Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/18/2022
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, chronic pain or an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), your healthcare provider may prescribe the antidepressant Cymbalta® to relieve your symptoms and help you make progress towards recovery.
Cymbalta, which contains the active ingredient duloxetine, is a modern antidepressant that in 2004 first came onto the market.
Unlike certain older medications used to treat depression, Cymbalta isn’t known to interact with common foods or cooking ingredients. However, there are still a few diet-related things that you should be aware of if you’re prescribed Cymbalta or switching from other medication to Cymbalta.
Below, we’ve explained what Cymbalta is, as well as how it works as a treatment for depression, anxiety disorders and chronic pain disorders.
We’ve also talked about why there aren’t many foods to avoid while taking Cymbalta, as well as the steps that you can take to keep safe while using this medication.
Cymbalta is an antidepressant that contains the active ingredient duloxetine. It’s part of a class of medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs.
Currently, Cymbalta is approved by the FDA to treat the following conditions:
Major depressive disorder (MDD)
Generalized anxiety disorder
Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP)
Chronic musculoskeletal pain
As an SNRI, Cymbalta works by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine by your body. This increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which may produce improvements in your moods and other depression symptoms.
Serotonin is a naturally-occurring chemical that regulates aspects of your moods and thoughts, including happiness and anxiety. Normal serotonin levels are important for maintaining mental stability and calmness.
Lower-than-normal levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of mood disorders and other mental health conditions, including major depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Similarly, norepinephrine is closely involved in regulating your ability to stay alert and attentive, remain focused and store information as memories. Low levels of norepinephrine are linked to lethargy, poor concentration, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters in your brain and body, Cymbalta can also boost levels of a natural chemical called dopamine, which is involved in reward processing.
Experts believe that these increases in neurotransmitter levels give Cymbalta its effects as an antidepressant.
If you’ve ever searched for lists of interactions involving antidepressants, you may have seen common foods and drinks listed alongside medications and recreational drugs as dangerous, potentially harmful substances.
These interactions usually involve older types of antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), which first came onto the market in the 1950s.
Many of these older classes of antidepressant medications have a far higher risk of interactions and adverse effects than more modern drugs.
For example, many MAOI medications prevent the breakdown of tyramine, an amino acid that can be found in fruits, aged cheeses, fava beans, alcohol and some types of fish and meat.
When consumed with MAOIs, these foods can potentially cause dangerous reactions, such as elevated blood pressure. As such, healthcare providers are trained to warn people prescribed these medications to make changes to their food intake and drinking habits.
As a much newer antidepressant, Cymbalta doesn’t have the same effects on tyramine, and as such, there’s no list of tyramine-rich foods to avoid while taking Cymbalta.
In general, unless your healthcare provider specifically instructs you to avoid certain ingredients, it’s fine to stick to your normal diet while you’re taking Cymbalta.
Although it’s generally okay to stick to your normal diet while using Cymbalta, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol while you’re using this medication.
In trials of Cymbalta, researchers found that heavy alcohol intake may contribute to liver injury among people who take Cymbalta. As such, it’s best to cut out alcohol completely from your daily life while you take Cymbalta to treat depression, anxiety or any other condition.
Using alcohol with antidepressants could also affect your coordination and increase your risk of injury.
If you have a history of alcohol abuse, or if you’re at risk of alcohol withdrawal, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about this and work out a safe treatment plan before you start taking Cymbalta.
Like other antidepressants, Cymbalta can cause side effects. Most side effects of Cymbalta are mild and improve gradually over time. However, some people prescribed Cymbalta may develop more persistent or severe side effects that require medical attention.
Common side effects of Cymbalta include:
Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
Cymbalta can cause sexual side effects, including a reduced level of interest in sex and difficulty reaching orgasm. In men, Cymbalta can potentially contribute to erectile dysfunction and slow or difficult ejaculation.
If you’re prescribed Cymbalta and start to develop side effects, make sure to let your healthcare provider know as soon as you can. You may be able to end or reduce the severity of side effects by adjusting your dosage or making other changes to the way you use your medication.
Our blog on how to sleep while taking Cymbalta can help if you're experiencing this side effect.
Cymbalta can interact with other medications, particularly medications that increase the amount of serotonin in your body.
Medications and dietary supplements that may interact with Cymbalta include:
Aspirin and other NSAIDs
Fentanyl and other opioids
Diuretics (water pills)
St. John’s wort
Other medications not listed above could also cause interactions when used with Cymbalta. To reduce your risk of potentially dangerous interactions, inform your healthcare provider about all medications you currently use or have recently used before starting treatment with Cymbalta.
When used as prescribed, Cymbalta is a safe and effective medication for most people. To get the best results from Cymbalta and reduce your risk of side effects of interactions, use the tips listed below:
Let your healthcare provider know about your medical history. Before you start to use Cymbalta, make sure to inform your healthcare provider about any existing health issues or medical conditions you have.
Tell your healthcare provider what medications you currently take. To reduce your risk of drug interactions, inform your healthcare provider about any medications you use right now or have used in the last few months.
Read the medication guide before taking Cymbalta. Make sure to check the dosage schedule and instructions that come with Cymbalta. Try to memorize the most common potential side effects so that you can quickly identify them if they occur.
If you experience side effects, tell your healthcare provider. It’s far from uncommon to experience some side effects while using Cymbalta or other antidepressants. Let your healthcare provider know if your side effects are persistent or bothersome.
Don’t abruptly stop taking Cymbalta. When it’s stopped abruptly, Cymbalta can cause withdrawal symptoms. Don’t lower your dosage or stop taking Cymbalta without talking to your healthcare provider first.
If you want to stop taking Cymbalta, your healthcare provider will likely suggest gradually tapering your dosage to reduce your risk of developing withdrawal symptoms.
If Cymbalta doesn’t work immediately, don’t panic. Antidepressants can take several weeks to start working, and it’s common for symptoms such as sleep problems or a lack of focus to improve before your moods and feelings.
Make sure to take Cymbalta consistently for at least two to four weeks before you judge whether or not it’s working for you.
Be careful when driving after you start treatment. Cymbalta may make you feel tired, drowsy and/or dizzy. Avoid driving a car or operating machinery before you understand how Cymbalta makes you feel.
Inform your healthcare provider about body weight changes. A small percentage of people who use Cymbalta have mild weight loss. Inform your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your appetite, eating habits or body composition.
Related read: Does Cymbalta Cause Weight Gain?
Unlike older antidepressants, Cymbalta doesn’t interact with the tyramine in cheeses, fruits and certain types of meat and fish. As such, there isn’t a list of foods to avoid while taking Cymbalta that you’ll need to memorize before you start treatment.
However, it’s important to remember that drinking alcohol while you use Cymbalta can increase your risk of liver damage and, as such, drinking should be avoided.
To keep yourself safe and healthy while you’re taking Cymbalta, follow the instructions given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure to let them know as soon as you can if you develop any side effects or adverse reactions during treatment.
Interested in getting help for depression? We offer duloxetine (the active ingredient in Cymbalta) and other depression and anxiety medications online via our range of mental health services.
We also offer online therapy, anonymous support groups and free mental health resources and content to help you take action and successfully overcome depression, panic attacks and other common mental health concerns.