Foods to Avoid

Foods to avoid when taking sertraline

Between 2021 and 2022, nearly half a million more adults in the UK started taking antidepressants. One commonly prescribed medication is sertraline, which can improve mood and reduce anxiety. Understand how to effectively take your prescription, including which foods to avoid when taking sertraline.

 - 7 Min Read
Last updated and fact checked:
Foods to avoid when taking sertraline
  • Sertraline is an antidepressant that treats depression, social anxiety, and panic disorder.
  • Common side effects of sertraline include dizziness, drowsiness and nausea.
  • Grapefruit juice and St. John's wort can increase the risk of uncomfortable side effects.
  • Speak to a doctor immediately if you experience the symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as shivering.

Foods to avoid with sertraline: FAQS

  • What should I eat when starting sertraline?

    Sertraline is an antidepressant prescribed for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or major depressive disorder. There aren't any specific foods to eat for patients taking sertraline.

    However, this drug can cause some sickness. If you experience nausea, try taking your prescription with food. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and drinking plenty of water can also help to manage any nausea.

  • What foods should you avoid while taking antidepressants?

    There are a few types of antidepressants, and each medication requires different dietary alterations. You should avoid grapefruit juice while taking sertraline. Caffeine can also lead to worsening symptoms.

    If you're taking tricyclic antidepressants, you may want to avoid high-tyramine foods or drinks, including alcohol. By following the correct guidance for your prescription, you can effectively take these drugs to manage your mental health without struggling with side effects.

  • What can't you eat with sertraline?

    There are a few things you can't eat with sertraline. Grapefruit juice can increase the risk of side effects, and high-tyramine foods can also lead to a sudden increase in blood pressure. Alcohol and caffeine are both high-tyramine substances and can also worsen the side effects of this selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

    Talk to your doctor before changing your diet to avoid dangerous sertraline interactions, such as serotonin syndrome.

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When it comes to managing conditions like depression and anxiety, medications like sertraline can be a lifeline. But did you know that what you eat can have an impact on how well these medications work?

Whether you or a loved one are on this medication, understanding these dietary considerations can make a real difference in your journey to better mental health.

Whether you're looking for the latest vitamins and supplements, want to stock up on over the counter medication, or are looking for a digital solution for your regular prescription, our providers have you covered. Compare brands below and click on your favourite to shop their best offers now!

What is sertraline used for and how does it work?

Sertraline is part of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSIs). This type of medication works by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. This is an important mood-enhancing chemical, and it helps maintain mental balance.

Available as an oral tablet, you can take this drug for a few different mental health conditions, such as:

  • Depression.
  • Panic disorder (panic attacks).
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Social anxiety disorder.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • Bulimia nervosa (in some cases).

You should start to feel more relaxed and happy after taking sertraline. However, you may not feel better immediately. It only takes a week for sertraline to build up in your body effectively, but it can take up to six weeks for your body to get used to the drug.

How and when to take sertraline

You'll need to take sertraline at the same time every day, but it doesn't matter when you take it. However, if you experience issues sleeping, take your prescription in the morning. You should take only the recommended dose of sertraline. This is typically 50mg per day, although your doctor may prescribe a lower dose at first and gradually increase it up to 200mg per day.

In addition, you'll need to reduce your dose gradually when coming off sertraline to avoid any adverse effects. You may receive your prescription for this drug under one of sertraline's brand names, such as Lustral or Zoloft.

Side effects of sertraline

Although sertraline is a safe medication, there are a few common side effects to understand. As your body gets used to the drug, you should find that your side effects improve. However, talk to your doctor if they continue to persist.

The most common side effects of sertraline include:

  • Nausea.
  • Headaches.
  • Sleepiness and feeling tired.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

This medication has a few more serious side effects, such as changes in menstrual periods, like heavy bleeding or spotting. You may also notice some weight gain or weight loss. You may find that sertraline affects your sex life on a long-term basis, with some people experiencing a lower sex drive even after finishing with sertraline tablets.

Serotonin syndrome

Taking sertraline can lead to a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome. This is a rare side effect of sertraline, and it happens when your body receives too much serotonin. Most commonly, this can happen when you combine sertraline with another medication, causing a harmful drug interaction in the body.

