Ibuprofen On Empty Stomach: Vital Information To Note

Taking ibuprofen on empty stomach does not have good end or result as it can cause gastrointestinal side effects. Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter medicine that can reduce fever, inflammation and pain. This medicine has been in existence for many years.

You may have a nagging headache, horrible menstrual cramps or you have a sore leg from your workout yesterday. You take a big glass of water and swallow the recommended dose of ibuprofen, within a few minutes, you are feeling well but is it right for you to take the ibuprofen on an empty stomach?? In this article, we will find out if it is normal for you to take ibuprofen on an empty stomach.


Ibuprofen is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. It is used to stop the body from producing a substance that causes pain, inflammation and fever. Ibuprofen is used in certain conditions like headaches, toothaches, arthritis, menstrual cramps and more. Children from the age of six months and adults can take ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen is different from acetaminophen. Although they both relieve pain and fever, acetaminophen is commonly sold as Tylenol while Advil is a common brand name for ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is not suitable for everyone and can cause effects like gastrointestinal, renal and cardiovascular effects. 


The body has two COX enzymes and they have different effects. COX-1 protects the lining of the stomach and other surrounding cells. COX-2 when activated on the other hand, blocks prostaglandin release in response to pain, fever and inflammation (Healthline, 2019). 

When you take ibuprofen, it affects the activity of both COX-1 and COX-2, while providing relief to symptoms and also increase the risk of certain side effects. The time of taking a medicine can affect its effectiveness, absorption and side effects. The time include taking it with food or on an empty stomach. It takes 30 minutes for ibuprofen to work, it does not absorb quickly.


The answer to this question is in two-fold. If you are taking ibuprofen just to get temporary relief and you have no risk factors that may affect your health, then you can take it on an empty stomach. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology in 2012 found that the fastest onset of action for most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is the most important which makes it more appropriate to use the medicine on an empty stomach.

So, if you are using ibuprofen only for short term use, an empty stomach could help you to feel better faster. However if you are using ibuprofen for long term use, there is a possibility for your stomach lining to be damaged depending on factors like the age, length of use, dosage and existing health conditions. 

The prostaglandin is responsible for protecting the stomach, it decreases the acid and increases the production of mucus. Ibuprofen if taken in large doses, can affect the level of this prostaglandin and cause less dose to be produced. This can lead to increase in stomach acid and irritation of the lining of the stomach.

Ibuprofen On Empty Stomach
Ibuprofen On Empty Stomach

The side effects on the gastrointestinal is dependent on factors like:

  • Dose: Taking large dose of ibuprofen on empty stomach for long periods of time will increase your risk of having gastrointestinal related problems.
  • Length of Use: Taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach for long periods of time will increase your risk of gastrointestinal side effects as compared to short term use.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: Some health conditions will increase your risk of having adverse effects when you take ibuprofen on empty stomach. Some of these conditions include bleeding ulcers, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, history of having gastrointestinal problems and others.
  • Age factor: Older people are more at risk of having gastrointestinal effects of they take ibuprofen on empty stomach.

It is advisable to take ibuprofen with food or milk especially if on long term use, the food can help cushion the stomach from these effects. When you take doses of less than 1,600 mg of ibuprofen for two or three days just to relieve occasional headache with or without food, it is generally tolerated in healthy people with a low risk of side effects. 


Taking ibuprofen may lead to stomach problems like gas, bloating, nausea, bleeding, ulcer, heartburn, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and holes in the stomach or intestines. These problems may sound worrying or disturbing but a review published in the journal Inflammopharmacology in 2009 suggested that taking the right dose of ibuprofen can have low chance of of serious gastrointestinal, renal, and cardiovascular issues. 

Bleeding, ulcers or holes can occur in the stomach or intestines at any time while you use ibuprofen and this can happen with or without warning signs. In severe cases, these problems can lead to death.


Ibuprofen is commonly sold as tablets to adults. These tablets are to be swallowed whole and not chewed or crushed. You should stick to the recommended dosage and follow the instructions on the label. It is recommended that you take ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with food, milk or an antacid to help prevent the effects on the stomach and intestines. Pregnant women who are 20 weeks or more should not take ibuprofen as it may cause harm to the fetus.


I like ibuprofen, tylenol is safe for the stomach, it does not cause bleeding or ulcers but you should make sure to take it with a full glass of water. It is very much gentle on the stomach. 

If you want to get faster relief, you should take Tylenol on an empty stomach to help it kick in sooner. This is because food can slow down the rate at which your body absorbs it. You can take tylenol every day but stay within the recommended dosage. If you are taking Tylenol for a long time, you should stick to not more than 3,000 mg per day. Too much of Tylenol can damage the liver, also limit your alcohol intake.


If you accidentally take ibuprofen on empty stomach and you experience mild symptoms of stomach upset. If the symptoms still persist or get worse, you should see a doctor instead of taking multiple types of acid reducers.

You can take any of the following medications:

  • A Magnesium-Based Antacid: This will help relieve the mild symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn. Do not take antacids made with aluminum after taking ibuprofen because they will interfere with how your body absorbs ibuprofen.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitor like Esomeprazole (Nexium): The inhibitor will help relieve symptoms of acid reflux. However, you should check with your pharmacist if there is any chance of drug interactions or side effects.


There are some side effects associated with ibuprofen. These effects affect the gastrointestinal, these side effects are:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Nausea
  3. Ulcer
  4. Heartburn
  5. Bleeding
  6. Diarrhea
  7. Constipation
  8. Cramps
  9. Bloating
  10. Feeling of fullness
  11. Gas
  12. Holes and tears in the stomach, small intestines and large intestines.

You must consider upper and lower gastrointestinal risks before you take ibuprofen. According to an article by the Journal of Pain Research in 2018, it is not recommended to take ibuprofen if there is a lower gastrointestinal risk even if you are using proton pump inhibitor medications like Nexium as protection for your stomach. 

The risk of having gastrointestinal side effects are higher if you are or have:

  • A history of indigestion or heartburn
  • Older than 65. People above this age have this risk in quadruples
  • Peptic ulcer or any ulcer-related bleeding
  • Using alcohol as it can irritate the stomach lining. Combining ibuprofen with alcohol can increase the risk of stomach bleeding.
  • Using corticosteroids, anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline (Zoloft), antiplatelets like aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix). They should not be taken with ibuprofen.


You should see a doctor if the mild side effects do not go away after medicine or you experience any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Black tarry stool
  • Blood in your urine
  • Persistent vomiting and nausea
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rash
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the tongue, face, throat or lips


After taking ibuprofen tablets, capsules, granules or liquid, you should feel better within 20 to 30 minutes. For some pain, fever or inflammation that last for long term, you will need to take the medicine regularly for up to 3 weeks for it to work properly (National Health Service, 2021).


There are some drugs that do not combine well with ibuprofen. You should avoid taking them together.

Some of these drug are:

  • Medicines that prevent blood from clotting like warfarin
  • Anti-inflammatory pain killers like aspirin, naproxen or diclofenac
  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Medicines for diabetes like gliclazide, glimepiride, glipizide or tolbutamide 
  • Steroids like betamethasone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone or prednisolone
  • Antidepressants like citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, venlafaxine, paroxetine or sertraline.


Ibuprofen should not be taken on empty stomach especially if you are using it for long term or at risk of having gastrointestinal side effects. It is best they you take the medicine with either milk or food to protect the lining of your stomach.

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