The Benefits of Antacids - dummies

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Antacids can be a great option for people who rarely have to deal with acid reflux or heartburn. They’re also a very effective tool in the fight against heartburn. They’re generally fast acting and can provide near-immediate pain relief.

Choosing the most effective antacid to treat your specific case of acid reflux is critical. Each antacid works differently, but they’re all used to restore the pH balance of the esophagus, stomach, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Finding out which antacid will be most effective for your reflux can be difficult, especially because there are so many different over-the-counter antacids available.

Here are just a few of the commonly used antacids on the market today:

  • Equate: Equate is an antacid that is taken to help reduce heartburn symptoms and gas. Active ingredients include aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, and simethicone. Avoid Equate if you have kidney disease or a magnesium-restricted diet.

  • Gaviscon: Gaviscon is an alginic antacid that helps neutralize stomach acid while also creating a barrier. Active ingredients include alginic acid, aluminum hydroxide, and magnesium carbonate. Check with your doctor if you have kidney disease, a history of kidney stones, or severe constipation, or if you’re dehydrated.

  • Maalox: Maalox, in liquid or tablet form, is calcium carbonate taken to temporarily neutralize acid. If you have a history of kidney stones or a parathyroid gland disorder, or if you’re taking an antibiotic, avoid taking Maalox.

  • Milk of magnesia: Milk of magnesia is magnesium hydroxide. It temporarily neutralizes acid. It’s also used as a laxative. Some medications may interact with milk of magnesia; before using milk of magnesia, check with your doctor and pharmacist if you’re taking any other medications.

  • Pepto-Bismol: Pepto-Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate, and it’s used for heartburn and diarrhea. Bismuth subsalicylate can pass into breast milk, so check with your doctor if you’re breastfeeding.

  • Rolaids: Rolaids contains calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide to temporarily neutralize your gastric acid.

  • Tums: Tums contains calcium carbonate and is similar in function and use to Rolaids and Maalox.

Temporarily neutralizing gastric acid has the potential for acid rebound. Acid rebound is an increase in production of gastric acid that may occur after the initial neutralizing effect of an antacid. It’s akin to your stomach saying, “Oh my gosh, that must have been a ginormous meal! Better make a ton more acid.” It occurs most symptomatically when antacids containing calcium carbonate are taken.