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Does Ibuprofen Break a Fast? Here Are the Facts
Intermittent Fasting

Does Ibuprofen Break a Fast? Here Are the Facts

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 22
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4 min

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medication that relieves chronic pain, fever, and inflammation. But can it break a fast? Our medical team explains.

Does ibuprofen break a fast
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Intermittent fasting is a part of a healthy lifestyle and an ideal diet for weight loss, blood sugar management, and gut rest.

During intermittent fasting, you need to restrict your calorie intake to zero. If you must take calories, you can only take zero-calorie beverages like water, black coffee, or tea. Zero calorie intake helps your body enter ketosis or fasted state, where it burns fat instead of carbs. 

But what about taking medication? Despite having a healthy lifestyle, you may need a pain reliever like ibuprofen. Thus, you may ask: is it ok to have ibuprofen on a fast day? If so, does ibuprofen break a fast?

In response to your questions, this article discusses how ibuprofen affects fasting, how many calories it contains, and whether you should avoid it or not.

Does Ibuprofen Break a Fast?

The answer depends on your reasons for fasting. In intermittent fasting, breaking a fast refers to taking any calories within your fasting window.  In this regard, ibuprofen doesn’t technically break a fast.

Ibuprofen tablets contain zero calories and zero carbohydrates. Taking it will not prompt an insulin response, limiting your intermittent fasting benefits. Therefore, you can have it without breaking your fast if you’re fasting for autophagy, weight loss, or blood sugar control.

However, ibuprofen belongs to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) class. It can shut down some benefits of intermittent fasting, such as gut rest hence the end of your fast. For instance, if your goal for fasting is gut rest, the drug can increase intestinal permeability and alter the structure of the gut flora in long-term usage.

If you must take it, have it once in a while to avoid breaking your fast or limiting your fasting health benefits.

What Is Ibuprofen Used for?

Ibuprofen is taken orally to relieve fever, pain, and inflammation. It works by decreasing hormones that stimulate inflammation and pain. The conditions that may cause you pain and inflammation are toothaches, colds or flu, headaches, minor injuries, menstrual cramps, and back pain.

Ibuprofen suspensions and pills are its most common form, but the gel form of ibuprofen is also available for topical application.

Although ibuprofen is widely available across many countries, it is a prescription drug in others. It may be prescribed for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It is also used for pericarditis and patent ductus arteriosus.

If you are self-treating with over-the-counter ibuprofen, you should not take it for more than 10 days unless you consult your doctor.

How Many Calories Does Ibuprofen Contain?

Ibuprofen tablets with a film coating often have zero calories. However, some ibuprofen has a low-calorie content that is so low – less than 4kcal per serving – that it is rounded to zero.

In intermittent fasting, consuming calories, no matter how small, ends the fast. Thus, taking ibuprofen with low calories will technically break your fast. The sugar-coated tablets of ibuprofen contain very few calories and are flavored. Taking it may trigger insulin release, especially in diabetes patients.

Furthermore, ibuprofen suspension is extensively flavored and sugar-laden to make it more palatable for the target user – children. Due to the suspension’s high-calorie content, 36kcal per 5ml, you are not advised to use it during fasting. It will trigger insulin release and break a fast.

Effects of Ibuprofen on Fasting

Ibuprofen tablets will not affect your fast as they are free of calories and carbs. However, some ibuprofen, such as ibuprofen sold under the Advil or Motrin brand names, can affect your fasting, breaking your fast.

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The anti-inflammatory nature of the drug can also make it difficult to fast. It causes digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and ulcers. The larger doses of ibuprofen you take for a long time, the more you increase the risks. 

You also increase the risks when you take the medication while you are on an empty stomach. When you are on an empty stomach, the digestive system is susceptible. Therefore, ibuprofen irritates the stomach lining, making you feel hungrier. If you still have more hours before your eating period, it’s good to avoid it.

A Word From Our MD

Headaches may be the most common reason most people might take ibuprofen when fasting. They are pretty common during a fast, especially if you are a beginner.

If your reason for taking ibuprofen is a sudden headache you just got after you have been fasting already for many days, think again. A headache could be a way of your body sending you a message during a fast.

A headache could mean you are dehydrated or hypoglycemic. It could also be a sign you’ve been water fasting for too long or eating less during your feeding period. Thus, taking ibuprofen because of any chronic pain or inflammation without knowing the source is not the best approach. It may help you stop the headache, but the headache may likely resume later or the following day.

There are other ways to solve some pains. For instance, taking water instead of ibuprofen could help prevent a headache caused by dehydration. If the headache is due to hypoglycemia, you are allowed to break your fast.

However, if the headache or pain is so severe that it prevents you from continuing with your fasting or comes back the next day, you can take medication such as ibuprofen to alleviate it.

When you are using ibuprofen on a prescription to manage pain or have to take it for an extended period while fasting, you may want to switch your fasting pattern. For example, try breaking your fast when it is time to have your first dose. That means you’ll have to start eating earlier.

Taking food before medications will prevent irritation of your stomach lining and other digestive problems.

Alternatively, you could try alternative fasting methods, such as alternate-day or dirty fasting. Alternate-day fasting entails consuming little on your fasting days (usually 500 calories) and eating regularly on the other days. In 5:2, for example, you consume roughly 500 calories twice a week and normally eat the other five.

Even so, this method may not be the best for everyone, so try to find an intermittent fasting method that suits you and won’t harm your health.

Conclusion

So, does ibuprofen break a fast?

If you’re fasting to manage your blood sugar level, lose weight, or increase autophagy, ibuprofen tablets will not break your fast. However, ibuprofen may not be the best option if you are fasting for gut rest. It affects gut rest by disrupting gut microbiota composition when used for extended periods, breaking the fast.

You may experience pain and headache on the first day of intermittent fasting, but this may just be your body adjusting, so don’t take ibuprofen immediately. Sometimes, this might not be the best course of action during fasting.

Before taking ibuprofen medication for any pain or headache during the fasting period, determine the source of the pain. Consider whether your blood sugar is under control and whether you’re eating food well and hydrating properly during your eating window.

Finding the root cause will assist you in not taking medication where you are not supposed to, allowing you to get the most out of your fasting. So, plan your fasting schedule carefully by choosing the best time to take ibuprofen and be conscious of any side effects.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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