Intermittent fasting is a great diet whether you want to lose weight, manage blood sugar, or if you are doing for autophagy and longevity or gut rest. During a fast, you need to keep your calories close to zero. In fact, most fasting diets only allow you to have water or other unsweetened beverages such as coffee, or tea. But what about medication? Sometimes, no matter how healthy your lifestyle is, you might find yourself needing a painkiller like ibuprofen. So you might ask yourself: Does ibuprofen break a fast?
The short answer is no, ibuprofen does not break a fast. It is an anti-inflammatory medication with no calories or carbs. Most forms of ibuprofen are safe even for diabetic people because it doesn’t modify your blood sugar levels. However, there are certain issues with taking this type of medication in a fasted state.
Let’s take a closer look at how ibuprofen affects fasting.
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Does ibuprofen break a fast?
As a pill, its most common form, ibuprofen has no calories and no carbs. Therefore, taking it won’t cause an insulin response. This means, if you’re fasting for weight loss or blood sugar management, you can take ibuprofen without worrying about breaking your fast.
If you’re fasting for gut rest, the discussion changes. There are no definitive studies on this matter. Anti-inflammatory medication in general is not considered great for health. They can increase intestinal permeability and change the composition of the gut flora in case of long-term use. Most of the ibuprofen is broken down before it reaches the gut. In other words, one pill every now and then should be safe even for those who are fasting for gut rest, but no guarantees can be made.
In case you’re fasting for autophagy, you should know the results are positive. Ibuprofen might in fact increase autophagy! Of course, this doesn’t mean you should make a habit out of taking it because it can have serious side effects on your health. But you can take it every once in a while without worrying it will break your fast.
Does ibuprofen gel break a fast?
Ibuprofen gel is made for topical use (on the skin). Therefore, it is perfectly safe for all types of fasts, including most religious fasts which require complete abstinence from any food. It does not impact blood sugar, autophagy, or gut rest and it has no side effects on your digestive system. Usually, the only side effects you need to watch out for are dermatological ones, including allergic reactions on the skin.
Effects of ibuprofen on fasting
Ibuprofen belongs to the group of NSAID, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. Its most common side effects include digestive issues, that may start with simple pain and bloating and continue to diarrhea, nausea, and even vomiting and ulcers. Most people don’t experience side effects from an occasional small dose. The risk increases when you take larder doses for extended periods of time.
The risk is also increased when taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach, especially during a long fast. Taking it after a meal can reduce some of the risks, such as heartburn, nausea, or ulcers. When you’re taking it during a fast, your digestive system is more sensitive, so you might find yourself with some troubling symptoms from just a small dose.
Because ibuprofen can irritate the stomach lining, there’s a risk it will make you feel hungrier. So if you know you still have many hours of fasting to go, think twice before taking this remedy.
Long-term use of ibuprofen and fasting
If you’re using ibuprofen on prescription to manage chronic pain, or if you know you’ll need to take it for an extended period, you may want to adjust your fasting schedule. For instance, try to break your fast when you need to take your first dose. That will probably mean you need to start eating sooner, but perhaps you can adjust and stop eating sooner as well, so you’re fasting the same number of hours.
Alternatively, you can consider a different method of fasting, like the 5/2 diet, when you’d be eating only about 500 calories 2 days a week, and eat normally on the other 5 days. This may not be ideal for everyone, so try to find the method that suits you and doesn’t put your health at risk.
Masking fasting issues with ibuprofen
Let’s face it: the most common reason people take ibuprofen is a headache. And headaches can be fairly common when intermittent fasting, especially for beginners. So if the reason you want to take ibuprofen is that a headache just kicked in after you’ve already been fasting for many others, take a step back and think this through.
Your body is trying to send you a message with this headache. You could quite it by taking ibuprofen, but chances are the pain will come back later or the next day. Of course, if the pain is very bad and is stopping you from going on with your day, you should take something to alleviate it. But don’t stop there. Ask yourself why did the pain start. Could it be that you’re hypoglycemic, for instance? Or could it be you’re simply dehydrated?
If it is your first day of fasting, this may all just be your body trying to adjust, so don’t think too much of it. But if it keeps coming back the next days, it might be a sign you’re fasting for too long, or you’re eating too little during your eating window.
The bottom line
Does ibuprofen break a fast? Not if you’re fasting for weight loss, blood sugar management, or autophagy. There aren’t enough studies to say for sure if it affects gut rest, so if this is your main goal, think twice before taking it. Ibuprofen can irritate the stomach lining, making it harder to fast. Plus, it can cause digestive issues, especially when taken in larger doses or when used for an extended period, so plan your fasting schedule carefully in these cases. Finally, make sure you’re not masking issues that fasting could be caused by using ibuprofen. Instead, ask yourself if your blood sugar is stable and if you’re generally eating and hydrating properly.