Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

Can you Take Ibuprofen on an Empty Stomach? Here’s an Insight

  Jan 25, 2024
Reviewed by Ravinder Kaur

Whenever someone suffers from a headache, fever, or muscle ache, they are advised to take ibuprofen to help relieve the pain. And why won’t it be recommended by the doctors? After all, it is a tried and tested drug that is trusted for helping in soothing inflammation. 

A person taking medicine out from the strip

However, now the question that comes up is, can you take ibuprofen on an empty stomach? Well, even though ibuprofen works differently for one another, it is often mentioned how it shouldn’t be taken without a meal. But how much truth is there to the statement? Let’s find out here!

About Ibuprofen 

Ibuprofen has been around for around 50 years now and is one of the most common OTC (over-the-counter) medications used for treating pain, fever, and inflammation.

It is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), and it functions by blocking the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme’s activity, which is responsible for the production of prostaglandin.

Ibuprofen also helps reduce headaches, arthritis, minor injury, and even menstrual cramps. Taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach depends on a list of risk factors, and their differences and impacts vary from individual to individual.

So now let’s have a look at the difference between Ibuprofen, Mortin, and Advil, as people are sometimes confused between the lot. 

What is the Difference Between Advil, Ibuprofen, and Motrin?

To put it simply, Motrin, Motrin IB, and Advil are trade names for the drug ibuprofen. So basically, there is no substantial difference between Mortin and Advil, as both are brands of ibuprofen and are equally effective. 

As mentioned earlier about the group of drugs NSAIDs, ibuprofen is also included in it. Other available brands of ibuprofen in the USA are Genpril, Midol IB, and Proprinal.

The reason Ibuprofen is called a non-selective NSAID is that it interferes with the COX-2 enzyme, which is involved in pain signaling and inflammation, and the COX-1 enzyme, which is associated with gastric mucosal protection. Naturally, it is effective in relieving pain and reducing inflammation, but it also carries the risk of gastric-related side effects.

Advil and Motrin on supermarket shelves

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Advil) is a short-acting NSAID characterized by a relatively rapid start of the action. It is suitable for the treatment of acute pain and is the most appropriate NSAID for children. Ibuprofen tablets/capsules should be administered every 4–6 hours.

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Can You Take Ibuprofen On an Empty Stomach?

Consuming ibuprofen has a lower risk of causing serious gastrointestinal (GI) side effects overall. However, when talking about the risks of using it, the person’s age, duration of use, dosage, and other health concerns also has to be considered.

Ibuprofen can affect prostaglandin levels, and one of the functions of prostaglandins is to protect the stomach. So the bad part here is that it reduces stomach acidity and increases mucus production.

If ibuprofen is taken in large doses or for long periods of time, it lessens the production of prostaglandin. Resulting in increased stomach acidity, which can irritate the gastric mucous and cause problems.

The GI side effects may depend on several factors, including:

  1. Duration of usage: Long-term use of ibuprofen increases the risk of GI-related problems compared to short-term use for an urgent need.
  2. Dosage: Long-term use of higher doses increases the risk of GI-related concerns.
  3. Other Health Conditions: Certain health conditions may increase the risk of side effects and adverse reactions. Here is a History of GI (gastrointestinal) complaints:
    • Bleeding ulcers.
    • Chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
    • Personal factors like older adults being at an increased risk for GI and other adverse reactions from its use.
    • Always discuss the benefits and any risks of ibuprofen with your physician before taking this medication.

Ask your doctor about ibuprofen use if you have a heart, kidney, high blood pressure, or other chronic medical condition.

A woman experiencing stomach pain

Even though Ibuprofen is a low-risk drug, it is recommended to not take it on an empty stomach. However, taking this medicine without food may help in quicker absorption of the drug. That still entails a risk of GI side effects.

Side-Effects of Taking Ibuprofen on an Empty Stomach

Another question remains, ‘Can I take Ibuprofen on an empty stomach or not?’ The answer is still up for debate. There may be some side effects that you may experience. However, you can take Advil or Ibuprofen on an empty stomach.

