Antacids Are a Quick-Acting Way to Fight Heartburn
CorbisAntacids are some of the most recognized (and advertised) nonprescription drugs on the market. They include Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta, and many others. They may contain different ingredients that work in different ways, but all antacids neutralize stomach acid, which can help prevent heartburn. Gaviscon, for instance, contains a foaming agent that floats on top of stomach contents, protecting the esophagus from excess acid. Others contain a salt form of minerals such as magnesium and/or compounds such as calcium carbonate, which neutralize acids in the stomach. Some antacids offer an added bonus—supplemental calcium.
One of the biggest advantages of antacids are that they can offer rapid relief and are ideal for the occasional bout of heartburn. However, they may not be as effective if you have chronic, prolonged symptoms, which are characteristic of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Antacids aren't as powerful as some other heartburn remedies, so if you have GERD, or severe acid reflux, they may not do the trick.
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In general, antacids are relatively inexpensive, have been around for decades, and have a long safety record. There aren't many side effects, and it's fine to use them in the long-term. However, they can cause a "rebound" reaction—heartburn pain can actually worsen—and some people experience diarrhea or constipation from certain antacids.