Does Drinking Milk With Advil (Ibuprofen) Help Reduce Nausea?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses if milk can help reduce the nausea and other side effects from (Advil) ibuprofen.

Question

I am taking ibuprofen 800mg and it makes me nauseous. I was reading that taking it with a glass of milk will prevent nausea. Is there something in milk that prevents nausea and will it affect the medication's power?

Asked by Joe On Jan 11, 2022

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

On Jan 12, 2022

Key points

  • Ibuprofen (brand names Advil, Motrin) can be taken with or without food.
  • Studies show that food (or milk) can slow how fast ibuprofen is absorbed, but not how much is absorbed.
  • Taking ibuprofen with food or milk should not decrease how well it works, and can help reduce certain side effects, like nausea and stomach cramping.
  • The fat and protein content of milk helps to protect the stomach lining from irritation from ibuprofen, generally making it better tolerated.

Hello and thanks for reaching out!

Whether or not food (or milk in this case) can be taken with medication is sometimes a tricky topic, because the recommendation will vary based on the specific drug in question.

As it concerns ibuprofen, it can be taken with or without food.

In general, though, it is recommended to take ibuprofen (and most other NSAIDs) with food (or milk) as doing so helps to reduce nausea and stomach irritation.

To answer your question regarding what it is about milk that helps with nausea with ibuprofen, there is not one component in milk specifically that helps. It's more the fact that milk contains a good amount of fat and protein, which helps to buffer ibuprofen from being in direct contact with the stomach lining, which can, over time, increase the risk of irritation and ulceration.

Food has essentially the same effect.

Why Food Matters With Medications

At some point, most people have had a medication where it was recommended to take with food, or it was recommended to take without food.

You may be wondering why it matters.

Well, there are a few reasons.

For one, the absorption of some drugs are affected by food.

Some good examples of this include:

  • Latuda (lurasidone): Should be taken with a high-fat meal for better absorption
  • Levothyroxine: Should be taken on an empty stomach. Taking with food reduces absorption
  • Etravirine: Should be taken with food for better absorption

When a drug is better absorbed when taken with food, that generally means it is the fat content in the food that helps our bodies absorb it. This is the case of Latuda, and why it is recommended to be taken with a high-fat meal of at least 450 calories.

When a drug has worse absorption with food, it is most often due to the digestion process beginning, and gastric acid being released. This can break down certain medications too quickly, and this is the case with the thyroid drug levothyroxine.

Now, sometimes food doesn't affect the absorption of a drug to any significant degree but is still recommended if it has been shown to help reduce stomach-related side effects, like nausea and cramping. Taking food (or milk) with ibuprofen falls into this category.

Milk With ibuprofen (Advil)

As I mentioned in the first section, taking food (or milk) with ibuprofen helps protect the stomach lining.

Long-term use of drugs like ibuprofen can increase the risk of ulcers and irritation and this is especially true if you consistently take them on an empty stomach.

Although taking Advil with milk or food doesn't eliminate the risk of long-term use problems, it does decrease it.

For what it is worth, the makers of Advil state the following on their website:

Should I take Advil with food?
You do not have to take Advil with food. However, if you experience an upset stomach, you can take it with food or milk. If you have a history of serious stomach problems like ulcers, be sure that you talk to your doctor before taking Advil or any NSAID.

Advil.com

The FDA prescribing information for Motrin, a brand name for ibuprofen, states that food can slow down how quickly our body absorbs the drug, but not how much we absorb overall:

When MOTRIN [ibuprofen] tablets are administered immediately after a meal, there is a reduction in the rate of absorption but no appreciable decrease in the extent of absorption

Advil Prescribing Information

So, it's possible that taking ibuprofen with food or milk could make it take a little longer to start to work, but shouldn't affect how well it works overall.

Final Words

Thanks again for contacting us and be sure to reach out again with any further questions!

References

  • Motrin Prescribing Information, AccessFDA
  • Advil Manufacturer Website, Advil
  • Ibuprofen Monograph, PubCHem

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication related questions!

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