Why are there dietary restrictions to follow with Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi vine) is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). MAOIs block an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body. Tyramine is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure. But tyramine can reach dangerous levels if you eat foods containing tyramine while on an MAOI. This can lead to a sudden spike in blood pressure, and to stroke, brain hemorrhage and death. There have been nearly 100 deaths recorded due to interaction between pharmaceutical MAOIs and tyramine-containing foods.
However, Ayahuasca is a reversible MAOI, or RIMA. RIMAs are not as dangerous as other MAOIs and there has never been a recorded fatality due to a food interaction with Ayahuasca. However, food interactions with Ayahuasca can nevertheless cause unpleasant symptoms such as severe headache (sometimes lasting for days) and accelerated heartbeat. There is also significant anecdotal evidence on this forum that eating proscribed foods can contribute to the risk of panic attack. Sometimes people eat proscribed foods with Ayahuasca with no problems, yet on occasion very small amounts of proscribed foods may cause symptoms. Surveys conducted on this forum suggest that food interactions may happen about 30% of the times that people eat proscribed foods with Ayahuasca. Sometimes the same person may have no problem eating proscribed foods with Ayahuasca on some occasions but have reactions on other occasions.
The MAOI safety diet should not be confused with the spiritual/shamanic dieta practiced in the Amazon. (On this forum, we use the word diet for the MAOI safety diet and the Spanish word dieta for the shamanic diet.) The purpose of the shamanic dieta (which basically involves avoiding flavorful foods, salt, sugar, spices, etc., as well as sexual and social stimulation) is to sensitize oneself to the plant spirits. More on the dieta can be found here and here.
What foods need to be avoided with MAOIs?
Basically foods that are aged, preserved, dried, fermented, pickled, cured (meats), rancid, old, outdated, overripe, or even slightly spoiled.
The following foods are recommended to be avoided with MAOIs:
– Meat that is not fresh, especially unfresh liver (fresh meat and fresh liver are safe)
– Bologna, pepperoni, salami, corned beef, sausage, hot dogs, any cured meats
– Smoked, fermented, pickled (herring) and otherwise aged or dried fish, lox; any fish that is not fresh
– Fermented tofu, fermented bean curd, fermented soybean paste, miso soup (contains fermented bean curd)
– Soy sauce (soy sauce even in very small quantities has been implicated in a number of anecdotal reports on this forum)
– Teriyaki sauce
– Cheeses, especially aged cheeses (ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese and cream cheese are safe)
– Protein extracts
– Liquid or powdered protein dietary supplements
– Canned soups, or soups made with protein extracts or bouillon
– Gravies and foods made with meat extracts
– Dried egg whites
– Defatted peanut flour
– Brewer’s yeast, yeast vitamin supplements, yeast extracts, foods with yeast in ingredients
– Sourdough bread
– Shrimp paste
– Pickled foods
– Olives (unless you can get fresh ones)
– Fruits that are bruised or overripe
– Avocados that are very soft, mushy, overripe or starting to turn grey (slightly underripe avocados are fine in moderation). Guacamole should be avoided.
– Banana peels (as though you’d eat them anyway) and bananas that are overripe (turning brown or black). Bananas that are not overripe or bruised are totally fine, and are often eaten around Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon.
