Our editors research, test and recommend the best products independently, and articles are reviewed by medical professionals for their medical accuracy. You can learn more about our review process here.We may receive commissions for purchases made through the links we select.
When it arises heartburn or acid indigestion. you need something to calm your stomach as soon as possible. It’s no fun to walk around with the feeling that your personal fire-breathing dragon is furious in your esophagus, and more less it’s fun to fight a burn by trying to work, exercise, drive through traffic jams during rush hour or sleep.
If prone to indigestion attacks– of the intestinal tract, it is advisable to have on hand a reliable over-the-counter antacid that can provide quick relief. Why? Because these medications can reduce the amount of stomach acid it makes, says University of Missouri gastroenterologist Ezaz Guri, MD.
“The stomach usually produces hydrochloric acid to help digest food and kill bacteria or other organisms that might have been ingested along with food,” Dr. Gowry explains. “When acid overproduction occurs, it can cause stomach upset.”
Overproduction of stomach acid can be caused by the consumption of spicy foods, excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol and frequent intake of NSAID pain relievers, as well as chronic diseases such as peptic ulcer e gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Regardless of the cause of your discomfort, antacids can often relieve and prevent painful episodes of heartburn and indigestion. Here are the six best over-the-counter antacids to manage your symptoms.
What to look for in over-the-counter antacids
Your Symptom Needs:
Dr. Gowry says there are three main categories of over-the-counter antacids, and which one you use may depend on the severity of your symptoms.
If your symptoms are mild and intermittent, choose a product with bismuth subsalicylate, calcium carbonate, or magnesium hydroxide.
If your symptoms are mild but persistent, choose an H2 receptor antagonist, such as famotidine.
If your symptoms are moderate to severe, you may need a proton pump inhibitor, such as omeprazole or esomeprazole.
How often do you experience symptoms? This is an important question that should be answered when choosing an antacid, as different foods act over different periods of time. Some last 12 or 24 hours, meaning you only need to take them once or twice a day, but others last only a few hours (so you’ll need to have them on hand to re-dose if needed). If you only have heartburn from eating certain foods, a short-acting antacid should work well, but if you have chronic stomach upset, you’ll need a longer-acting formula.
Your Medical History:
Antacids are not safe for everyone, says Dr. Gowry, and there may be side effects. Bismuth subsalicylate and calcium carbonate can cause constipation, while proton pump inhibitors carry the risk of bone fractures, vitamin deficiencies, and kidney disease, although this is not typical with short-term use. “The incidence of these serious side effects is usually small and requires long-term use of these medications,” Dr. Guri explains. “In general, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before starting antacid therapy, especially in the long term.”
Frequently asked questions
You’re trying to relieve gastrointestinal problems instead of creating new ones, but taking certain antacids can lead to constipation, especially if you take them 24 hours a day or use more than the recommended amount.
Antacids that contain calcium carbonate, such as TUMS, Peptobismol, and some proton pump inhibitors, can cause constipation. Talk to your doctor if you think your antacid makes it difficult to empty your bowel regularly.
Antacids can help with gas formation, but this is not the symptom that all over-the-counter antacids eliminate. Proton pump inhibitors do not specifically target gas and bloating, but antacids containing simethicone, bismuth subsalicylate, or magnesium can relieve gas symptoms in addition to reflux and indigestion.
Usually before you eat, especially if you know you are going to eat something that causes reflux or stomach upset. Proton pump inhibitors, in particular, work best when taken before meals.
“Time is important as you need to take [these] 30 minutes before eating, not a it’s time to eat,” says Dr. Curtin. “By the time you bite your first bite, the acid is already waiting in your stomach.”
Chewable antacids like TUMS can definitely be taken after meals if you have unexpected stomach upset. They can relieve symptoms quickly, but you can also get a better effect by taking them before eating.
What The Experts Say
“I would normally spend six to eight weeks testing a proton pump inhibitor before declaring [that it does not work]. It’s not a fast-acting drug, and it must be in your body for at least six to eight weeks before you see the full effect.”
— Brian Curtin, MD, director of The center for neurogastroenterology and gastrointestinal motility at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
Why Trust Medication information?
Sarah Bradley write health content starting in 2017, from food reviews and disease FAQs, to nutrition explainers and a dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to get reliable, expert-approved recommendations on over-the-counter products that help manage everyday health issues, from gastrointestinal issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.