Does Nurofen (ibuprofen) cause stomach problems?

For most people, taking Nurofen at the recommended dose and duration will not upset the stomach.

Nurofen contains ibuprofen, a pain reliever that belongs to a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).

Ibuprofen is as well tolerated as paracetamol when taken as directed.This means not exceeding the recommended dose, and not taking Nurofen for more than 3 days without the advice of your doctor.

You shouldn’t take ibuprofen if you have had a stomach ulcer or other stomach-related problem in the past. Seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist for other pain relief options.

Key facts about Nurofen and stomach-related side effects:

  • If you take Nurofen as directed on the pack, it’s unlikely to cause stomach problems
  • If you take Nurofen as directed on the pack, it’s as well tolerated as paracetamol.
  • Do not take Nurofen if you have ever had stomach ulcer or a stomach problem.
  • See your doctor if you need long-term pain relief. Long-term use of NSAIDs can cause stomach problems in some people.

What are the possible stomach-related side effects of NSAIDs?

On rare occasions, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can cause mild stomach-related side effects such as indigestion, heartburn, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and diarrhoea. More serious side effects include ulcers, bleeding or tears in the stomach or intestine, but these are usually linked to taking NSAIDs at high doses (over 1200mg/day) for long periods of time (more than 3 days at a time).

The chances of experiencing one of these side effects are much higher if you have had stomach problems in the past – this is why you shouldn’t take Nurofen if you have ever experienced stomach bleeding or other stomach-related problems.

Does ibuprofen cause stomach problems like other NSAIDs?

Not all NSAIDs are the same. Ibuprofen causes fewer side effects than other anti-inflammatory pain relievers when taken as directed on the pack. Over the counter dose and duration.

Clinical studies show that:

  • At low doses, ibuprofen causes fewer side effects than other NSAIDs including diclofenac, naproxen and aspirin.
  • When taken at over-the-counter doses, ibuprofen and paracetamol have similar rates of stomach-related side effects.

Stomach-related problems are more likely to occur when NSAIDs are taken at high doses (over 1200mg/day) for long periods of time (more than 3 days at a time) a doctor or pharmacist for further advice if you need long-term pain relief.

How does long-term use of NSAIDs affect the stomach?

Anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen work by temporarily blocking the production of pain-causing chemicals called prostaglandins. At the site of pain, prostaglandins activate nearby nerve endings, which tell the brain the location and severity of the pain.

Prostaglandins also help to protect the stomach lining. In some people, blocking prostaglandins long-term can interrupt this protective mechanism and allow stomach ulcers to form.

When you take Nurofen as directed on the pack (short-term and at low doses), the production of prostaglandins is suppressed temporarily and there is very little chance that you will experience any stomach problems.

See a doctor or pharmacist for further advice if you need long-term pain relief.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.
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References
  • The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Pain relief for children – paracetamol and ibuprofen. Available at: www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Pain_relief_for_children_-_Paracetamol_and_Ibuprofen/ Accessed 04 September 2014.
  • Pelen F et al. Ann Pediatr 1998; 45(10): 719–28, funded by Reckitt Benckiser.
  • 3.Autret-Leca et al. Curr Med Res Opin 2007; 23(9): 2205­–11, funded by Reckitt Benckiser.
  • Colmar Brunton OMNI Research, June 2014.
  • Yin HS et al. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010; 164(2): 181–6.