Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) often requires ongoing management. Depending on the severity of your acid reflux symptoms, antacids may be an option for heartburn and indigestion. They may not always work, though.

Dissolvable antacid tablet for GERD symptoms in a glass of waterShare on Pinterest
Getty Images/Vladimir Drozdin

GERD involves persistent acid reflux, which is when gastric acid flows up the esophagus (food pipe). Over time, acid can damage the lining of the esophagus and lead to inflammatory symptoms, like heartburn.

GERD treatment usually involves a combination of strategies, from lifestyle changes and home remedies to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications. If symptoms don’t respond to these, surgery is a last resource for many people.

Antacids are often the first line of treatment when it comes to medications. They’re relatively easy to find, affordable, and offer a variety of ingredients.

Antacids are quick-relief medications for acid reflux and GERD that neutralize stomach acid in the esophagus and stomach. Antacids contain alkalizing ingredients, which change the stomach’s pH from acidic to neutral or slightly alkaline.

Most antacid products contain one or more of the following ingredients:

  • aluminum hydroxide for gastritis, acid indigestion, and heartburn
  • calcium carbonate for heartburn, burning throat, and upset stomach
  • magnesium hydroxide for constipation and heartburn

These ingredients are known as “bases,” chemical substances with a pH value above seven. They react with acids, forming salts to neutralize those.

Other antacids may also contain bismuth subsalicylate for nausea, acid reflux, and diarrhea, and simethicone for bloating. Alginic acid, a natural seaweed sugar, is also highly effective for GERD symptoms.

Antacids are available in liquid or suspension form, as well as chewable and dissolvable tablets. They relieve acid reflux and GERD symptoms in just minutes, including:

Symptom relief may last for a few hours.

Read more about heartburn relief.

Some of the most popular U.S. brand names of antacids include:

  • Gaviscon
  • Gelusil
  • Maalox
  • Mylanta
  • Riopan
  • Rolaids
  • Tums
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Milk of Magnesia

Antacids don’t prevent GERD symptoms. They are taken for quick relief as you experience symptoms but aren’t recommended for long-term use. They may not be as effective for severe GERD symptoms.

Other medications, like H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), are indicated for GERD prevention and more severe acid reflux symptoms. They work by inhibiting the production of gastric acid, instead of neutralizing it.

Read more about OTC medications for GERD.

Yes, antacids may cause side effects, particularly if you use them frequently or don’t follow indications. Some side effects include:

Antacids may also interact with some medications, such as thyroid hormones and antiplatelets (for blood coagulation).

Antacid use isn’t recommended for people with kidney disease or high blood calcium levels. Those with blood disorders or taking anticoagulants may also need to check with a healthcare professional before using some types of antacids, like Alka-Seltzer. Children also need a pediatrician’s green light before taking antacids.

Read more about GERD medication for children.

Antacids are used for short-term management of acid reflux and indigestion.

If you have GERD, you may experience severe and frequent symptoms, which can lead to damage to the esophagus lining. Antacids may not be enough to relieve some of the symptoms caused by chronic inflammation. Most importantly, they may cause more problems if you use them too frequently and for a long time.

If your acid reflux symptoms don’t improve with OTC medications, talking with a healthcare professional is highly encouraged. You may need a combination of therapies, including prescription medications.

Read more about how to know if GERD is getting better.

A medical professional may also want to perform some tests to explore other possible causes of your symptoms.

Read more about GERD tests.

Antacids relieve GERD symptoms by quickly neutralizing acid in the esophagus and stomach. They’re not indicated for long-term use or prevention.

The most common antacids in the United States include Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Milk of Magnesia, and Rolaids.