Over-the-counter antacids for heartburn

Published: February, 2021

The following over-the-counter remedies for heartburn neutralize digestive acids in the stomach and esophagus and work well for people with mild, occasional symptoms. While many people find tablets more convenient, liquids 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 constipation.

Calcium-based antacids. Medications containing calcium have been used for centuries in the form of chalk powder and ground oyster shells. Modern calcium-containing 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 contains 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 baking soda). Sodium bicarbonate antacids, 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.

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