Anti-Depressants & Food Interactions


Anti-depressants are a group of medications that many people who suffer from depression take to elevator their moods. Since various medications interact with the human brain and body in different ways, each sub-class of anti-depressant medication may produce distinct side effects. In addition, certain anti-depressants interact with food in range of ways. Discuss food interactions with your doctor or pharmacist before you begin a new anti-depressant.

Food and MAOIs

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a type of anti-depressant that inhibit the production of the monoamine oxidase enzyme. Monamine oxidase restricts the production of neurotransmitters that help to stabilize mood and increase a person's overall happiness. MAOIs decrease the presence of monamine oxidase, which results in higher neurotransmitter levels.

    MAOIs work well but carry a range of side effects, including some life-threatening food interactions. Foods that contain tyramine, dopamine or tryptophan are particularly dangerous to eat during MAOI treatment (or within two weeks of treatment cessation). Foods to avoid include many cheeses, yogurt, anchovies, beef or chicken liver, herring, caviar and bananas.

    Since MAOIs increase blood pressure, foods that heighten blood pressure in the short term (e.g. foods high in tyramine, dopamine or tryptophan) may lead to a spike in blood pressure known as hypertensive crisis. Depending on the severity of the blood pressure spike, hypertensive crisis may lead to many serious health complications including death.

SSRI Food Interactions

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors increase the brain's flow of the mood elevating neurotransmitter serotonin. While there are no known negative food interactions with SSRIs, certain SSRIs, like Zoloft, may cause nausea or heartburn if taken on an empty stomach.

    Another peculiar possible SSRI food interaction occurs when people on SSRIs eat kiwifruit. Although the data is limited, Healthline suggests that kiwifruit's high levels of natural serotonin may increase the effectiveness of SSRIs.

Other Observed Anti-Depressant Food Interactions

  • In addition to the interactions outlined above, Corey Nahman Pharmaceutical News notes that the atypical anti-depressant Wellbutrin causes some patients to sweat profusely after eating spicy foods. As they note, though, this sweating presents no major health problems.

    Alcohol interacts with many anti-depressants, especially MAOIs and tricyclic anti-depressants. If you drink, consult your doctor or pharmacist to verify that it is safe to continue to drink with your specific class of anti-depressants.

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