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Foods to Avoid When Taking Viagra

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Rachel Sacks

Updated 03/12/2024

If you’ve been prescribed erectile dysfunction medication such as Viagra®, you could be on your way to improving your erectile function and sexual health like millions of men before you. If you’re just starting Viagra (congrats!), you probably want to know everything about it — from dosages and adverse effects, down to things like foods to avoid while taking Viagra.

We get it.

Viagra has been one of the industry standards for decades when it comes to the treatment of erectile dysfunction. It’s FDA-approved and is concerned safe and effective. But that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. 

Just wait until we tell you about Viagra and grapefruit…

While it’s important to know what foods to avoid when taking Viagra, knowing the basics of this medication is also important.

Viagra, a brand-name prescription drug, is commonly used for erectile dysfunction in men. 

Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a man is unable to get or sustain an erection good enough or long enough for sex. This condition can also mean you have trouble maintaining an erection during sex or not getting an erection at all, even with sexual stimulation.

Viagra belongs to a class of drugs (medications that act similarly) called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. These medications work to stop the PDE5 enzyme, making it easier for blood to flow into the blood vessels in your penis, allowing you to get — and stay — hard during sexual intercourse.

The active ingredient in Viagra (sildenafil) is also used to treat pulmonary hypertension, a type of high blood pressure that affects your heart and lungs. However, the medication for pulmonary hypertension is marketed under a different name, called Revatio®.

For the treatment of erectile dysfunction, Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual activity. You can learn more about the exact details in our guide to how Viagra works.

Like any medication, there can be mild side effects. Some of the common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Headache

  • Heartburn

  • Warm feeling or flushing

  • Nosebleeds

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, feet or legs

  • Muscle aches

There can also be more negative effects, such as:

  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision

  • Loss of hearing

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Painful erection or one that lasts longer than 4 hours

  • Itching or burning during urination

Some men have also reported high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, heart attack or stroke when taking sildenafil for erectile dysfunction, although many of these men had heart conditions before taking the medication. 

You should let your healthcare provider know if you’re experiencing any negative effects of Viagra.

Viagra dosage can vary by person but is available in three doses: 25mg, 50mg and 100mg doses, with the 50mg option being the usual starting dose. This usual starting dose of 50mg is taken one hour before sexual intercourse.

While the rest of this article will cover Viagra foods to avoid, it should also be noted that there can be drug interactions between Viagra and other medications.

Viagra shouldn’t be taken with nitrate medication, a medication typically used for chest pain. Examples of nitrate drugs include isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil®), isosorbide mononitrate (Monoket®) and nitroglycerin (Nitrostat®).

You also shouldn’t take Viagra with alpha-blocker drugs, another medication typically used for high blood pressure or prostate issues. If you currently take blood pressure medication, certain anti-fungal medications, blood thinners or medication for seizures, be sure to let your healthcare provider know.

Now that you know the basic information, keep reading to know which foods to avoid when taking Viagra.

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You may wonder which foods to avoid when using this medication and certain foods to be careful of while taking Viagra, depending on your health and any existing conditions.

High-Fat Meals

First, you can take Viagra with or without food. 

However, a heavy or high-fat meal can block the absorption of the active ingredient in Viagra (sildenafil citrate) and can make the drug less effective for your erection. Taking Viagra with a high-fat meal delays absorption by about one hour.

If you do plan to eat before taking Viagra, make sure it’s your breakfast or lunch to give your body time to digest the food, making it quick and easier for the medication to absorb into the bloodstream.

Choose your chew

Grapefruit Products

Grapefruit juice may also impede or delay the absorption of Viagra in the body. 

Grapefruit can block an enzyme known as CYP3A4, which prevents certain medications — like Viagra, for instance — from being absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Similarly, grapefruit will interact with Cialis as well.

Instead, the medication passes the gut and goes straight into the bloodstream, which increases the potency of the medication. 

Mixing grapefruit juice with Viagra could lead to some side effects like headaches, flushing or low blood pressure.

Make sure to talk to healthcare professionals about eating grapefruit products and drinking grapefruit juice while taking Viagra.

Alcohol

While there aren’t any negative effects or serious risks, combining alcohol and Viagra may increase your chances of experiencing mild side effects.

A study of over 300 men with erectile dysfunction found that men who consumed above-average amounts of alcohol were more likely to develop headaches and flushing from erectile dysfunction medications than men who didn’t drink.

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If you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider may recommend Viagra as an effective treatment option. 

Since Viagra is a prescription medication, you’ll have to talk with a healthcare professional before you start taking it. They’ll ask you what kinds of medications you're on, give you a specific dosage to take (which you should follow at all times) and may even talk to you about your diet.

Because yes, some foods can alter the way Viagra works with your body.

You can learn more about Viagra and if it’s the right treatment for you by consulting with a licensed provider. You can also learn more about the best erectile dysfunction pills or what to expect from erectile dysfunction medication.

7 Sources

  1. Araujo, A. B., Travison, T. G., Ganz, P., Chiu, G. R., Kupelian, V., Rosen, R. C., Hall, S. A., & McKinlay, J. B. (2009). Erectile dysfunction and mortality. The journal of sexual medicine, 6(9), 2445–2454. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3524836/
  2. Smith BP, Babos M. Sildenafil. [Updated 2022 May 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558978/
  3. Sildenafil. (2018, January 15). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699015.html
  4. Alpha-blockers: Types, Uses and Side Effects. (2022, January 18). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22321-alpha-blockers
  5. Viagra (sildenafil citrate) tablets. (2007, October). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/020895s027lbl.pdf
  6. Grapefruit and medication: A cautionary note. (n.d.). Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/grapefruit-and-medication-a-cautionary-note
  7. Kim, J. N., Oh, J. J., Park, D. S., Hong, Y. K., & Yu, Y. D. (2019). Influence of Alcohol on Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors Use in Middle- to Old-Aged Men: A Comparative Study of Adverse Events. Sexual medicine, 7(4), 425–432. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6963111/
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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