– Dried fruits, such as raisins and prunes
– Fruit cake and candied fruits
– Cranberries, canned
– Red wine, especially Chianti; sherry, vermouth, champagne, brandy; beers and ales, including nonalcoholic; whiskey and liqueurs such as Drambuie and Chartreuse
– Dairy products that are close to the expiration date or that have been unrefrigerated (fresh yogurt is safe)
– Any food that has the word “hydrolyzed” or “autolyzed” in the ingredient list
In addition to the preceding foods (which are aged, fermented, preserved, overripe, etc) avoid the following in large quantities:
– Broad beans (fava and lima beans) – in large quantities
– Navy beans – in large quantities
– Peanuts – in large quantities
– Brazil nuts – in large quantities
– Coconut and coconut oil – in large quantities (coconut juice or coconut milk is safe)
– Raspberries – in large quantities
– New Zealand or Hot Weather Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides, a different plant from regular spinach, Spinacia oleracea, which is safe) – in large quantities
– Parsley – in large quantities
– Dill weed – in large quantities
– Dried seaweed – in large quantities
– Nutmeg – in large quantities
– Kombucha – in large quantities
– Dark chocolate – in large quantities (the theobromine in it may be potentiated, causing fast heartbeat)
– Caffeine in large quantities (in a few rare individuals, there may be a severe interaction with even small amounts of caffeine)
– Aspartame (Nutrasweet)
– Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) (or anything with the word “hydrolyzed,” code for MSG)
How long do they need to be avoided?
24 hours before and after drinking Ayahuasca should be sufficient.
Is it really important to avoid those foods?
The warnings about tyramine interaction sound very serious, because they are adapted from warnings about interactions with pharmaceutical MAOIs. There are nearly 100 fatalities on record from food interactions with pharmaceutical MAOIs.
However, food interaction with Ayahuasca is frankly not as serious a matter as it is with pharmaceutical MAOIs, because Ayahuasca is a reversible (short-acting) MAOI, or RIMA. There are no fatalities on record from food interactions with Ayahuasca.
However, food interaction with Ayahuasca can be unpleasant, manifesting as a headache (which can be severe and may sometimes last for days) or as uncomfortable rapid heartbeat, and it could conceivably be life-threatening for a person with severe high blood pressure or heart disease. People with these conditions, therefore, should follow the MAOI safety diet very strictly when taking Ayahuasca.
But, except for people with serious heart conditions and/or serious high blood pressure, food interactions with Ayahuasca are not life-threatening, and the effects go away after hours or days with no lasting harm.
Many people have eaten proscribed foods with no problems whatsoever. In fact, in informal surveys taken on this forum, the percentage of people who have experienced adverse reactions from consuming MAOI-proscribed foods before or immediately after an Ayahuasca session consistently hovers around only 30%.
On the other hand, people who have no reaction on one occasion may have a reaction on another occasion. And people who have reported reactions often have eaten very small amounts of the proscribed food.
The main symptom of MAOI reaction is a headache that can be severe and can last for days. This is caused by a sudden spike in blood pressure.
(We have also had a number of anecdotal reports of blood pressure crashes, which may or may not be food related. The main symptom of a blood pressure crash is a sensation of being very cold, as well as weak and perhaps faint or dizzy.)
Furthermore, there is significant anecdotal evidence on this forum that not following the MAOI-safety diet increases the chances of panic attack.
And people with heart problems or high blood pressure, in particular, are advised to err on the side of caution as far as food interactions.
Please note: Peganum harmala (Syrian rue) is a stronger MAOI than Banisteriopsis (Ayahuasca vine) and has potentially more serious interactions.
What can I eat?
In terms of the MAOI safety diet, basically foods that are as fresh as possible and not overripe, preserved, fermented, cured, aged, or even slightly spoiled.
Starchy foods such as rice, bread, potatoes, etc are also fine.
DRUGS AND MEDS
Is it really dangerous to combine some pharmaceutical drugs with Ayahuasca?
YES. Unlike food interactions, whose consequences are usually unlikely to be serious, interaction with pharmaceutical drugs and meds (including some over-the-counter drugs and certain herbs) can be potentially life-threatening.. The combination of MAOIs and other serotonin agonists or precursors poses a particularly severe risk of a life-threatening serotonin syndrome episode.
Which drugs are dangerous with Ayahuasca?
