Six reasons to take medicines with or after food

Taking medicine with or after food when advised is an example of medicines optimisation, which means ensuring the medicine has the best chance of working as intended. Medicines optimisation is part of the safe handling of medication and an important concept for people working in health and social care.

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Training providers such as the key principles of administering medication to patients are understood for the benefit of patients and their carers:

1. Ensure the medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream

Some medicines need the stomach to be already digesting food to help break down and absorb the medicine properly.

2. Reduce nausea or vomiting

Medicines may induce nausea or vomiting. It can help if there is already food in the stomach to reduce these side effects.

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  1. Avoid harming the stomach

    Medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin can irritate the lining of the stomach and cause problems including bleeding and ulcers. Having food in the stomach helps create a barrier and reduce potential irritation.

    4. Help process the meal

    Some conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and chronic pancreatitis, need medicines to help the body process meals and maintain a healthy state. These medicines should therefore be taken at mealtimes.

    5. Treat heartburn or reflux

    Conditions that are exacerbated by eating may be treated with medicines that help the stomach deal with the onset of acids produced at mealtimes.

    6. Ensure the medicine has time to work

    Medicines that treat mouth problems should be taken directly after food so that they have time to work before the next meal or drink.

    More advice on optimising medicines for patients has been produced by the MHRA

Safe handling of medication includes knowing how to help patients use their medicines most effectively and safely.

Joseph Brown

Joseph Brown