The Comprehensive List of Foods to Avoid on Antabuse

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Antabuse is a medication that can be highly effective and useful in helping individuals to overcome alcohol problems.

Its mechanism of action produces an unpleasant physical reaction to alcohol, causing individuals who attempt to drink while using the medication to become very sick. Therefore, it is designed as an alcohol deterrent.

Clearly, individuals taking Antabuse should not consume alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, spirits, and liqueurs.

However, ingesting even trace amounts of alcohol can trigger an onset of nasty symptoms.

Many foods, beverages, and household products have minuscule amounts of naturally occurring or added alcohol, and this is often unrecognized.

It can feel frustrating if you are intentionally and successfully abstaining from alcohol while on antabuse but end up sick as a result of consuming a product that you wouldn’t normally associate with the substance.

That’s why we have compiled this list of alcohol-containing foods and products to avoid while on Antabuse.

Becoming aware and informed about the alcohol content of products can help you avoid accidental alcohol consumption, and dodge undesirable symptoms.

A List of Foods and Beverages to Avoid on Antabuse

It is important to avoid alcohol entirely while you are taking Antabuse (and for at least 14 days after finishing the medication), as even a tiny amount can trigger a reaction.

The following information outlines which beverages and foods to steer clear of while taking Antabuse in order to avoid becoming very sick:

Alcoholic beverages

Perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s crucial to avoid beer, wine, spirits, and liquor at all costs.

The intensity of the disulfiram-ethanol reaction is generally proportional to the amounts of disulfiram and ethanol ingested.

Therefore, drinking alcoholic beverages will produce the most severe reaction.

Some individuals believe that taking just a sip of alcohol or opting for a low-alcohol option may allow them to dodge symptoms.

This is incorrect; in fact, a reaction can occur when the blood ethanol concentration is increased to as little as 5 to 10 mg per 100ml.

In other words: even a tiny amount of alcohol can produce a highly unpleasant reaction.

Alcohol-containing foods

Flambéed or alcohol-soaked desserts

Alcohol-soaked desserts such as tiramisu, trifles, and cannoli contain a significant amount of alcohol (typically potent spirits and liqueurs) and must be avoided.

Flambéeing is a technique in which desserts are soaked in alcohol and then set alight, which creates an eye-catching spectacle and enhances flavors.

Desserts such as Christmas pudding, bananas foster, and cherries jubilee are often flambéed.

If you’re eating out at a restaurant and are unsure, ask your waiter if alcohol is used in the ingredients, preparation techniques, or presentation of desserts.

Vinegar-based products

Vinegar contains small amounts of alcohol as a result of the fermentation process (typically between .1 and .2 percent).

Steer clear of all types of vinegar, including malt vinegar, wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar, and avoid pre-prepared vinaigrettes and salad dressings.

Fermented sauces and condiments

Similarly, fermented sauces and condiments contain small amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process. Common examples include sriracha, tabasco, mustard, ketchup, and certain salsas.

Pickled foods

Pickled foods such as pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut are also naturally fermented, and so have traces of alcohol.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a refreshing carbonated beverage made from fermented tea and has significant benefits for gut health.

However, due to the fermented sugar, it contains around 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). If you are taking Antabuse, this will cause a significant reaction.  

Other Hidden Sources of Alcohol to Avoid on Antabuse

Aside from food and beverages, household products such as medications and hygiene products can also be hidden sources of alcohol. These may catch you by surprise.

Keep reading to become aware of non-food products that contain alcohol so that you can avoid these:

Over-the-counter medications

Certain medications contain alcohol. In pharmaceutical products, alcohol is added as a preservative or to promote sedation. Cough syrups and laxatives typically contain the highest level of alcohol.

Medications to avoid include Benadryl, Donnatal, Robitussin, Phenergan, Sominex, Tylenol, and Vicks.

TIP: If a medication has ‘lixir’ in the name, it contains alcohol. E.g. Tylenol Elixir.

Check out this handy resource to see which medications contain a percentage of alcohol.

Mouthwashes and breath fresheners

Mouthwashes and breath sprays contain significant amounts of alcohol. For instance, Listerine contains 27% alcohol.

Although mouthwash is spit after rinsing, some alcohol will still be ingested, thus triggering a moderate to severe reaction.

Topical products containing alcohol

Certain topical products also contain alcohol. Whilst these may pose less of a risk, it is best to avoid them, as you could accidentally ingest alcohol through inhalation.

Topical products that contain alcohol include:

  • Hand sanitizers
  • Perfumes
  • Nail polish removers
  • Skincare, lotions, and makeup products.

TIP: When reading the ingredients list of a topical product, look out for the following words that indicate alcohol such as cetyl, cetearyl, lanolin, stearyl, isopropyl, ethyl, and benzyl.

Final Thoughts

When taking Antabuse, it may seem obvious to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages to avoid experiencing an unpleasant reaction.

However, alcohol can be hidden in items you may have never guessed. This article has outlined certain foods, beverages, medications, and products to steer clear of while taking Antabuse.

The key takeaways are to be mindful of fermented foods, read ingredient lists, notify wait staff or friends about your situation, and ask your doctor if you’re unsure about medications.

After all: it’s better to be safe than sorry!

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