Antibiotics are great at fighting infections, so much so that they are often over-prescribed to patients hoping for a quick fix to get rid of various illnesses. However, antibiotics only fight one type of disease: bacterial infections, such as strep throat or urinary tract infections. For viral infections like colds or flu, they are completely ineffective.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of antibiotics, they must be prescribed appropriately and used correctly. To avoid stomach upset, antibiotics should be taken with food, but certain foods can cause other unwanted side effects and even prevent the drugs from doing their job. Read on for four things you should avoid when taking antibiotics.
READ NEXT: Never take these 2 common over-the-counter medications at the same time, experts warn.
Avoiding fruit juices while taking antibiotics is a good idea, and grapefruit in particular is a good one to avoid, according to Kelsey LorenczRDNs and Nutrition Advisor for Fin vs Fin. “Orange, apple, cranberry and grapefruit juices all have the potential to interfere with the effectiveness of antibiotics,” she explains. “Grapefruit juice, in particular, can increase the potency of many drugs, which makes mixing the two dangerous.”
It doesn’t take a lot of grapefruit to potentially cause problems. “It’s important to remember that one whole grapefruit or about a tall glass of juice is enough to change blood levels many medications,” says Healthline. “And some of these drugs can have serious side effects when they interact with grapefruit.
It’s delicate. “Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, can reduce the effectiveness of some antibiotics due to their high calcium content,” advises Lorencz. “The calcium in dairy products can bind to antibiotics, preventing them from doing their job.”
But aren’t we supposed to take yogurt with antibiotics in the hope that the probiotics will help prevent unwanted side effects like diarrhea? Good question. Yes, probiotics can offset the gastrointestinal effects of antibiotics, but as Lorencz points out, dairy products can interfere with how well your antibiotics work. “Allow a window of two to three hours between taking the antibiotic and eating or drinking dairy products,” says Lorencz. And stock up on other non-dairy foods that contain useful probiotics; according to PureWow, these include sauerkraut, kimchi, and olives.
Dairy products are not the only foods containing calcium. “Common fortified foods include breakfast cereals, some plant-based milks, and granola bars,” Lorencz says. “Consuming foods fortified with minerals like calcium can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, as can consuming milk,” she explains. And even non-dairy milk can be a sneaky source of calcium and minerals, according to Samaritan Health Services.
Another component of fortified foods to watch out for is iron. Dietician Katrina Seidman told the Chicago Grandstand that “calcium and iron can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain types of antibiotics known as quinolonesIn addition to dairy products, Seidman recommends staying away from iron-rich foods (like hot dogs or iron-fortified cereal) while taking antibiotics.
For more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
If you’re taking antibiotics, now is not the time to drown your strep throat ailments with a frosty mug of beer or a cocktail. “Alcohol is processed in the liver, as are many drugs, including some antibiotics,” Lorencz warns. “In some cases, it can make the drug less or more potent, which is something you don’t want when taking an antibiotic.”
Antibiotics aren’t the only drugs to avoid when drinking alcohol. “Hundreds of commonly used prescription and over-the-counter medications can harm your interact with alcohol“, warns WebMD. “In some cases, interactions with alcohol can decrease the effectiveness of medications or render them useless. In other cases, interactions with alcohol can make the drugs harmful or even toxic to the body.” These include heart medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and blood thinners, explains WebMD.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research and health agencies, but our content is not intended to replace professional advice. Regarding any medications you are taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your health care provider directly.