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Choosing an Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medication

After eating your favorite lunch, dinner, or snack, you may have experienced a strange and uncomfortable burning in your chest. This burning feeling is known as heartburn, which is caused by stomach acid traveling up towards the throat—also known as acid reflux.1 After you consume food, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid to help digest the food. Though your stomach has a mucous lining that helps to protect it from this acid, your esophagus does not. That’s why sometimes, when the acid reaches the esophagus, it causes a burning feeling.2

If you’ve experienced this burning feeling before, then you know just how uncomfortable it can be. Luckily, there is over-the-counter medication that can help alleviate the symptoms you may be experiencing with heartburn.

Identifying Common Symptoms and Causes of Heartburn

It is important to be able to identify the common symptoms of heartburn to understand what type of action you need to take for treatment. The most common symptoms of heartburn, besides the burning sensation in the center of your chest, can be symptoms like pain in your chest when you lay down or a burning sensation in your throat.3 Other symptoms of heartburn may include difficulty swallowing and a hot, sour, or acidic taste in the back of your throat.4

You may find yourself experiencing these symptoms after consuming certain foods and drinks that can trigger heartburn. For example, citrus fruits, high-fat foods, tomato-based products, and alcohol have been known to cause heartburn.5 Other types of causes to consider can be more lifestyle-based, specifically for those who are active smokers, people who experience high levels of stress, and those who are overweight.6

Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medications

If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms of heartburn mentioned above, then it may be in your best interest to consider buying an OTC heartburn medication. Some of the most common over-the-counter medications include:

Antacids

These help to treat mild heartburn (acid indigestion) by reducing or neutralizing the amount of stomach acid you build up after eating certain foods.7 Antacids help relieve heartburn to stop pain and other symptoms. They come in many different forms like chewable tablets, tablets that dissolve in water, and liquids you can drink.8 Antacids are ideal for people who don’t experience regular heartburn but may get indigestion from time to time. They should be taken at the onset of symptoms to help ease discomfort.

Antacids, like TUMS, are available in a range of great-tasting flavors and varieties. For example, you can buy TUMS Chewy Bites, which have the same extra-strength power of TUMS, but in a tasty, chewy bite. And like other OTC heartburn medication, you don’t need a doctor’s prescription, which is pretty convenient.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

These are used to treat frequent heartburn, working to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach.9 PPIs come in a number of different forms, including tablets, suspensions, and capsules. They are taken once a day for 14 days, regardless of the presence of symptoms. PPIs differ from antacids in that they treat frequent heartburn, or heartburn that occurs more than two days per week. They don’t function as quickly as antacids, but the relief they provide is longer-term.10

If you have frequent heartburn, you may benefit from a PPI such as Nexium 24HR, which provides 24-hour frequent heartburn protection. Take this quick heartburn quiz to find out if Nexium 24HR may be a solution for you.

Histamine Blockers (H2 Blockers)

These help to reduce the production of stomach acid, relieving acid indigestion, heartburn, and a sour stomach.11 They come in a variety of forms like capsules, chewable tablets, and liquids. H2 blockers are taken before meals and the benefits last several hours12 (not as long as PPIs). They are designed to provide relief for regular heartburn. Histamine blockers are generally effective at relieving most cases of chronic heartburn, however you should talk to your doctor about possibly switching to a PPI medication if you have frequent heartburn (or heartburn two or more days per week).

Antacids, histamine blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can all be over-the-counter medication for heartburn that could provide you with some relief. Make sure to always follow the instructions on the package of the OTC medication. If you’re unsure whether an antacid, PPI, or histamine blocker (H2 Blocker) is right for you, or how to use them, it’s always best to ask your doctor.

Consult with your doctor about other ways you can improve your diet and other lifestyle changes that can help prevent heartburn. Be sure to understand the causes and symptoms of heartburn, as symptoms could become worse and need immediate medical attention.

Learn more about TUMS products and discover more resources about the causes of heartburn, how to relieve heartburn, and more. Check out this article on what behaviors can trigger heartburn to understand how eating habits and even clothing choices could lead to heartburn.

References

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  1. Heartburn and acid reflux. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  2. Heartburn. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/anatomyvideos/000068.htm. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  3. Heartburn. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  4. Heartburn. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  5. Heartburn: Possible Causes. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  6. Heartburn: Possible Causes. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  7. Heartburn: Care and Treatment. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview/care-and-treatment. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  8. Antacids and Acid Reducers: OTC Relief for Heartburn and Acid Reflux. https://familydoctor.org/antacids-and-acid-reducers-otc-relief-for-heartburn-and-acid-reflux/. Accessed on 12/9/20/
  9. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Heartburn Treatment. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/over-counter-otc-heartburn-treatment. Accessed on 11/05/2020.\
  10. Antacids and Acid Reducers: OTC Relief for Heartburn and Acid Reflux. https://familydoctor.org/antacids-and-acid-reducers-otc-relief-for-heartburn-and-acid-reflux/. Accessed on 12/9/20
  11. Heartburn: Care and Treatment. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9617-heartburn-overview/care-and-treatment. Accessed on 11/05/2020.
  12. H2 blockers: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000382.htm. Accessed on 12/17/20.
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