Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
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.
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