These drugs and meds can be dangerous with MAOIs:
– other MAOIs
– SSRI’s (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor)
– antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
– appetite suppressants (diet pills)
– medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems; antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (Actifed DM, Benadryl, Benylin, Chlor-Trimeton, Compoz, Bromarest DM or DX, Dimetane DX cough syrup, Dristan Cold & Flu, Phenergan with Dextromethorphan, Robitussin-DM, Vicks Formula 44-D, several Tylenol cold, cough, and flu preparations, and many others) — anything containing dextromethorphan/ DXM or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name, or anything containing pseudoephedrine.
– CNS (central nervous system) depressants
Illegal or recreational drugs that are VERY dangerous to combine with MAOIs:
– amphetamines (meth-, dex-, amphetamine), ephedrine, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, PMA
– opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, and especially opium)
– dextromethorphan (DXM)
There are recorded fatalities from the combination of cocaine with MAOIs and 5-Meo-DMT with MAOIs.
Illegal or recreational drugs that can potentially be dangerous to combine with MAOIs:
– mescaline (any phenethylamine)
Some specific pharmaceutical drugs that should not be combined with MAOIs (some are mild risks, others serious):
– Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
– Amantadine hydrochloride (Symmetrel)
– Amoxapine (Asendin)
– Benmoxinb (Nerusil, Neuralex)
– Benzphetamine (Didrex)
– Brofaromine (Consonar)
– Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
– Buspirone (BuSpar)
– Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Epitol)
– Citalopram (Celexa)
– Clomipramine (Anafranil)
– Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
– Cyclizine (Marezine)
– Desipramine (Pertofrane, Norpramin)
– Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
– Dextromethorphan (DXM)
– Dienolide kavapyrone desmethoxyyangonin
– Disopyramide (Norpace)
– Disulfiram (Antabuse)
– Dopamine (Intropin)
– Doxepin (Sinequan)
– Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
– Epinephrine (Adrenalin)
– Escitalopram (Lexapro)
– Fenfluramine (Pondimin)
– Flavoxate Hydrochloride (Urispas)
– Fluoxetine (Prozac)
– Furazolidone (Furoxone)
– Guanadrel (Hylorel)
– Guanethidine (Ismelin)
– Hydralazine (Apresoline)
– Imipramine (Tofranil)
– Iproniazid (Marsilid, Iprozid, Ipronid, Rivivol, Propilniazida)
– Iproclozide (Sursum)
– Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
– Isoniazid (Laniazid, Nydrazid)
– Isoniazid rifampin (Rifamate, Rimactane)
– Isoproterenol (Isuprel)
– L-dopa (Sinemet)
– Lazabemide (Pakio, Tempium)
– Levodopa (Dopar, Larodopa)
– Linezolid (Zyvox, Zyvoxid)
– Lithium (Eskalith)
– Loratadine (Claritin)
– Maprotiline (Ludiomil)
– Mebanazine (Actomol)
– Meperidine (Demerol)
– Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
– Metaraminol (Aramine)
– Metfendrazine (Inkazan)
– Methamphetamine (Desoxyn)
– Methyldopa (Aidomet)
– Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
– Minaprine (Cantor)
– Mirtazapine (Remeron)
– Moclobemide (Aurorix, Manerix)
– Montelukast (Singulair)
– Nialamide (Niamid)
– Norepinephrine (Levophed)
– Nortriptyline (Aventyl)
– Octamoxin (Ximaol, Nimaol)
– Oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan)
– Oxymetazoline (Afrin, Dimetapp)
– Orphenadrine (Norflex)
– Pargyline (Eutonyl)
– Paroxetine (Paxil)
– Pemoline (Cylert)
– Pethedine (Demerol)
– Phendimetrazine (Plegiline)
– Phenelzine (Nardil)
– Phenelzine (Nardil, Nardelzine)
– Pheniprazine (Catron)
– Phenoxypropazine (Drazine)
– Phenylephrine (Dimetane, Dristan decongestant, Neo-Synephrine)
– Phenylpropanolamine (found in many cold medicines)
– Phenelzine (Nardil)
– Pirlindole (Pirazidol)
– Procarbazine (Matulane)
– Procainamide (Pronestyl)
– Protriptyline (Vivactil)
– Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
– Quinidine (Quinidex)
– Rasagiline (Azilect)
– Reserpine (Serpasil)
– Selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar)
– Sertraline (Zoloft)
– Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
– Terfenadine (Seldane-D)
– Theophylline (Theo-Dur)
– Thioridazine (Mellaril)
– Toloxatone (Humoryl)
– Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
– Tricyclic antidepressants (Amitriptyline, Elavil)
– Trimipramine (Surmontil)
– Venlafaxine (Effexor)
– Ziprasidone (Geodon)
Also avoid the following herbs for at least 48 hours before and after:
St. Johns Wort (if it has been taken regularly, needs two weeks to clear the system)
Horny Goat Weed
Using stimulants with MAOIs is particularly dangerous and can be potentially fatal. Using cocaine, amphetamines or MDMA (Ecstasy) with MAOIs may cause a severe increase in blood pressure, increasing the chances for stroke and cerebral hemorrhage. MAOIs may make it possible to overdose on a relatively small amount of cocaine. (A fatality has been recorded involving combination of Peganum harmala and cocaine. Fatalities resulting from combining amphetamines with pharmaceutical MAOIs are recorded in the medical literature.)
Using other serotonin agonists (SSRIs) or precursors with an MAOI can lead to serotonin syndrome.Serotinin syndrome is rare, but can be fatal. The main symptom of serotonin syndrome may be a severe and long-lasting headache (the same symptom as MAOI tyramine interaction) and/or fever (as high as 40 °C / 104 °F or more) Other symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include rapid heartbeat, shivering, sweating, dilated pupils, intermittent tremor or twitching, overactive or overresponsive reflexes, hyperactive bowel sounds, high blood pressure. Severe serotonin syndrome may lead to shock, agitated delirium, muscular rigidity and high muscular tension, abnormal blood clotting and bleeding, respiratory failure, renal failure, and seizures, and can be life-threatening. This interaction can happen even if weeks have passed between stopping the SSRI and taking the MAOI. For further information on serotonin syndrome see this web page: http://www.psychotropical.com/
Using other MAOIs with Ayahuasca may result in hypertensive crisis, convulsive seizures, fever, marked sweating, excitation, delirium, tremor, coma and circulatory collapse.
Using 5-MEO-DMT with Ayahuasca or Ayahuasca analogs can be fatal. There is a documented case of fatality combining 5-MeO-DMT with Ayahuasca and another documented case of fatality combining 5-MeO-DMT with an Ayahuasca analog.
Using opiates (opium, heroin, morphine, codeine) or barbiturates with MAOIs can increase the sedative effect and result in respiratory depression. Using MAOIs with heroin or morphine can theoretically push a normal dose to the overdose threshold. Opium (whether smoked or drunk as tea) is especially dangerous to combine with MAOIs, because it contains not only morphine and codeine, but another active alkaloid called thebaine, which can cause convulsions when combined with MAOIs, and which is also a stimulant (see above paragraph on stimulants). Painkillers synthesized from thebaine (buprenorphine, etorphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, nalbuphine, naloxone, naltrexone) should also be regarded as highly dangerous to combine with MAOIs.
Using alcohol with MAOIs may cause side effects like angina (chest pain) or headaches. The headache may mask or be mistaken for hypertensive crisis caused by MAOI interaction. MAOIs can also increase the sedative effect of alcohol.
Using diuretics with MAOIs may cause a greater drop in blood pressure than normal and increase in MAOI blood levels.
Using anesthetics with MAOIs may potentiate or increase the anesthetic effect.
Using sleeping pills or tranquilizers (major or minor) with MAOIs may increase the sedative effect.
Using nutmeg (at psychoactive levels) with MAOIs can cause hypotensive crisis (extremely low blood pressure), rapid heartbeat, unconsciousness and potentially death.
Using cowhage (Mucuna pruriens) with MAOIs may result in high blood pressure, although there are unverified reports of this plant (of African and Asian origin) being used in some Ayahuasca preparations because of its minor DMT and 5-MeO-DMT content.
