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Beta-blockers and Diet


Beta-blockers and Diet

You have received a prescription for a beta-blocker, a type of medication most often used for the treatment of heart disease, glaucoma, migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, or hyperthyroidism.

Here are some eating tips and food/drug interactions that you need to know about in order to gain the most benefit from your medication.

When and how to take
Taking beta-blockers with food may reduce the severity of side effects. Follow the instructions on your bottle concerning when to take your medication.

Weight gain
Weight gain is common upon initiating beta-blocker usage and/or if your dosage is increased. If you gain 3 or more pounds in 1 day or continue to gain weight for more than 2 days, contact your physician. Weight gain is more common with use of the older beta-blockers, such as atenolol and metoprolol.

Gastrointestinal side effects
You may have some gastrointestinal side effects from beta-blockers, including heartburn, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. If these persist or become bothersome, contact your physician. If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, because dehydration can become very dangerous.

Other medications, supplements, and remedies
Do not take any over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, or herbal remedies without first speaking to your doctor.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding
If there is a chance that you are or could become pregnant while taking beta-blockers, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Beta-blockers pass into breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, this may affect your infant. You may need to use formula to feed your baby.

If you have diabetes, beta-blockers can block signs of low blood sugar, such as a rapid heartbeat, so it is very important that you monitor your blood glucose level regularly. Beta-blockers also can raise blood glucose levels. If your levels consistently run high, you may need to alter your diabetic medication regimen.

If you do not have diabetes, know that beta-blockers can increase your risk of developing diabetes. Get your glucose levels checked regularly.

Beta-blockers can increase your triglyceride levels and decrease your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. These changes sometimes are temporary, so make sure to get another lipid panel in a few months. While on beta-blockers, follow a heart-healthy diet and try to fit regular exercise into your schedule.

Beta-blockers can cause blood levels of potassium to increase. Potassium is very healthy when an appropriate amount is consumed, but dangerous when too much is consumed. Do not take any supplements containing potassium while on beta-blockers, and get your potassium levels checked regularly.

Eat the following foods, which contain potassium, in moderation:

  • Bananas
  • Citrus juices
  • Avocados
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Lima beans
  • Flounder
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Chicken
  • Meat

Aerobic exercise
If you do aerobic exercise regularly, you may find that you cannot reach your target heart rate while taking beta-blockers. An exercise stress test can help to determine how to adjust your target heart rate while taking beta-blockers. You also can adjust your target heart rate based on your reduced resting heart rate—decrease your target heart rate by the same amount that your resting heart rate has decreased.

Special diets
You must continue to follow any diets that you were previously on while taking beta-blockers. For example, if you were prescribed a low-fat or low-sodium diet, continue to follow your plan.

Calcium supplements
Calcium supplements can decrease blood levels of beta-blockers, so you must avoid them.

People taking beta-blockers must avoid caffeine. Caffeine is found in coffee, nonherbal teas, soda, chocolate, some antihistamines, and cough medicine. Read all food labels carefully, and know that even “decaffeinated” coffee contains some caffeine.

People who take beta-blockers should abstain from all alcohol, because it decreases the effects of beta-blockers.

Do not take any aluminum-containing antacids while on beta-blockers. These medications interfere with the absorption of beta-blockers.


References and recommended readings, Inc. Beta-blockers. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

Mayo Clinic. Beta blockers. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

Mayo Clinic. Beta blockers: do they cause weight gain? Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

Mayo Clinic. Beta blockers: how do they affect exercise? Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

Texas Heart® Institute, St Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Beta-blockers. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

Texas Heart® Institute, St Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Question: what can one do to limit the side effects of beta-blockers? Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Potassium. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.

WebMD. Heart disease and beta-blocker therapy. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2010.


Review Date 6/10


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