Skip to Content

Antacids for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate Gaviscon
aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide Maalox, Mylanta
calcium carbonate Rolaids, Tums

Antacids are available without a prescription in liquid, chewable tablet, chewing gum, and dissolving tablet forms to be taken by mouth. Liquid antacids may relieve symptoms faster than other forms of antacids.

How It Works

Antacids make stomach juices less acidic (neutralize stomach acid).

Antacids with alginic acid (such as Gaviscon) contain a foaming agent that floats on top of the stomach contents. This may help keep stomach juices from coming in contact with your esophagus.

Antacids that contain simethicone (such as Maalox Anti-Gas or Mylanta Gas) may break down gas bubbles in your stomach. This may help reduce burping that might push stomach acid into your esophagus.

Why It Is Used

For people who have occasional, mild to moderate symptoms of heartburn, antacids are often all that is needed to control the symptoms.

Many doctors will recommend long-term use of antacids if they help relieve your heartburn. Do not use antacids for more than 2 weeks unless you have talked with your doctor about taking them on a long-term basis.

You can also take antacids to stop heartburn that happens from time to time when you are taking an acid reducer medicine (such as Prilosec).

Some antacids, such as Rolaids and Tums, contain calcium carbonate. These may help boost calcium intake in women who are concerned about developing osteoporosis.

How Well It Works

Antacids do not work the same for everyone. For people who have occasional, mild to moderate heartburn, antacids may work very well. For people who have severe GERD, antacids alone are unlikely to help.

If you want to take medicine only when your symptoms bother you, antacids are a good choice. They relieve symptoms quickly. A single dose of antacid often relieves heartburn for about an hour.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Bone pain.
  • Hives.
  • Mood or mental changes.
  • Muscle pain, weakness, or twitching.
  • Problems or pain urinating.
  • Severe constipation.
  • Severe headache.
  • Swelling of wrists or ankles.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Chalky taste.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Antacids and acid reducers should not be taken within 1 hour of each another, because the antacid will slow down the effect of the acid reducer.

If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before choosing an antacid. Some antacids have a high salt (sodium) content.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Women who are pregnant may also be told to avoid antacids that contain sodium. Those antacids can cause extra swelling.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised May 10, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Also in this Section