The facts on Nurofen and food

Your mum might have said that you should always take Nurofen with food to make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach. The good news is that while mum was looking out for you, you don’t have to eat just because you have a headache. Instead pain relievers, like Nurofen, can be taken on an empty stomach with water.

Where did the Nurofen and food myth come from?

Back in the 1970s, ibuprofen was a prescription-only medicine and doctors used high doses to manage pain and inflammation in people with long-term conditions. Some patients took high doses of ibuprofen every day for years, and ended up developing stomach problems, including ulcers.

Today, the dose of Nurofen in pain relievers you buy at the supermarket or pharmacy is much lower than the doses prescribed by doctors in the 1970s.

Another difference is that Nurofen is only taken for short periods of time now – that’s why your pharmacist recommends seeing a doctor if pain persists beyond three days. When taken for short periods of time, Nurofen is unlikely to cause stomach problems. In fact, there is good evidence to show that stomach-related problems are more likely to occur when Nurofenis taken at high doses (over 1200 mg/day) and for long periods of time (more than 3 days at a time).

So before, when ibuprofen was used at high doses for long periods of time, the chances of stomach problems were greater. Doctors thought that eating with the medicine might reduce the risks. Now, we know that if you follow the directions on the pack and take Nurofen at a low dose for up to three days, the medicine is as well tolerated as paracetamol. That means you don’t need to take Nurofen with food.

Three good reasons to take Nurofen with water

There’s one more thing to understand about Nurofen and food. Taking Nurofen with food can delay absorption. This can be a problem as you may not get the fast pain relief you want – no one really wants to be in pain for any longer than they have to. It can also be a problem if you think the Nurofen isn’t working and take additional medicines that you don’t need.

Taking Nurofen with food can delay absorption and therefore indirectly slow down pain relief, but there’s also a simple way to avoid this. Just take Nurofen on an empty stomach with a glass of water. When you do, you’ll find these three benefits:

  1. The Nurofen will get to work more quickly.
  2. You’ll start getting pain relief sooner.
  3. You’ll avoid taking more medicine than you actually need.


Fast facts about Nurofen and food

 

References:
Slower absorption - Cegedim Omnibus, Retail Pharmacists. June 2012.
Slower absorption - Moore RA et al. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2015;80:381–8.
Slower absorption and water efficacy - Rainsford KD et al. J Pharm Pharmacol 2012;64:465–9.
Water efficacy - Australian Medicines Handbook 2016, Australian Medicines Handbook Pty Ltd; Adelaide.