The following over-the-counter remedies for heartburn neutralize digestive acids in the stomach and esophagus and work well for people with mild, occa-sional symptoms. While many people find tablets more convenient, liq-uids can provide faster relief.
Magnesium-based antacids. These products, such as Maalox and Mylanta, are popular because they are fast-acting. One possible drawback of magnesium-containing antacids is that they can cause diarrhea.
Aluminum-based antacids. Amphojel and other aluminum-based products can provide similar heartburn relief as magnesium-containing antacids, but they may cause con-stipation.
Calcium-based antacids. Medications containing calcium have been used for centuries in the form of chalk powder and ground oyster shells. Modern calcium-con-taining antacids include Tums, Rolaids, and Caltrate. Calcium-containing antacids cause constipation and taking too many can cause a high blood calcium level.
Combination products. Gaviscon con-tains aluminum and magnesium carbonate and comes in tablets and liquid. It forms a protective layer that floats to the top of your stomach to help block acid reflux.
Sodium bicarbonate. The active ingredient in seltzers (Alka- Seltzer, Bromo-Seltzer) is sodium bicarbonate (also known as bak-ing soda). Sodium bicarbonate ant-acids, however, are less powerful than other antacids and contain a lot of sodium. Do not take them if you are on a salt-restricted diet or have heart failure, high blood pressure, or kidney problems.
And here are a couple of important things to remember -- tablets must be chewed thoroughly in order to be effective and the best time to take an antacid is after a meal or when symptoms occur.
For more information on the causes of heartburn and what you can do to prevent and treat it, check out the Harvard Medial School guide, Cooling Heartburn.
Image: Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.