Can celiacs take ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter pain reliever that many people take for headaches, muscle aches, fever, and other minor pain symptoms. For those with celiac disease, a condition where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine, it’s important to know whether ibuprofen is safe to take or could cause issues.

The short answer

Yes, in most cases it is safe for those with celiac disease to take ibuprofen. Ibuprofen itself does not contain gluten or other problematic ingredients. However, some ibuprofen pill formulas may contain small amounts of gluten as an inactive ingredient, so it’s best to check the label carefully.

Examining the ingredients in ibuprofen

The active ingredient in ibuprofen that provides its pain-relieving effects is ibuprofen itself. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by blocking enzymes that cause pain and inflammation.

In addition to the ibuprofen active ingredient, ibuprofen pills and capsules contain a number of inactive ingredients to hold the pill together, make it easier to swallow, and allow for proper absorption. These inactive ingredients, sometimes called excipients, are what celiacs need to look out for.

Most ibuprofen products do not contain gluten or other problematic grains like wheat, barley, or rye. However, some products may include gluten-containing ingredients like wheat starch.

The following are some typical inactive ingredients found in ibuprofen products:

  • Stearic acid – fatty acid used as a tablet binder
  • Silicon dioxide – anti-caking agent
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate – surfactant to help dissolution
  • Gelatin – capsule material
  • Magnesium stearate – prevents ingredient clumping
  • Corn starch – disintegrant to help break up the pill
  • Wheat starch – disintegrant that contains gluten
  • Titanium dioxide – mineral used for coating/coloring

As you can see, wheat starch is called out here as it is the one problematic ingredient for celiacs. Some ibuprofen products use wheat starch while others use gluten-free starches like corn starch instead.

Checking labels for gluten-containing ingredients

Since product formulations can vary, it is always important to check the label on any medication, supplement, or over-the-counter product if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Carefully look at the “Inactive Ingredients” section on the Drug Facts label. Scan the list for any gluten-containing ingredients like:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malt
  • Wheat starch

If you see any of those, put the product back and look for a certified gluten-free option instead. Many major ibuprofen brands like Advil and Motrin make gluten-free products that are safe for celiacs.

Options for gluten-free ibuprofen

Here are some good gluten-free ibuprofen options to look for:

Advil Liqui-Gels

Advil mini softgels contain no gluten ingredients. The inactive ingredients are gelatin, corn starch, sorbitol, sodium lauryl sulfate, titanium dioxide, polysorbate 80, and FD&C Blue No. 1.

Motrin IB Caplets

Original Motrin IB caplets have no gluten-containing ingredients. The inactive ingredients include carnauba wax, colloidal silicon dioxide, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, sodium lauryl sulfate, and titanium dioxide.

Up & Up Ibuprofen Tablets

Up & Up is the Target store brand. Their ibuprofen tablets contain no gluten ingredients. The inactive ingredients are carnauba wax, corn starch, hypromellose, iron oxide, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol, powdered cellulose, pregelatinized starch, sodium lauryl sulfate, and titanium dioxide.

Walgreens Ibuprofen Tablets

Walgreens pharmacy brand ibuprofen caplets have no gluten ingredients. The inactive ingredients include colloidal silicon dioxide, corn starch, pharmaceutical ink, povidone, pregelatinized starch, sodium benzoate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and stearic acid.

Risks of cross-contamination

While many major ibuprofen brands offer gluten-free products, there is still a small risk of gluten cross-contamination during manufacturing. Very sensitive celiacs should look for ibuprofen that is certified gluten-free, meaning the facility and all ingredients are tested to ensure no gluten.

Some good certified gluten-free options include:

  • Webber Naturals Gluten Relief IB
  • Simply Balanced Ibuprofen Tablets (Target)
  • Good Sense Ibuprofen Tablets (Amazon)

Celiacs who are less sensitive can feel comfortable with mainstream ibuprofen brands that list no gluten ingredients, keeping in mind the small cross-contamination chance.

Other pain reliever options

In addition to ibuprofen, some other celiac-safe over-the-counter pain medications include:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen drugs like Tylenol do not contain gluten. However, those with liver disease should use acetaminophen cautiously.


Aspirin tablets also typically don’t contain gluten. However, some people experience stomach upset when taking aspirin, especially in large doses.

Naproxen (Aleve)

Naproxen is another NSAID pain reliever like ibuprofen that is usually gluten-free. Those with heart disease or high blood pressure should be cautious with naproxen.

Medication Gluten-free? Precautions
Ibuprofen Usually Stomach ulcers, kidney disease
Acetaminophen Yes Liver disease
Aspirin Yes Stomach upset, bleeding disorders
Naproxen Yes Heart disease, high blood pressure

Using pain creams

In addition to oral pain relievers, topical creams containing menthol, lidocaine, capsaicin, or other ingredients can help temporarily alleviate muscle aches, joint pain, and arthritis. These provide localized pain relief without any systemic effects or interactions.

Popular over-the-counter topical pain creams include:

  • Icy Hot
  • Bengay
  • Aspercreme
  • Biofreeze
  • Salonpas

These types of products do not contain any gluten ingredients and are fine for celiacs to use. Just be sure to wash hands thoroughly after application.

Talking to your doctor

It’s always a good idea for celiacs to consult their healthcare provider before taking any new medications or supplements. Your doctor can review the ingredients and provide guidance on the safest options for your individual health status.

Be sure to let your doctor know you have celiac disease and cannot ingest any gluten. They may be able to provide sample packs of gluten-free medications.

If you experience any unusual reactions after taking a new medication, stop use and contact your doctor right away.

The bottom line

Most ibuprofen products do not contain gluten and are generally considered safe for those with celiac disease, provided the product’s label is carefully checked. Common brands like Advil and Motrin make gluten-free versions.

More sensitive celiacs may want to opt for brands that are certified gluten-free to avoid any small risk of cross-contamination. Other over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, aspirin, and naproxen are also typically gluten-free.

Non-oral options like menthol pain creams can also help manage muscle and joint aches while avoiding medication interactions. As always, consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns when taking new medications after a celiac diagnosis.

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