Several gastrointestinal side effects might be caused by Ibuprofen are:

  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn,
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Tearing
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Shigellosis (a condition in which a person is unable to breathe for a period of time)
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Gas

Upper and lower GI risks should be considered before using ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is not recommended for a lower GI risk, even with a proton pump inhibitor like Nexium as a protective agent.

The risk of GI side effects is higher in the following:

  • People over 65 years of age: due to a 4-fold increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Have had indigestion or heartburn in the past.
  • Use corticosteroids, anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline (Zoloft), or antiplatelet agents such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix).
  • Peptic ulcer or ulcer-related bleeding.
  • Because alcohol can irritate the gastric mucosa, and the use of ibuprofen with alcohol increases the risk of gastric bleeding.

Taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach can lead to some serious gastronomical issues. It is advised to take precautions and only use the medicine after consuming food.

What Happens If You Take Ibuprofen On an Empty Stomach?

Should you eat something beforehand, or can you take ibuprofen on an empty stomach? Many people take ibuprofen on an empty stomach to relieve pain quickly, but eating before taking the medication has been shown to slow its absorption into the bloodstream significantly. One study even found that eating before taking medication can cause more damage to the small intestine!

If there is a risk of developing a peptic ulcer with the use of ibuprofen, experts recommend first taking a drug called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Those at low risk of side effects can take those containing magnesium, which absorbs excess stomach acid, to protect them while allowing the painkiller to take effect quickly. So if you need to take ibuprofen to treat a headache quickly, don’t wait until you can eat something with ibuprofen.

Can Food Reduce Symptoms of the Stomach-Ache Adverse-Effect?

It has long been believed that food provides a “cushion” that does not harm the stomach when taking ibuprofen, but the evidence is largely ahead. So about this, we have gone through Dr. Russell’s advice. He says, “Nevertheless, if you have a mild upset stomach when taking ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, it is worth trying to take the medication on a full stomach to see if it reduces the discomfort.”

Dr. Grimes recommends “small amounts of foods that contain fat and protein (which are digested more slowly), such as a few slices of apple and peanut butter or cheese and crackers.”

He continues, “The presence of food in the stomach reduces direct irritation but does not truly protect against ibuprofen’s action on prostaglandins.” Long-term regular use of ibuprofen, with or without food, can cause serious side effects.

If you experience new painful symptoms, it is best to consult a healthcare provider instead of taking over-the-counter pain relievers. This is because pain can signify a more dangerous health condition.


Ans: Taking Ibuprofen on an empty stomach can relieve pain more quickly than taking it with food. When it is taken after having food, the time for ibuprofen to get absorbed increases.

Ans: Ibuprofen and Advil are the same things. And, yes, you can take them without food.

Ans: You can take ibuprofen on an empty stomach, and it can relieve pain more quickly than with food. However, to reduce the risk of gastronomical distress and stomach problems, it is recommended to take ibuprofen with food.

Ans: Tylenol does not irritate the stomach like naproxen sodium (Aleve 1) or ibuprofen (Advil 1, Motrin). Tylenol is gentle on the stomach and can relieve pain, and can be taken on an empty stomach.

Ans: Neutral foods such as crackers, rice, bread, and peanut butter do a good job of coating the stomach, promoting digestion, and helping the body metabolize drugs more efficiently.

Ans: The results showed that the fruit mimics ibuprofen and can reduce pain and inflammation. After eating bananas, participants in the experiment showed significantly increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, resulting in less swelling and less pain.

Ans: To avoid any negative impact of taking ibuprofen, after finishing your meal, you can take NSAIDs or take it with antacids.

Ans: Adults: can usually take 1 or 2 tablets (200 mg) every 4–6 hours, but should not exceed 1,200 mg (200 mg x 6 tablets) in a 24-hour period. Children under 16: Depending on their age, they may need to take a smaller dose.

Ans: For adults and children 12 years and older, the recommended dose of OTC ibuprofen is 200 mg to 400 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed. The maximum recommended dose is 1,200 mg in 24 hours.