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What Are the Different Types of OTC 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 eat, 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 are over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate your heartburn symptoms. Learn about the different types of heartburn medicine so you can choose the best medication for you.

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 lie 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.3

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.3 Heartburn is also associated with certain demographics, specifically active smokers, people who experience high levels of stress, and overweight individuals.3

Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medications and Dietary Supplements

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. The different types of OTC heartburn medication include:

Antacids and Dietary Supplements

These help to treat mild heartburn (acid indigestion) by reducing or neutralizing the amount of stomach acid you build up after eating certain foods.3 Antacids help relieve heartburn symptoms for a few hours. They come in many different forms like chewable tablets, tablets that dissolve in water, and liquids you can drink.4 Antacids are ideal for people who don’t experience regular heartburn but may get indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux from time to time.5,6 They should be taken at the onset of symptoms—usually after eating—to help ease discomfort.

Antacids, such as TUMS, are available in a range of great-tasting flavors and varieties.6 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 prescription from your doctor.

Some individuals have a hard time falling asleep at night because they get heartburn when they lie down.5 If you’re suffering from heartburn and having difficulty falling asleep, try TUMS+ Heartburn+ Sleep Support dietary supplements. Made with 5mg of melatonin, TUMS+ Heartburn+ Sleep Support dietary supplements can help you fall asleep faster and fight nighttime heartburn with one convenient dietary supplement.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs treat frequent heartburn by working to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach.4,6 They come in several 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 lasts longer.6

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 is the solution for you.

Histamine Blockers (H2 Blockers)

These help to reduce the production of stomach acid, relieving acid indigestion, heartburn, and a sour stomach.7 They come in a variety of forms like capsules, chewable tablets, and liquids. H2 blockers are taken before meals and the benefits last several hours4,7 (not as long as PPIs). They are designed to provide relief for regular heartburn but are generally effective at relieving most cases of chronic heartburn.7 However, you should talk to your doctor about possibly switching to a PPI medication if you have frequent heartburn (heartburn that occurs two or more days per week).

Antacids, histamine blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are all types of over-the-counter medications for heartburn relief.4,6 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 on how to improve your diet and make lifestyle changes that can help prevent heartburn. Be sure to understand the symptoms and causes of heartburn, as symptoms could become worse and require immediate medical attention.

Learn more about TUMS products and heartburn on our Heartburn 101 hub.

Source Citations:

  1. Heartburn and acid reflux. National Health Services. Accessed8/23/23.
  2. Heartburn. Medline Plus. Accessed 8/23/23.
  3. Heartburn. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 8/23/23/.
  4. Antacids and Acid Reducers: OTC Relief for Heartburn and Acid Reflux. American Academy of Family Physicians. Accessed on 8/23/23/.
  5. Antacids. National Health Services. Accessed on 8/23/23.
  6. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Heartburn Treatment. Accessed on 8/23/23.
  7. H2 blockers: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed on 8/23/23.
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