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Relieving Heartburn: The Difference Between Antacids and H2 Blockers

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Occasional heartburn is a common issue and usually occurs when stomach acid flows backwards into the esophagus. This is known as reflux and can manifest as a burning sensation in the chest.

Two of the most common ways of relieving heartburn and acid reflux are antacids and H2 acid blockers. Antacids like TUMS relieve occasional heartburn by neutralizing the acid content in the stomach and esophagus — they are fast acting and can be taken as needed. H2 blockers relieve recurring heartburn by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach and can last up to 12 hours. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) like Nexium can be used to treat frequent heartburn and offer 24-hour relief.

If you’re wondering what you should be taking for heartburn, read on for detailed descriptions of both acid blockers and antacids to help you decide which type of relief is right for you! (Note: it’s always advisable to talk to your doctor before starting any kind of new medication.)

What Are H2 Blockers, and How Do They Help with Heartburn?

Histamine H2 blockers (or acid blockers) are a class of drugs that help limit acid production in the stomach and come in both over-the-counter and prescription strength options. When bought at an over-the-counter strength, they are used to relieve heartburn and acid indigestion. Prescription strength H2s are commonly used to block stomach acid and treat more serious issues like ulcers, GERD, or erosive esophagitis.

The typical side effects of H2 Blockers are dizziness, headache, and even diarrhea. Serious side effects can include tightness in the chest, confusion, irregular heartbeat, and fever. It’s important to talk to your doctor straight away if you experience any negative side effects after taking an H2.

It’s worth noting that as recently as September 2019, ranitidine (an acid blocker that also goes by the brand name Zantac), was recalled due to preliminary tests by the FDA that found traces of a possible human carcinogen. As of the publishing date for this article, this story was still developing.

How Do Antacids Help With Heartburn?

Instead of blocking acid production in the stomach like H2s, antacids neutralize acid in the stomach and esophagus, which in turn helps to relieve heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. Antacids can be bought over the counter and typically contain ingredients such as magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate. When taken at their proper dosage, antacids are generally well tolerated.

Calcium carbonate is one of the oldest recorded medications for heartburn and one of the most potent antacids available for use. This naturally mined mineral is also the primary ingredient in TUMS — which is probably why TUMS remains known as America’s #1 antacid!

Calcium carbonate is a simple, natural ingredient that has been the main ingredient of TUMS products for over 90 years. These days, TUMS has a product for almost every taste, including TUMS Chewy Bites Cooling Sensation, which provides fast heartburn relief along with a refreshing cooling sensation.

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