Almost everyone will reach for an over-the-counter pain medication at some point, whether to treat a muscle ache, headache, or another painful condition.
Naproxen is an anti-inflammatory medication (common brand names include Aleve, Anaprox DS, and Mediproxen) known as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).
Naproxen comes in various forms (liquid gels, tablets, oral suspension, delayed or rapid release), and the maximum recommended daily dose is around 1,500 milligrams.
If you take naproxen for aches, pains, or even chronic health conditions, you might be wondering if there are any foods you need to eat or avoid.
We’ll explore the considerations you should take while using naproxen in this article, as well as answer common questions about naproxen interactions.
Foods to avoid when taking Naproxen (Aleve)
There aren’t any specific foods that interact with naproxen. However, if you’re taking naproxen, it’s likely for an inflammatory condition, so an anti-inflammatory diet can be beneficial to treat the root cause of your pain.
The following foods and drinks can be considered inflammatory in some cases, so you should consider limiting or avoiding them while taking Naproxen, especially if you’re taking it long-term.
Taking NSAIDs like naproxen can irritate the lining of your stomach and lead to stomach ulcers and bleeding.
Alcohol can also irritate your stomach lining and can increase your risk of stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding even more.
If you’re taking naproxen long-term for a condition like arthritis, be sure to limit or avoid alcohol to lower your chance of stomach bleeding.
All forms of alcohol should be avoided, including:
- Hard alcohol
- Wine coolers/alcoholic seltzers, etc.
2) Sugary beverages
High-sugar diets are thought to contribute to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to chronic health issues like arthritis and other metabolic conditions.
Sugary drinks are one of the biggest sources of added sugar in a typical Western diet. Some examples of sugary drinks to limit or avoid while taking naproxen include:
- Energy drinks
- Flavored coffee (lattes, etc.)
- Flavored kefir (yogurt drink)
- Fruit-flavored drinks
- Flavored milk
- Flavored teas
- Some types of prepared fruit smoothies
3) Foods high in sugar
Added sugar isn’t only prevalent in drinks. The majority of processed foods have added sugar, which can quickly put you over the recommended amount of added sugar for a day.
You’ll need to check the ingredients and nutrition facts labels on any processed foods you buy to see if they are significant sources of added sugar.
The recommended amount of added sugar (according to the United States Dietary Guidelines) is 50 grams or fewer for a 2,000-calorie diet – but try to aim for even less, such as 25 grams or fewer per day.
Some common foods that are high in added sugar to limit or avoid while on naproxen include:
- Pies and cobblers
- Sweet rolls, pastries, and doughnuts
- Dairy desserts, such as ice cream and yogurt
- Processed foods with added sugar, such as condiments, soups, sweetened breakfast cereals, etc.
4) Gluten (for some people)
If you’re taking naproxen for a chronic inflammatory condition such as arthritis, you might want to experiment with your diet to see if you have certain food triggers that worsen your symptoms. Anecdotally, some people find that consuming gluten worsens their symptoms.
(However, gluten isn’t known to cause inflammation in most people unless you have Celiac disease or another digestive disorder.)
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley (types of grains). If you choose to limit or avoid gluten while on naproxen, be on the lookout for all of these ingredients which contain gluten:
- Varieties of wheat such as: wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® Khorasan wheat, einkorn wheat
- Malt (including malted barley flour, malted milk or milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, and malt vinegar)
- Brewer’s Yeast
That means that you’ll need to avoid grains that aren’t gluten-free, such as bread, tortillas, rolls, pizza crusts, cookies, and much more.
5) Red & processed meats
Processed meats and red meat are linked with inflammation. That doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a steak, but if you’re a big red meat or processed meat eater, you might want to cut back and opt for more plant-based protein or white meat like chicken or fish.
What are processed meats, you might be wondering? Processed meats include:
- Deli meat
- Hot dogs
6) High-salt foods
Taking NSAIDs can be hard on your kidneys, which is why it’s not recommended if you have kidney disease.
