Medications can be harsh on an empty stomach depending on the medication and its strength. However, some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach to increase their absorption and effectiveness. It's important to speak with your pharmacist to determine the best way to take your medications. If medications should be taken with food but aren't, side effects can occur that are bothersome.
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Many medications may irritate the stomach lining and can result in nausea. Nausea may be present with or without vomiting. If a medication produces this effect, speak with your pharmacist to see if it can be taken with food. If nausea persists and the medication is supposed to be taken on an empty stomach, your physician may need to prescribe a different treatment for your condition, or anti-nausea medications to take in addition to your current treatment.
Some medications may cause cramping and diarrhea when taken on an empty stomach. Depending on the medication, this may be temporary and may improve with continued use. It is important to speak with your physician about things you can do to alleviate this symptom.
Medications should be taken with a full glass of water, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some medications may cause constipation when taken on an empty stomach, such as iron supplements. Drinking water may decrease or prevent these symptoms. However, your physician may need to change your prescription if these persist or worsen.
Medications are absorbed at different rates depending on the type. If a medication is supposed to be taken with food but isn't, the medication may absorb too rapidly into your system, or you may absorb more than the intended dose. Pain medications, for example, are often irritating to the stomach, but absorb quicker if the stomach is empty. Your physician will be able to tell you whether your medication can be taken on an empty stomach without affecting your dosage.