You just got a prescription for sertraline for anxiety or depression. It can definitely help take the edge off, but you have to watch what you put in your body while you’re on it. Some foods and beverages don’t mix well with sertraline and can make side effects worse or make the drug less effective.

What Is Sertraline?

Sertraline is an antidepressant that doctors prescribe to help with depression and anxiety disorders. Sertraline is part of a group of drugs called SSRIs. The S in SSRI stands for “selective.” These types of drugs work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain.

Serotonin helps balance your mood and mental state. It’s a chemical messenger in the brain. Sertraline, which is an antidepressant, can help increase serotonin levels. That in turn can ease depression and anxiety symptoms.

Alcohol – Avoid or Limit Intake

Let’s be real—having a drink can be part of an enjoyable social life for many people. However, when you’re taking sertraline, alcohol may interfere with how well it works for you and cause unwanted side effects. It’s best to avoid alcohol altogether, but if you do choose to drink, do so in extreme moderation.

One or two drinks are unlikely to cause a dangerous interaction, but more than that can intensify the side effects of sertraline, like dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment. Drinking also reduces the effectiveness of your medication, as alcohol inhibits the absorption of sertraline in the bloodstream.

For the best results from your treatment, avoid binge drinking or having more than one drink per day. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking for the first few weeks after starting sertraline or changing your dosage. Give your body time to adjust to the medication before reintroducing alcohol in moderation.

Remember, any form of alcohol, including wine, beer, and liquor, can interact with sertraline. The risks are the same whether you prefer a cocktail, glass of wine with dinner, or beer while watching the game. Your best bet is to take it easy. And if you notice any bad side effects from drinking on your meds, definitely chat with your doctor.

Caffeine – Moderate Your Coffee And Tea

Caffeine is a stimulant naturally found in sodas, coffee, an tea. While a cup or two per day is usually fine, consuming too much caffeine can interact with sertraline and cause side effects like restlessness, insomnia, fast heartbeat, and anxiety.

Limit Coffee And Espresso

If you’re used to starting your day with a big mug of coffee, you may need to scale back while on sertraline. Try reducing your coffee intake to 1-2 small cups per day. Switch to half-caffeinated and half-decaf coffee, or replace a cup of coffee with a caffeine-free herbal tea. Be careful with espresso and coffee shop drinks, which typically have higher amounts of caffeine.

Watch Out For Tea, Too

While tea has less caffeine than coffee, drinking several cups a day can still add up. Most black and oolong teas have 30-75 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce serving. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, so replacing some cups of regular tea with herbal tea is an easy way to cut back. Limit green tea to 1-2 cups per day.

Other Caffeinated Drinks

Sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate also contain varying amounts of caffeine. A 12 ounce can of cola has around 35-45 mg of caffeine. Some energy drinks have as much as 200 mg per can. And while chocolate has less caffeine, it’s still a source, with 1 ounce of dark chocolate containing about 31 mg. Try to eliminate highly caffeinated beverages altogether, and consume chocolate and any caffeinated sodas in moderation.

Grapefruit – Skip It Completely

Grapefruit juice is a no-go when taking sertraline. Grapefruit contains compounds called furanocoumarins that interfere with how your body breaks down and metabolizes certain medications like sertraline.

Why Avoid It

When you drink grapefruit juice, the furanocoumarins block the CYP3A4 enzyme in your liver that normally helps break down sertraline. This means the medication stays in your body longer and at higher levels, which can lead to harmful side effects. The effects of mixing grapefruit and sertraline can last up to 3-4 days after drinking the juice.

Side Effects

Consuming grapefruit while on sertraline can cause dangerous side effects like nausea, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat. In severe cases, it may lead to sertraline toxicity, which requires immediate medical attention. The risks generally outweigh any benefits of drinking grapefruit juice. It’s best to avoid it altogether to be safe.

Other Citrus Okay

Not all citrus fruits interact with sertraline. Orange juice, lemonade and lime juice are fine to drink in moderation. But when it comes to grapefruit, it’s better skip it. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about any other medications you’re on as well, since grapefruit juice can interact with some other drugs too.

Grapefruit and sertraline do not mix. Leaving grapefruit out of your diet will help ensure you get the maximum benefit from your medication and avoid any unwanted side effects.

High-Tyramine Foods – Know What To Watch Out For

When taking sertraline, be very careful with foods high in tyramine, a substance that can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. As your body adjusts to the medication, tyramine levels need to be kept in check.

Aged and Fermented Foods

Avoid or limit foods like aged cheeses, cured meats, fermented soy products, and sauerkraut. As foods age and ferment, tyramine levels increase. Blue cheeses, Parmesan, pepperoni, salami, and miso are some examples to steer clear of when first starting sertraline.

Certain Vegetables

Some veggies like fava beans, spinach, eggplant, and avocados contain tyramine and may need to be limited when you begin sertraline. As your body adjusts, these foods in normal amounts should be fine for most people. But when first starting the medication, avoid them to be safe.

No need to totally deprive yourself, though. As long as you’re mindful of what’s high in tyramine, you can still enjoy lots of healthy and delicious meals. Just swap some things in and out. Also, talk to your doctor about any food concerns with the medication and what they recommend for your situation. Over time as you adjust to the sertraline, many of those dietary rules can loosen up. But if you’re not sure, always just check with the doctor.

Your Health Should Be Your Priority

Having to give up grapefruit juice or aged cheeses while taking this medication really stinks. But cutting those foods out is for your own safety. This list of things to avoid is just looking out for you and making sure there aren’t any nasty interactions or side effects. Your health is the most important thing right now. As long as you follow what the doctor said and steer clear of the things on this list, you’ll be doing everything right to feel the best results from taking sertraline. Just remember, your well-being is the top priority here.