carbs in medicine

When was the last time you looked at how much sugar/carbs were in your medicine? Often, we don’t even begin to think about how much of an issue this could be, but when it comes to children with epilepsy who are on a ketogenic diet, this can be particularly troublesome.

A recent study examined 38 epileptic patients prescribed a ketogenic diet. 145 oral medications were prescribed to these patients and found that liquid medications had significantly higher carbohydrate content than solid oral dose forms. The median carbohydrate content in medications was about 1 gram/day with patients receiving an average of 9 medications/day. As we start to learn more about epileptic medications, in particular, we need to be more aware of the carbohydrate content within in order to prevent possible triggers for seizures. [1]

What About Other OTC Medications?!

As we embark on cold and flu season, it’s important to be aware of the carbohydrate content in OTC medications – should you decide to take them. As disgusting as most cough and cold liquid medications are, they would be significantly more disgusting without sugar/high fructose corn syrup, etc. in them. However, they aren’t required in many cases to directly disclose how much is in a serving (plus, people rarely take just 1 serving when they are trying to get better).

Some examples that are extremely high are NyQuil Cold and Flu Nighttime Relief boasting around 20 grams of carbohydrate while DayQuil Cold and Flu Relief have 24 grams!


Therefore we suggest the following tips:

1) Try and optimize your immune system through other means (i.e. probiotics, quality sleep,

good nutrition, and exercise)

2) Before buying OTC medication, research the carbohydrate/sugar content online

3) Try and opt for sugar-free alternatives

4) If possible, choose pills instead. With pills, companies don’t need to add as much sugar

to overcome the bad taste

Lastly, might it be that the 20 grams of carbohydrates give someone an instant placebo effect with that sugar rush hence why they feel a bit better immediately after taking NyQuil or DayQuil? Interesting to think about…


What Do You Think About the Carbs in Medicine?

Comment below and share your thoughts!



Sawangrit, T., Chomtho, S., and Siritientong, T. (2020). The carbohydrate content of medications prescribed to children treated with a ketogenic diet. Pharmacy Practice and Research,

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