about how your medications work

  • All medications need to be digested and absorbed by your body before they can start working.
  • Once a medication is absorbed, it can start to treat the condition it was prescribed for.
  • Different medications are absorbed at different levels. This means the amount of medication that enters the bloodstream is different for each medication you take.
  • Each medication requires a different environment to work best. Some medications can work quicker if they are taken on an empty stomach. Other medications require an acidic environment, which you can create by taking them with food.

How food can impact your medication

It’s important to know how food can impact your medication. Taking your medication with food can slow down the rate it is digested and absorbed into your body. Sometimes, this is just what a medication needs to work well! Other times, it can stop a medication from working as it should.

Why does this happen? When you take some medication with food, it can cause a surplus of the medication in your blood. For other medication, food can cause an amount that is too low for your medication to be effective.

Food can also help minimize negative side effects some medications cause, like stomach irritation and nausea.

Before taking your medication, you should always read the instructions to ensure you are taking it correctly. Check to see if you should be taking it around mealtimes or on an empty stomach. If you are unsure or cannot find the instructions, call your pharmacist for assistance.

Medications that should be taken WITH food

Medication bottle with take with food label

Your medication instructions will tell you if you should take it with food or on an empty stomach. A few crackers or even a glass of milk can usually make a difference.

Food not only impacts how a medication works but it can also help minimize side effects some medications can cause. These include nausea, stomach inflammation, indigestion, ulcers and other possible side effects.

The following are examples of some medications that should be taken with food:

  • Antacids that assist with indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux. These should be taken before, during or right after a meal to minimize symptoms.
  • Certain medications, like those for oral diabetes, are meant to help the body process a meal. They should be taken around mealtimes to reduce blood sugar levels. They are also used to avoid extremely low blood sugar.
  • Medications used to relieve pain, lower a fever and reduce inflammation.
  • Medications containing digestive enzymes. These are used to help break down and digest fats, starches and proteins in foods.
  • Medications used to control HIV infection.
  • Oral mouthwashes should be used after a meal so food doesn’t wash them away too quickly.

Medications that should be taken WITHOUT food

Someone reading their medication instructions

Taking certain medications with food can slow down the absorption process. Food can interact with the medication decreasing the amount available in the blood. As a result, the medication will take longer to start working. It also might not be absorbed the best way for it to work at all.

A general rule of thumb is to take your medication one hour before or two hours after eating. This will allow it to be absorbed properly and start working sooner.

Always read your medication instructions when determining when to take your medication in relation to mealtimes. If your instructions say something different, follow those!

The following are examples of medications that should be taken without food:

  • Medications used to treat certain thyroid conditions.
  • Medications used to treat bone thinning that can occur when calcium is lost.
  • Medications used to reduce the amount of stomach acid made by glands in the lining of your stomach.
  • Medications used to treat and prevent stomach ulcers.

You should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist to determine the best way to take your medications. They are here to support you and can help you stay on track. Make sure you let them know all the medications you are taking. Keep a list of all your prescriptions, supplements, and over the counters on hand. If you have any questions, call us at 1-877-355-7225. Our pharmacists are here to help! *Please note: The examples listed above are not all-encompassing lists.

Information featured on the ExactCare website, including the Ask a Pharmacist page, should not be considered medical advice. Please consult your pharmacist or doctor for advice regarding your personal health situation. If ExactCare is your pharmacy, call us directly to talk to your pharmacist: 1-877-355-7225


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