Can You Take Antibiotics on an Empty Stomach?

When it comes to taking medication, there are many things to be aware of, such as the dose of your prescription and how often it needs to be taken. On top of this, it is essential to know if it should be taken with or without food. 

This can cause many people to wonder if you can take antibiotics on an empty stomach, but because there are hundreds of different antibiotics, the rules regarding this can vary. Some can only be taken with an empty stomach, some need to be taken with food, and others can go either direction. 

Continue reading to learn how food and antibiotics can mix, some examples of antibiotics that fall within each category, and what to do if you’re unsure about your medication.

Table of Contents

About Antibiotics

Antibiotics are likely the most well-known medication that almost everyone takes at least once in their life. They are prescribed when someone has a bacterial infection, and they fight the infection by killing the bacteria or impeding their ability to grow/multiply. These mechanisms of action make them a crucial aid in the fight against bacterial infections. 

Antibiotics come in many different forms, including topical creams, pills, eye drops, liquid suspensions, and IV infusions in the case of severe infection. Often, the format will depend on the type of infection. For example, topical creams are only used in the case of skin infection. 

Some illnesses that antibiotics may treat include:

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • strep throat
  • E. coli
  • acne
  • bronchitis
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • skin infections
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • ear infection
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • eye infections
  • gum disease
  • meningitis

It is important to remember that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, and some of the illnesses listed above, such as STDs, can have either a bacterial or viral cause. As such, antibiotics will only be effective for the illnesses listed above if their cause is bacterial. 

Taking antibiotics when the cause is not bacterial can have many complications, such as making way for a more severe infection or causing more unpleasant side effects.

As it stands, each antibiotic often has its own set of side effects, but most antibiotics share the ability to cause an upset stomach. Along these lines, one of the most common recommendations for antibiotics to help prevent an upset stomach is taking the medication with food. 

Still, should antibiotics only be taken with food to ease an upset stomach, or are there cases where it has to be taken with food to work correctly?

Can You Take Antibiotics on an Empty Stomach?

When prescribed medication, it’s common to wonder if it should be taken on an empty stomach or alongside food. This is important as the answer dictates when you take your antibiotic and the schedule you follow. 

Whether or not an antibiotic can be taken on an empty stomach will depend on the medication and the conditions it works best under. For example, some antibiotics may need an acidic environment, requiring you to eat acidic foods or drinks beforehand. In contrast, others require an empty stomach because acidic conditions make the medication less effective. 

Most antibiotics can be taken on an empty stomach, but the specifics of your medication will be listed on the label, so be sure to check before taking your medication. 

Should You Take Antibiotics With Food?

The question of whether or not you should take antibiotics with food can be answered simply: it depends on the antibiotic. Some need to be taken with food, whereas others must be taken on an empty stomach. 

Spanning the middle of these two categories are antibiotics that can be taken with or without food, giving you the option. So, is there any benefit to taking them with food?

Risks of Taking Antibiotics on an Empty Stomach

The most significant risk of taking antibiotics on an empty stomach is the greater likelihood of stomach upset. So, if you are given the option with your antibiotic, you will want to consider taking it with food if you are experiencing stomach issues such as stomach pain, bloating, or diarrhea. However, you can only consider this if your antibiotic can be taken with food. Some varieties, such as tetracyclines or flucloxacillin, must be taken on an empty stomach.

Which Antibiotics Should You Take With Food?

If an antibiotic needs to be taken with food, it will be specified on its label. In these cases, taking it with food not only minimizes side effects but also allows for better intestinal absorption of the antibiotic. 

Some antibiotics that should be taken with food include:

  • trimethoprim
  • metronidazole
  • nitrofurantoin
  • doxycycline
  • cefpodoxime
  • amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin)
  • rifabutin

However, not all food is created equal, so you may be able to take your antibiotic with some foods but not others. For example, some antibiotics should be taken separately from dairy products to ensure optimal absorption. 

Which Antibiotics Can You Take on an Empty Stomach?

Conversely, some antibiotics should not be taken with food. There are many possible reasons for this, such as the ability of food to slow its absorption, limit the amount it is absorbed by the body, or affect the rate at which it breaks down. Examples of antibiotics that should not be taken with food include flucloxacillin and penicillin.

However, there are also antibiotics that can be taken either on an empty stomach or with food, such as ciprofloxacin and amoxicillin.

When to See a Doctor?

Whenever you suspect an infection, it is recommended to see a doctor in case you need an antibiotic. Based on your symptoms, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic for you if they believe you have a bacterial infection. 

If you’re looking for a quick and convenient way to meet with a doctor, DrHouse is here to help. Meet with a doctor in just 15 minutes to discuss your symptoms and receive an antibiotic prescription, if needed. 

Additionally, if your antibiotic is giving you stomach problems and you’re unsure if it is safe to take it with food, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor for clarification. 

FAQs

Can Amoxicillin Be Taken on an Empty Stomach?

Amoxicillin is one of the antibiotics that can be taken with or without food, so it can be taken on an empty stomach. However, if you notice stomach problems while taking amoxicillin, you may want to start taking it with food. 

Should You Take Antibiotics Before or After Eating?

Whether or not an antibiotic should be taken before or after eating will depend on the antibiotic. If it needs to be taken on an empty stomach, take it before eating; if it needs to be taken with food, take it after eating. If the antibiotic cannot be taken with certain foods, such as dairy, you may need to wait a few hours after eating before taking it to ensure your stomach is empty again. 

What Happens if You Take Antibiotics Without Eating?

If you take antibiotics without eating, a few things could happen. First and foremost, the antibiotic can work as expected. Another alternative is that the antibiotic works as expected but upsets your stomach, causing pain, bloating, or diarrhea. Yet another possibility, specifically if you take an antibiotic without eating when the medication requires it, is that the medicine may not work as effectively as it should. This could result in your infection taking longer to go away. 

Key Takeaways

Antibiotics are prescription medications that come in many forms, but the most common is a pill taken orally. When it comes to these medications, one of the most critical considerations, second to the amount and frequency you need to take the medication, is if it needs to be taken with food. 

Some antibiotics must be taken on an empty stomach, as food will make them break down too quickly or cause the body to absorb less of them. Conversely, some antibiotics need to be taken with food to lessen unpleasant side effects and increase intestinal absorption. And then there are even antibiotics that can be taken either way. 

The drug label will provide all information regarding whether an antibiotic should be taken with or without food, but if you’re ever unsure, reach out to your doctor. 

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

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