The signs of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Fever or shivering.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Seizures.
  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Confusion.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these adverse effects, as you may need to alter your dosage or switch to a different antidepressant medication. Serotonin syndrome can be life-threatening if ignored.

Foods to avoid with sertraline

There are a few foods and drinks to avoid when taking this medication to improve your experience of sertraline and reduce the risk of side effects.

Grapefruit juice

It's important to avoid grapefruit juice while taking sertraline because it increases the amount of sertraline your body absorbs. This may, in turn, expand your production of serotonin to dangerous levels, leading to an increased risk of overdose symptoms.

Tyramine-rich foods

Sertraline can also interact with tyramine-rich foods, causing a sudden and dangerous increase in blood pressure. Tyramine is a natural substance derived from the amino acid tyrosine, and you can find it in many common food items.

Tyramine-rich food products include:

  • Cured meats.
  • Coffee and alcohol.
  • Fermented foods, such as kimchi.
  • Aged cheeses.
  • Excess chocolate.

Speak to your healthcare professional before introducing these products into your diet to maintain healthy blood pressure while taking sertraline.

Sertraline and alcohol

As with many drugs, it's important to think about how alcohol will affect you while taking sertraline. Alcohol may exacerbate any uncomfortable nervous system side effects of sertraline, such as dizziness, drowsiness, and feelings of tiredness. This substance can also worsen your decision-making skills and judgement while taking sertraline.

It's best to wait and see how sertraline affects you before drinking alcohol alongside your prescription. For the same reasons, you should also avoid recreational drugs like cannabis. In particular, illegal stimulants like ecstasy and cocaine can cause dangerous side effects while taking this medication. 

Sertraline and caffeine

You may find that caffeine exacerbates sertraline side effects, such as your ability to sleep at night, and consuming them simultaneously can lead to a rapid heartbeat for some people. Coffee is also a high-tyramine food product. As with alcohol, it may be best to wait and see how sertraline affects your body before drinking caffeinated beverages alongside your prescription.

Herbs and supplements

There isn't a lot of medical research about herbal supplements, so it's important to speak to your doctor before taking sertraline with any herbs.

Make sure to avoid St. John's wort while taking sertraline. This herbal remedy can help with depression but may also increase the risk of sertraline side effects. This is because it increases serotonin production in your brain, leading to dangerously high serotonin levels.

Who can't take sertraline

If you have an underlying medical condition, you may need to use a different antidepressant medication to avoid sertraline interactions or the increased risk of harmful side effects.

You may not be able to take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like sertraline if you have the following health conditions:

  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Haemophilia.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
  • Kidney, liver or heart problems.
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma.

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to a doctor before taking sertraline. You may not be able to take sertraline during your first three months of pregnancy, but many healthcare professionals think it's safe to take this drug while breastfeeding.

Sertraline and other medications

There are also a few sertraline drug interactions to understand before taking your prescription. These drugs include:

  • Pimozide.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like isocarboxazid and phenelzine.
  • Linezolid (intravenous methylene blue).

MAOIs and linezolid can increase the risk of developing serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by excessive serotonin in the brain. You must wait 14 days between taking MAOIs and sertraline for this reason.

It's also important to speak to your healthcare provider if you've ever experienced an allergic reaction to any other medications to see if sertraline is safe for you.

Understanding how to take sertraline

Sertraline can help to treat major depressive disorder and manage panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although this drug is generally considered safe, it’s important to understand how to safely take sertraline and reduce any uncomfortable side effects.

By following the right precautions, you can ensure sertraline effectively improves your mood and reduces anxiety without lowering your quality of life.

Image Credit: Michelle Leman at Pexels

The content on is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice or guidance. Should you need professional medical advice or guidance, you should consult with such a professional in their relevant field. Likewise, you should always seek professional medical advice before starting a diet, exercise regime or course of medication, or introducing or eliminating specific elements from your lifestyle. We strive to write accurate, genuine and helpful content, and all views and opinions expressed within this article are specifically the views of the author.
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