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Should antibiotics be taken before or after food
Health 13.02.18 

Should Antibiotics be Taken Before or After Food?

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Some antibiotics are specialised and are only effective against some types of bacteria. Whereas, broad-spectrum antibiotics, attack a wide range of bacteria, including ones that are beneficial to us.  There are two main ways that antibiotics target bacteria. They either prevent the reproduction of bacteria, or they kill the bacteria, for example by stopping the mechanism responsible for building their cell walls.  So, should antibiotics be taken before or after food?

Should Antibiotics be Taken Before or After Food?

Antibiotics are often recommended to be taken at certain times.  Antibiotics that are taken at the incorrect time increase a patient’s risk of suffering from nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.  Taking antibiotics at the incorrect time may also increase your chance of developing antibiotic resistance.

Should your antibiotics be taken before or after food? In some cases, taking antibiotics whilst eating a meal may help to reduce stomach issues from certain antibiotics such as amoxicillin and doxycycline. Nevertheless, this approach won’t work for all antibiotics. Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline, should be taken on an empty stomach. Talk to your doctor to make sure you know how you’re supposed to take your drug and if there are other ways you can ease stomach side effects.  Take a look below to see which category your medication falls under.

  • Antibiotics that should be taken before food: Penicillin, Flucloxacillin.
  • Antibiotics that should be taken after food: Metronidazole, Trimethoprim, Doxycycline, Nitrofurantoin.
  • Antibiotics that can be taken either before or after food: Amoxicillin, Ciprofloxacin.

Impact of Food to Antibiotics

It should be noted that although the chart above shows which antibiotics should be taken with food, some foods may interfere with the medication.  A key example of this is grapefruit.  This is because enzymes in the intestines break down many types of medicines (such as macrolide antibiotics) and chemicals in grapefruit block these enzymes and disrupt their function. Because the breakdown enzymes are not functioning properly, the antibiotics stay in your body for longer and the level in your bloodstream may become too high. This increases your chance of experiencing side effects from the medication. Eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice can affect antibiotic metabolism for up to 72 hours.

Although the information above highlight which antibiotics should be taken before or after food, we recommend consulting your pharmacist if you have any queries about when to take your medication.  If you regularly take repeat medication, you may wish to consider using services such as RXLive, which provide a free delivery service to ensure you never miss your medication again and have a dedicated pharmacist ready to chat at all times.

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