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Can ibuprofen cause constipation?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Dec 28, 2022.

Official answer


Yes, ibuprofen may cause constipation in 1% to 10% of patients, but it is more likely to cause other stomach side effects like nausea (57%), vomiting (22%), flatulence / gas (16%), diarrhea (10%) and stomach pain or heartburn (1% to 10%).

Other NSAIDs like naproxen (Aleve) may also infrequently lead to constipation. If constipation continues to be an issue, check with your doctor. Constipation is a common problem and there may be another cause for your constipation besides ibuprofen.

NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are much less likely to cause constipation than prescription opioid analgesics used for more severe pain, like morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone.

  • Opioids frequently cause constipation by slowing down the movement of stool through your digestive tract. This takes fluid out of your stool, making it dry, hard and difficult to have a bowel movement.
  • If your doctor has prescribed an opioid for pain relief, and you are experiencing constipation, contact them right away to discuss the best options for constipation and pain relief. It may be that a special medicine can be prescribed for your opioid-induced constipation.
  • Do not start or stop any medicine, or change your dose without checking with your doctor.

Examples of NSAIDs include:

  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • naproxen (Aleve)
  • celecoxib
  • diclofenac
  • indomethacin
  • meloxicam

How do I stop constipation with ibuprofen?

Be sure you are drinking plenty of water, getting enough recommended exercise and enough daily fiber intake (whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits). These can be worked into your daily routine to help prevent constipation. Prune juice is another natural way to combat constipation.

Use of a mild over-the-counter (OTC) product like a docusate (Colace), a stool softener, may help to combat any constipating effects of ibuprofen. Docusate works by absorbing water to soften your stools and makes it easier to pass out of your digestive tract.

If your constipation continues to be a problem, OTC products like a laxative (senna, bisacodyl, MiraLax), rectal suppositories or enemas may be needed, but check with your doctor first to be sure these products are safe for you.

If ibuprofen leads to constipation, you might also consider a different mild OTC pain medicine like acetaminophen, but it may not help as much with pain due to inflammation. Acetaminophen works best for fever and headache, but may also be effective for some forms of osteoarthritis. In addition, constipation has also been reported in up to 10% of patients using acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Related questions

Does ibuprofen affect your bowels?

Yes, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs may increase the risk of severe or deadly stomach or bowel problems like ulcers or bleeding. This effect can occur without warning, even if you have taken this medicine without problems in the past. The risk is greater:

  • in older people (over 60 years of age)
  • in people who have a history of stomach or bowel ulcers or bleeding
  • in those using high doses of ibuprofen or for a prolonged period of time
  • combination with other medicines like aspirin, blood thinners (warfarin, dabigatran), corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone), and SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants (sertraline, fluoxetine).
  • with history of Helicobacter pylori infection
  • in those that smoke
  • when combined with alcohol

Before you use this drug, tell your doctor if you have any bowel (intestine) or stomach problems, like a history of stomach ulcers, diverticulitis or digestive tract bleeding. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including if you take aspirin or prescription or over-the-counter NSAIDs or blood thinners (like warfarin). Using anticoagulants with NSAIDs may increase the risk of gastrointestinal (stomach, intestine) bleeding.

Drinking alcohol with ibuprofen or other NSAIDs may increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach or intestine. Talk to your doctor before you combine this medicine with alcohol.

Related: Can you drink alcohol with ibuprofen?

Call your doctor right away if you have signs of bleeding which can include:

  • coughing up or vomiting blood
  • vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • blood in your urine
  • bleeding that does not stop
  • black, red, or tarry looking stools
  • bleeding gums
  • vaginal bleeding that is not normal
  • unexpected bruising or bruising that does not heal

If needed, your doctor can prescribe an NSAID like celecoxib that may lower your risk for stomach bleeding, or combine your NSAID with a stomach-protectant medicine like omeprazole or misoprostol.

This is not all the information you need to know about ibuprofen for safe and effective use and does not take the place of your doctor’s directions. Review the full product information and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.


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