What Happens If You Take Ibuprofen on an Empty Stomach

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 24th, 2023

Ibuprofen is a household name and a go-to remedy for a range of symptoms from pain and fever to inflammation. But one frequently asked question revolves around its safety when taken on an empty stomach. This article delves into the pros and cons, the potential risks, and best practices surrounding ibuprofen use, offering you a well-rounded perspective informed by medical insights. If you’ve ever wondered how to navigate ibuprofen’s possible side effects or how it interacts with other drugs, keep reading.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is more than just an over-the-counter pain reliever; it’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that has been around for over half a century. Besides ibuprofen, other notable names in the NSAID family include aspirin and naproxen. These medications work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which plays a role in the production of substances like prostaglandins that cause inflammation, fever, and pain.

Close-up view of a hand holding two white pills in the palm above a blurry background

The Biological Mechanism of Ibuprofen

When you take ibuprofen, the drug targets the COX enzyme to halt the production of prostaglandins. These substances are involved in several functions in your body, including protecting the stomach lining and regulating stomach acid production. Consequently, taking ibuprofen could disrupt these crucial functions, leading us to the central question: What happens if you take it on an empty stomach?

Taking Ibuprofen on an Empty Stomach: Risks and Considerations

It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach. Some individuals might not experience any adverse effects, while others may deal with unpleasant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Factors like age, pre-existing medical conditions, and the length of time you’ve been taking ibuprofen can all contribute to how your body reacts. If you’ve previously had issues with medications on an empty stomach, it’s prudent to avoid taking ibuprofen without eating first.

Gastrointestinal Impact of Ibuprofen

The reason why ibuprofen might cause stomach issues lies in its influence on prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins help regulate stomach acid and contribute to the mucous lining that protects your stomach. When you take ibuprofen—especially at high dosages or for extended periods—it can reduce prostaglandin levels, potentially leading to stomach irritation and increased stomach acid production.

Common Side Effects of Ibuprofen

Many people use ibuprofen without a second thought, but it’s essential to recognize its possible side effects, which range from diarrhea and heartburn to nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, gas, and constipation. Generally, these side effects are not severe and may not affect everyone. Still, it’s wise to be aware of the full range of potential impacts.

The Right Way to Take Ibuprofen

While tablets are the most commonly available form of ibuprofen, it’s essential to follow the label’s guidelines for dosage and administration. Never chew or crush the tablets; swallow them whole. To minimize gastrointestinal side effects, it’s advisable to take ibuprofen with milk, food, or an antacid. And as with any medication, consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice, particularly if you’re pregnant or planning to be.

Alternatives to Ibuprofen

If ibuprofen doesn’t suit your needs, other over-the-counter options include aspirin, Co-Codamol (a blend of paracetamol and low-dose codeine), and paracetamol. For persistent or severe symptoms, consult your doctor for stronger medication or alternative treatments such as physical therapy.

Ibuprofen and Drug Interactions

Be cautious with ibuprofen if you’re taking other medications, as it can interact with drugs like ACE inhibitors, lithium, and corticosteroids, among others. Always read labels and consult your healthcare provider to ensure you’re not at risk for adverse interactions.


Ibuprofen is an incredibly popular and generally safe medication for addressing a variety of symptoms. However, when it comes to taking it on an empty stomach, caution is advisable. Consuming it with food, milk, or an antacid can provide some level of stomach protection. If you’re considering long-term ibuprofen use, consult your healthcare provider for guidance, as they may recommend alternative treatments or medications to mitigate risks.


Editorial Staff

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