Using vasodilators with Ayahuasca may cause fainting (which carries the slight risk of choking on vomit) and increases the chances of having an experience in which one believes one is dying. Using vasodilators immediately after an Ayahuasca session also carries the risk of fainting or passing out.
Using Tricyclic antidepressants within two weeks of taking MAOIs may cause serious side effects including sudden fever, extremely high blood pressure, convulsions, and death.
Using Fluoxetine (Prozac) within five weeks of taking MAOIs may cause high fever, rigidity, high blood pressure, mental changes, confusion and hypomania.
Using Amitryptamine or Amoxipine with MAOIs may cause hyperpyretic crises, disseminated intravascular coagulation, convulsions, and death.
Using Benzedrine, Benzphetamine, Desipramine, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Dopamine, Ephedrine (contained in Marax, Quadrinal, and other asthma drugs), Epinephrine, Guanadrel, Guanethidine, Hydralazine, Isoproterenol, L-dopa, Metaraminol, Methyldopa, Mirtazamine, Norepinephrine Oxymetazoline, Phendimetrazine, Phentermine, Phenylephrine, Phenylpropanolamine, Pseudoephedrine, Ritalin, or Venlafaxine with MAOIs may cause a hypertensive crisis (severe spike in blood pressure) which can lead to brain hemorrhage or stroke.
Using Adderall with MAOIs can result in high body temperature (hyperpyrexic crisis), severe increase in blood pressure (hypertensive crisis), seizures, and coma. (see paragraph above on stimulants)
Using Bupropion (Wellbutrin) within two weeks of taking MAOIs may cause serious side effects such as seizures.
Using Buspirone (Buspar) with MAOIs may cause high blood pressure and increased sedative effects.
Using Carbamazepine (Tegretol) with MAOIs may result in fever (hyperpyrexic crisis) and may cause seizures, or increase seizures in epileptics.
Using Citalopram with MAOIs may result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions involving elevations in blood pressure, hyperthermia, rigidity, and autonomic instability. This drug should be ceased a minimum of two weeks before taking Ayahuasca.
Using Clomipramine with MAOIs may cause high fever (hyperpyrexic crisis), seizures, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and death.
Using CNS depressants with MAOIs may increase the depressant effects.
Using Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane) with MAOIs may result in hypertensive crisis, hyperpyretic crises, disseminated intravascular coagulation, convulsions, and death.
Using Dextromethorphan (DXM) at psychoactive levels with MAOIs may cause serotonin syndrome, extremely high blood pressure (hypertensive crisis), high body temperature (hyperpyrexic crisis), episodes of psychosis, and in high doses can potentially be fatal.
Using Dobutamine with MAOIs may precipitate severe hypertensive reaction.
Using Doxepin with MAOIs may cause hyperpyretic crises, disseminated intravascular coagulation, convulsions, and death.
Using Entacapone with MAOIs can stop the catalyst enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) from metabolizing levodopa to 3-O-methyldopa in the periphery, and in the brain.
Using Fenfluramine with MAOIs may result in fever (hyperpyrexic crisis).
Using Fluoxedine or Fluvaoxamine with MAOIs may result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions involving elevations in blood pressure, hyperthermia, rigidity, and autonomic instability. This drug should be ceased a minimum of two weeks before taking Ayahuasca.
Using Gabapentin with MAOIs may result in increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and/or seizures.
Using Horny Goat Weed with MAOIs may result in hypotensive crisis (severe blood pressure drop).
Using Imipramine with MAOIs may cause hyperpyretic crises, disseminated intravascular coagulation, convulsions, and death.
Using Isoproterenol with MAOIs may precipitate severe hypertensive crisis.
Using Kava with MAOIs may result in hypotensive crisis (severe blood pressure drop).
