7 Medications That Can Help Heartburn and Other GERD Symptoms

Stomach acid has the same pH as battery acid and can cause a painful, burning sensation. Here are some drugs that can help fight heartburn.

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, occurs when your stomach acid seeps up into your esophagus, the tube connecting your throat and stomach. The painful, burning sensation of heartburn can cause extreme discomfort.

Aside from home remedies and lifestyle changes, there are many heartburn medications available over the counter or by prescription. Learn more about your different options.

01 of 07

Antacids

Sold as:

Maalox, Mylanta, Pepcid, Rolaids, and Tums

Where to find them: available over-the-counter as tablets, capsule, or liquid

How they work: Antacids are usually hydroxide or bicarbonate salts that counteract or neutralize the acid in your stomach. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), they can contain some combination of magnesium, calcium, and aluminum.

This class of drugs only treats the symptoms of heartburn. Antacids do not address the root causes of heartburn.

Potential side effects: diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, nausea

02 of 07

Bismuth subsalicylate

Sold as:

Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol

Where to find it: available over the counter as tablets, caplets, or liquid

How it works: This medication treats both heartburn and diarrhea. According to the NLM, it works by killing bad bacteria in your intestines, reducing your bowel inflammation, and acting as an antacid.

Potential side effects: darkening of the tongue and stool

If you have ringing or buzzing in your ears, the NLM recommends that you stop taking the medication and call your healthcare provider immediately.

03 of 07

Foaming agents

Sold as:

Gaviscon

Where to find them: available over-the-counter as a tablet or liquid

How it works: Foaming agents create a layer of foam that floats on top of the stomach contents. This keeps stomach contents like acid in the stomach and not the esophagus.

Potential side effects: nausea, constipation, diarrhea

04 of 07

Histamine 2 (H2) blockers

Sold as:

Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, and Zantac. There are also generic versions of these drugs available.

Where to find them: Available in liquid and tablet form, they are sold over-the-counter or by prescription, depending on their strength.

How they work: These drugs reduce stomach acid production by blocking histamine, a chemical your body makes during allergic reactions. H2 blockers also can help your esophagus heal.

Potential side effects: headache, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, and sleepiness

H2 blockers containing Cimetidine can also lead to breast enlargement in men, according to the NLM.

05 of 07

Prokinetics

Sold as:

Bethanechol (Urecholine), Metoclopramide (Reglan)

Where to find them: available by prescription only, in liquid and tablet form

How they work: They strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter (which keeps acid out of the esophagus) and help the stomach empty faster. Reglan also improves muscle action in the digestive tract.

Potential side effects: dizziness, drowsiness, depression, anxiety, vomiting, an upset stomach, feeling warm, or dizziness

Reglan (Metoclopramide) can cause uncontrollable facial movement, according to the NLM. Talk with your healthcare provider immediately if you develop uncontrollable body movements, the side effects above, or rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, or changes in vision.

06 of 07

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Sold as:

Aciphex, Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid. There are also generic versions of these drugs available.

Where to find them: These are all available by prescription, and Prilosec and Prevacid can also be obtained over-the-counter.

How they work: PPIs directly inhibit acid production. These drugs are the best for helping your esophagus heal but can take hours to work.

Potential side effects: headache, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, dizziness, cough

According to a 2019 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health article, PPIs may also be linked to an increased risk of bone fractures.

07 of 07

Simethicone

Sold as:

Alka-Seltzer, Gas-X

Where to find it: available over-the-counter as a tablet (regular or chewable), liquid, or capsule

How it works: Simethicone is an antacid that reduces stomach acid and gas that cause pain. It provides temporary relief.

Potential side effects: belching, flatulence, water retention

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