Foods to Avoid When Taking Beta-Blockers

Written by leigh a. zaykoski
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Beta blockers treat high blood pressure, anxiety, migraines and glaucoma. These drugs block the effects of epinephrine on the heart so it does not have to work as hard to pump blood. Since beta blockers affect the heart, it is important to avoid foods that can reduce their effectiveness or that increase blood pressure.

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Foods Prepared with Alcohol

Doctors from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute recommend avoiding alcohol while taking beta blockers. Alcohol can change the way these drugs work, making them less effective at treating high blood pressure and anxiety. Alcohol may intensify the dizziness and drowsiness side effects associated with some beta blockers. Many people believe that wine and spirits evaporate completely when used for cooking and baking. Mark Bittman of the New York Times reports that up to 50 per cent of the alcohol may remain in a dish if it is only simmered for 20 minutes. Limit your consumption of alcohol-filled chocolates, rum balls and other foods prepared with wine and liquor.


Liquorice is an herb used in baked goods and medications used to treat sore throats, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. Colorado State University reports that anyone taking a beta-blocker should avoid liquorice. High doses of liquorice may cause high blood pressure, negating the effects of beta blockers used to reduce blood pressure levels. The National Institutes of Health indicates that increased blood pressure is most likely the result of glycyrrhizic acid, a chemical component of liquorice.

High-Sodium Foods

Sodium increases blood pressure by promoting water retention. Excess fluid increases blood volume and forces the heart to work harder to pump blood. If you are taking a beta-blocker for high blood pressure, avoid high-sodium foods such as lunch meats, canned soups, fast foods, canned vegetables, frozen meals and processed meats. The effects of excess sodium on blood pressure levels could cancel out the benefits of taking a beta-blocker for hypertension.

Caffeinated Foods

Caffeine can cause sharp increases in blood pressure, according to Dr. Sheldon Sheps of the Mayo Clinic. Anyone taking a beta-blocker should limit intake of foods that contain caffeine. Avoid baked goods, candies and ice cream prepared with milk chocolate or dark chocolate.


Katrina Claghorn, a registered dietitian from the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, reports that grapefruit interferes with an enzyme needed to metabolise specific medications. Because the intestines cannot absorb these medications, the drugs remain in the bloodstream and may accumulate to dangerous levels. Do not combine beta blockers with grapefruit or grapefruit juice.

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