In addition, NSAIDs can cause fluid retention, which can make your heart and kidneys work harder to circulate blood to your body.
Eating a high-sodium diet causes fluid retention, so it’s important to avoid eating an excessively high-salt diet while taking naproxen, especially if you take it long-term.
Processed foods contribute most of the sodium intake on a typical Western diet – not the salt you add to foods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of the sodium in a typical Western diet comes from these ten foods:
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Burritos and tacos
- Savory snacks (pretzels, jerky, chips, etc.)
- Eggs and Omelets
It’s recommended to keep your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams per day. However, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, largely due to the reliance on processed foods and fast food vs preparing meals at home.
How can you reduce your sodium intake? Check the Nutrition Facts label and try to avoid eating a lot of foods with greater than 20% of the daily value of sodium per serving – these can add up quickly and put you past the 2,300-milligram daily sodium target!
Foods to eat while on Naproxen
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet while taking naproxen might help ease some of the inflammation causing you pain.
An anti-inflammatory diet is not only recommended for chronic inflammation, such as arthritis, but also for overall health and wellness.
Eating fish instead of red meat might help ease inflammation naturally. Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, is loaded with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
When choosing fish, try to avoid deep-fried and battered fish and opt for fish prepared without excessive fat, which might contribute to excessive inflammation in some cases.
2) Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, which tend to be more anti-inflammatory compared to saturated fat (the kind found in animal products like meat, cheese, etc).
While all nuts and seeds are rich in plant-based fat, some nuts and seeds are particularly rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3’s such as:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp hearts
3) Plant-based protein
In addition to nuts and seeds, you can get lean plant-based protein from a variety of sources. A plant-based diet can help manage inflammation more so than a typical Western diet and can include protein sources such as:
- Legumes (lentils, dried peas, and beans)
- Whole grains
- Nut and seed butters
4) Low-sugar beverages
Instead of sugary beverages, try to choose water and other low-sugar drinks while taking naproxen.
Staying hydrated can also help with certain conditions like muscle aches since dehydration can worsen muscle pain.
If you struggle with drinking enough water, consider drinking fruit-infused water (sliced fruit in water) or low-sugar teas.
Another option is to mix some fruit juice with water (heavy on the water, light on the juice) to help you drink more water while keeping the sugar content lower than if you chose sugar-sweetened drinks.
|Foods to eat
|Foods to avoid
|Nuts and seeds
|Sugary drinks and foods
|Red and processed meat
Medication interactions with Naproxen
Naproxen can interact with certain medications, so you need to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you take other medications.
Some of the most common medications that interact with Naproxen include:
- Other NSAIDS (ibuprofen, aspirin)
- Anticoagulants/blood thinners (can increase the risk of stomach bleeding)
- Certain blood pressure medications
- Certain antidepressant medications such as SSRIs
- Lithium (used to treat bipolar disorder)
- Methotrexate (used to treat rheumatoid arthritis)
If you take any of the above medications, ask your healthcare provider if you need to adjust your dose or stop taking any of the medications.
Should Naproxen be taken with food?
Naproxen might cause nausea or stomach discomfort, so try to avoid taking it on an empty stomach. Try to take naproxen near a meal or with a glass of milk to help reduce stomach upset.
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Can you take naproxen with Tylenol?
It’s generally considered safe to take naproxen with Tylenol since Tylenol isn’t an NSAID like naproxen.
Is Aleve naproxen?
Aleve is a common brand name for naproxen, which is the generic/drug name. So yes, they are the same thing!
Can you take naproxen while pregnant?
Naproxen isn’t recommended during pregnancy. The preferred pain reliever during pregnancy is acetaminophen (Tylenol).
While taking naproxen, it can help to eat an anti-inflammatory diet that avoids processed foods, sugary drinks, red and processed meats, and alcohol.
Some people might do better avoiding gluten as well, but gluten isn’t known to cause inflammation in most people.
Foods to eat while taking naproxen which might help ease inflammation, include nuts, seeds, fish, plant-based protein, and non-sugary drinks.