Can You Drink Coffee While Taking Antibiotics?

Coffee is the morning beverage, required by many to even consider getting out of bed. However, can your coffee interact with your antibiotic prescription?

Although you can drink coffee while taking most antibiotics, there are a few, called quinolone antibiotics, that can interact with it. These antibiotics make it so your body breaks down caffeine at a slower rate, leaving you jittery and with a headache or fast heart rate.

Furthermore, some antibiotics can also interact with the milk or cream you put in your coffee because of its calcium content. So, checking for all possible interactions before starting a new medication is always best.

Key Takeaways:

  • It is safe to drink coffee with most antibiotics, just not quinolones.
  • Quinolone antibiotics share a breakdown pathway with caffeine, making it so the body takes longer to break down caffeine.
  • Drinking coffee while taking a quinolone antibiotic can leave you jittery and with a higher heart rate.
  • The dairy products you add to your coffee may also make some antibiotics less effective.

Table of Contents

Can You Drink Coffee While Taking Antibiotics?

In general, it is okay to drink coffee while taking antibiotics. However, it is not recommended if you are taking quinolone antibiotics because they can affect how your body metabolizes the caffeine in the coffee, keeping it in your system for longer. 

If you’d still like a cup of coffee while taking a quinolone antibiotic, you can always opt for a decaf version. Still, make sure that coffee is not your only beverage—you should still be drinking plenty of water to aid the antibiotic.

Additionally, it’s not just coffee itself to be aware of. Many people put some form of dairy into their coffee, whether milk, half and half, or cream. However, these dairy products contain calcium, which can interact with some antibiotics and make them less effective. If this is the case for your antibiotic, avoiding any calcium at least 6 hours before or 2 hours after you take your antibiotic is generally recommended. Depending on the time of day you need to take your medication, this will influence when you can have your cup of coffee. 

Potential Interactions Between Caffeine and Antibiotics

The possible interaction between antibiotics and coffee revolves around the interaction between your antibiotic and caffeine. 

Caffeine helps to increase alertness, which is why many people crave it in the morning, sometimes needing it to even think about functioning in those early morning hours. However, while you may want the caffeine in the morning, you definitely don’t want it in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep, which is why the breakdown of caffeine is so important. 

Unfortunately, some antibiotics can affect how your body processes caffeine, slowing down its breakdown. This is because these antibiotics share the same breakdown pathway as caffeine, and when the breakdown pathway has to be shared, it takes longer to break down the compounds. 

A longer breakdown time can leave you jittery and unable to sleep, which your body desperately needs when ill so that it can heal and recover. Additionally, caffeine left in your system for too long can cause headaches, another symptom you don’t want to add when you’re already feeling under the weather. 

Yet another interaction between caffeine and antibiotics has to do with their shared side effects. Specifically, an upset stomach is a common side effect of antibiotics, which can manifest as nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Drinking a caffeinated beverage, such as coffee, can worsen these symptoms. 

It’s important to remember that it’s not just coffee that contains caffeine––it can be found in some teas, soda, and even chocolate. Because quinolone antibiotics can interact with caffeine, you’ll also want to avoid these foods and beverages if your antibiotic may interact with them. 

Specific Antibiotics and Coffee

Three categories of medications can interact with caffeine: antibiotics, drugs to slow blood clotting (e.g., antiplatelets, anticoagulants), and estrogen-containing medications.

As for antibiotics, those belonging to the quinolone antibiotic class are generally known to interact with caffeine. 

Some quinolone antibiotics that can interact with caffeine include:

  • levofloxacin
  • ciprofloxacin
  • enoxacin
  • grepafloxacin
  • norfloxacin
  • trovafloxacin

However, research has also shown that caffeine can enhance the antibacterial activity of certain antibiotics. This study included cefepime, ticarcillin, azithromycin, gentamicin, and novobiocin, and while all five of these antibiotics showed increases in antibacterial properties, azithromycin and cefepime saw the most significant effects. Even more, these improvements were seen in gram-negative bacteria, which possess an outer membrane that notoriously makes it more challenging to target these bacteria types. The ability of caffeine to improve antibiotic effectiveness against these bacterial strains is significant. 

How to Safely Drink Coffee While Taking Antibiotics?

When it comes to safely drinking coffee while on antibiotics, it is always best to discuss with your doctor if your antibiotic has any known interactions with caffeine. Generally, it is the quinolone antibiotics that possess this possible interaction. 

You do not have to avoid caffeine if you have been prescribed one of these antibiotics. Still, limiting how much of it you consume per day is recommended. An even better option is to opt for decaf coffee instead. 

However, it is not only the caffeine interaction with your antibiotic that you need to be aware of. Some antibiotics should not be taken with calcium because calcium decreases the body’s absorption of the antibiotic, meaning it won’t work as effectively. Antibiotics in this category include tetracycline, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and norfloxacin. Of note, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and norfloxacin are also quinolone antibiotics that interact with caffeine. So, drinking coffee with milk would result in a less effective antibiotic and caffeine lingering in your system for longer. 

If you are taking an antibiotic that interacts with calcium, you do not have to avoid calcium entirely, but make sure you take your antibiotic 2 hours before or 6 hours after you have any calcium.

In Conclusion

When it comes to medications, there’s more to be aware of than their interactions with other drugs. For instance, what you drink may interact with your medicine, as is the case with coffee. 

The caffeine in coffee interacts with some antibiotics, with the antibiotics slowing down how quickly the body breaks down the caffeine, leaving you jittery and with a fast heart rate or headache. 

Generally, quinolone antibiotics interact with caffeine, but it’s always best to check with your doctor before starting any new medication to review all possible interactions. 

Sources:

  • Woziwodzka, A., Krychowiak-Maśnicka, M., Gołuński, G., Łosiewska, A., Borowik, A., Wyrzykowski, D., & Piosik, J. (2022). New Life of an Old Drug: Caffeine as a Modulator of Antibacterial Activity of Commonly Used Antibiotics. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 15(7), 872. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph15070872
  • Olajuyigbe, O. O., Adeoye-Isijola, M. O., Okon, V., Adedayo, O., & Coopoosamy, R. M. (2017). In vitro pharmacological interaction of caffeine and first-line antibiotics is antagonistic against clinically important bacterial pathogens. Acta biochimica Polonica, 64(2), 255–263. https://doi.org/10.18388/abp.2016_1327 
  • Staib, A. H., Stille, W., Dietlein, G., Shah, P. M., Harder, S., Mieke, S., & Beer, C. (1987). Interaction between quinolones and caffeine. Drugs, 34 Suppl 1, 170–174. https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-198700341-00035 
  • Carbó, M., Segura, J., De la Torre, R., Badenas, J. M., & Camí, J. (1989). Effect of quinolones on caffeine disposition. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, 45(3), 234–240. https://doi.org/10.1038/clpt.1989.23
  • Woziwodzka, A., Krychowiak-Maśnicka, M., Gołuński, G., Felberg, A., Borowik, A., Wyrzykowski, D., & Piosik, J. (2021). Modulatory Effects of Caffeine and Pentoxifylline on Aromatic Antibiotics: A Role for Hetero-Complex Formation. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(12), 3628. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26123628 
  • Walden, D. M., Khotimchenko, M., Hou, H., Chakravarty, K., & Varshney, J. (2021). Effects of Magnesium, Calcium, and Aluminum Chelation on Fluoroquinolone Absorption Rate and Bioavailability: A Computational Study. Pharmaceutics, 13(5), 594. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics13050594 

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