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Understanding Heartburn/GERD Medications (cont.)

GERD and Heartburn Antacids

Antacids are efficacious in controlling mild symptoms of GERD. Antacids should be taken after each meal and at bedtime. Antacids are readily available over-the counter (without a prescription) and also come in various generic forms. Antacids typically contain aluminum in various forms (for example, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, aluminum carbonate), calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate, or a combination of these ingredients. Several familiar examples include Gaviscon, Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, Rolaids, AlternaGEL, Amphojel, Philips Milk of Mangesia etc. Some may contain a foaming agent to help block the stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus (Gaviscon).

  • How antacids work: Antacids neutralize stomach acid, thereby decreasing the acid's ability to cause irritation and inflammation of the esophagus.
  • Who should not use these medications: Individuals who have experienced an allergic reaction to any component of an antacid should avoid use of antacids containing the offending component.
  • Use: Antacids are available as liquids or chewable tablets. Dosages vary, so follow package directions. If symptoms are not relieved after regular use over several weeks, contact a doctor.
  • Drug interactions: The absorption of many drugs (including vitamins and iron) may be affected by antacids, which change the acidity of stomach contents. If a person is taking other medications, ask a doctor or pharmacist for information on interactions with antacids.
  • Food interactions: High-protein meals may decrease the effect of aluminum-containing antacids. Prolonged antacid use and excessive consumption of calcium may cause high calcium levels (hypercalcemia) and result in serious metabolic disease.
  • Side effects: After regular use for several weeks, antacids may cause diarrhea (magnesium-containing antacids) or constipation (aluminum-containing antacids). They may impair calcium metabolism and may cause magnesium to accumulate, which may damage the kidneys.
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:

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