Using Levodopa with MAOIs can stop the catalyst enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) from metabolizing levodopa to 3-O-methyldopa in the periphery, and in the brain.
Using Linezolid with MAOIs can cause serotonin syndrome.
Using Lithium with MAOIs may cause fever (hyperpyrexic crisis) and serotonin syndrome (see serotonin syndrome above).
Using Meperidine (Demerol) with pharmaceutical MAOIs has resulted in deaths from a single dose. Immediate onset of sweating, rigidity and hypertension can occur.
Using Metaproterenol or other beta-adrenergic bronchodilators with MAOIs may cause blood pressure elevation and rapid heartbeat.
Using Mirtazapine (Remeron) with MAOIs may result in hypertensive crisis.
Using Nefazodone (Serzone) may result in high fever (hyperpyrexic crisis).
Using Paroxitine (Paxil) with MAOIs may result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions involving elevations in blood pressure, hyperthermia, rigidity, and autonomic instability. This drug should be ceased a minimum of two weeks before taking Ayahuasca.
Using Sertraline with MAOIs may result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions involving elevations in blood pressure, hyperthermia, rigidity, and autonomic instability. This drug should be ceased a minimum of two weeks before taking Ayahuasca.
Using Temaril with MAOIs may increase chance of side effects.
Using Terfenadine with MAOIs may cause an increase in MAOI blood levels.
Using Theophylline with MAOIs may cause rapid heartbeat and anxiety.
Using Tolcapone with MAOIs can stop the catalyst enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) from metabolizing levodopa to 3-O-methyldopa in the periphery, and in the brain.
Using Trazodone (Desyrel) with MAOIs may result in high fever (hyperpyrexic crisis).
Using Tryptophan or L-tryptophan with MAOIs may cause disorientation, confusion, amnesia, delirium agitation, memory impairment, hypomanic signs, shivering.
Using Venlafaxine (Effexor) with MAOIs may result in hypertensive crisis or serotonin syndrome.
Using Ziprasidone (Geodon) with MAOIs may cause serotonin syndrome.
Using Zoloft (Sertraline) with MAOIs has produced fatal cases of serotonin syndrome, and can also result in fever, muscle rigidity, instability of the autonomic nervous system, delirium, and coma.
Special note to diabetics: MAOIs may change the amount of insulin or oral antidiabetic medication that you need. Notes on Diabetes and Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca forum Threads discussing specific meds:
St Johns Wort
If your meds are not listed here, you could post an inquiry in the Information forum, but people in the forum don’t necessarily know about every med so there may not be an answer to your question. Before asking, it is suggested that you do a web search on the name of the drug + MAOI; and you should also ask your doctor about whether your drug is contraindicated with MAOIs. (It is not necessary to mention Ayahuasca to your doctor in order to ask the question about MAOIs.)
If you find out such information about a drug that is not mentioned here, it could be a service to others if you posted what you learned in the Information forum.
How long do you have to stay off contraindicated drugs before and after an Ayahuasca ceremony?
Depends on the drug. May be 24 hours, may be six months. For over the counter drugs (like antihistamines), 48 hours before and after is more than enough. For prescription drugs, two to six weeks is typical, but do not guess. Find out for sure from your doctor. Your doctor may be unfamiliar with Ayahuasca specifically, but tell him or her that you are planning to take a reversible MAOI. . Some people who plan to drink Ayahuasca in a country where it is not legal are concerned that the doctor will ask questions about the source of the MAOI and learn about an illegal activity. Doctors are bound by doctor-patient confidentiality and they would prefer to know about anything their patients are taking, legal or not. But if your doctor feels that he or she needs more information about Ayahuasca, you could refer him or her to this thread and other informational resources in this forum.
Medical consultation is especially important if you are taking Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Zoloft or other antidepressants that affect serotonin levels, i.e. serotonin selective re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), because these substances must be reduced gradually. Fluoxetine (Prozac) requires 8 weeks (56 days) and most other SSRIs five weeks (35 days) to clear the system.