The Best Heartburn Medicine

The best heartburn medicine should provide fast, effective relief from stomach acid. We talked to doctors and dug into clinical research to figure out the difference between antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors — and we learned that the best treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Our top picks are well-known brands that offer everything from occasional after-meal relief to a two-week course of treatment for severe heartburn.

The 4 Best Heartburn Medicine

Best for Mild Heartburn
Tums Ultra Strength 1000
Tums
Crunchy, fruit-flavored tablets that use calcium carbonate to neutralize stomach acid. Good for mild, occasional heartburn.
Pros
Convenient relief
Effective, repeatable doses
Crunchy, fruit-flavored tablets
Cons
Easy to take too many

Why we chose it

Convenient relief

Antacids treat symptoms by neutralizing stomach acid and are the best option for first-time or occasional heartburn sufferers. Our favorite antacid: Tums Ultra Strength 1000, with 1,000 mg of heartburn-relieving calcium carbonate per tablet. Our experts all recommend that antacids be used as soon as you feel symptoms of indigestion, and Tums are easy to carry with you and pop as needed, increasing your chances of resolving your heartburn early.

Effective, repeatable doses

The first criterion for a top-rated antacid is effectiveness, and Tums’ active ingredient — calcium carbonate — hits the mark, with “very high” acid-neutralizing powers (per the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders). Each Tums Ultra Strength tablet delivers 1,000 mg of calcium carbonate and can take up to seven times daily. “Antacid doses can be repeated multiple times throughout the day if symptoms continue,” Dr. John R. Dobbs, pharmacist and managing partner at online pharmacy ApothiCare 360, told us.

Crunchy, fruit-flavored tablets

When you have to chew your medication, taste is another consideration. And here, too, Tums Ultra Strength 1000 pulled ahead of the pack. It’s medicine, so we hesitate to call it “tasty,” but the Assorted Berries flavor we tried reminded us of Smarties. The tablets have a crunchy texture and a sweet, tangy flavor. Testers also reported less of an aftertaste than options like Rolaids Ultra Strength Tablets, which left a gritty mineral residue behind. We also appreciated that our bottle of Tums came with a five-year shelf-life, making it easy to keep antacids on hand even if you only need them occasionally. A bottle of 72 tablets retails for around $9.

Points to consider

Easy to take too many

The ease of dosing and the pleasant taste of Tums might encourage snacking by adults and kids alike. While Tums’ gentle ingredients allow multiple doses a day, be sure to remind yourself and your family that like any medicine, they are only to be taken when symptoms call for it. One negative side effect of indulging in too many Tums: constipation.

Mild Heartburn Runner-Up
Rolaids Ultra Strength Soft Chews
Rolaids
Strawberry chews that are a little more expensive than Tums but come in portable packs of six for sticking in a bag or purse.
Pros
Travel-sized container
Same active ingredient as Tums
Great tasting
Cons
Higher cost

Why we chose it

Travel-sized container

If you want a portable option, we also liked Rolaids Ultra Strength Soft Chews, which come in travel-sized packs, about the dimensions of a package of chewing gum.

Same active ingredient as Tums

These strawberry chews offer the same active ingredient as Tums: acid-neutralizing calcium carbonate. But it packs an even mightier punch of the soothing stuff. At 1,330 mg per chew, they also provide the highest dose of calcium carbonate of all our finalists.

Great tasting

Rolaids Ultra Strength Strawberry Softchews were voted “best tasting antacid” by our testers (“like a very sweet Starburst,” one reported).

Points to consider

Higher cost

About twice the price of Tums, you’re paying for the tasty, chewy candy packaging and the convenient sizing, easy to fit in a purse or bag.

Best for Moderate Heartburn
Zantac 150
Zantac
Stronger than an antacid, Zantac stops your stomach from producing acid and can be taken before meals as prevention.
Pros
Effective relief for prolonged symptoms
Can be taken twice a day
Safe
Cons
Stopping the symptoms may not stop the problem

Why we chose it

Effective relief for prolonged symptoms

If you’ve tried antacids for a few days and are still experiencing symptoms, we’d suggest H2 blockers. More powerful than antacids, H2 blockers prevent stomach acid from being made in the first place. Our pick for this class of drugs is Zantac 150. It relies on ranitidine to do its work — one of the oldest and best-known H2 blockers — and came highly recommended by our experts.

Can be taken twice a day

Zantac does double duty, both treating and preventing heartburn. Each potent dose provides 150 mg of ranitidine, an ingredient that came highly praised by our experts. Unlike antacids, which can only treat existing symptoms, Zantac can both treat and prevent heartburn. For prevention, Dr. Dobbs recommended that, “H2 blockers be taken prior to meals or at set times during the day, such as before breakfast and at bedtime.” Each tablet is roughly the size of an ibuprofen pill.

Safe

“Ranitidine is the most commonly used over-the-counter H2 blocker, and it has a very safe side effect profile,” said Dr. Gregg Kai Nishi, bariatric surgeon and assistant clinical director of surgery at UCLA. In fact, ranitidine is generally considered safe enough even for pregnant women. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that side effects “are uncommon, usually minor” for ranitidine and include things like headache, drowsiness, and constipation.

Points to consider

Stopping the symptoms may not stop the problem

Dr. Carson Liu, bariatric/foregut surgeon and former assistant professor of clinical surgery at UCLA, added this caution: “When you shut off the acid with a heartburn remedy like an H2 blocker or PPI, you’re shutting off the symptoms. If that reflux process continues, it can lead to chronic reflux disease and issues that range from sleeping problems to chronic cough and asthma.” In other words, if your symptoms come back as soon as you stop treatment, don’t keep taking H2 blockers (or PPIs) indefinitely. Go see your doctor.

Best for Intense Heartburn
Nexium 24HR
Nexium
A potent option for heartburn that doesn’t respond to other over-the-counter medications, though it requires a two-week course of treatment.
Pros
Best for serious heartburn
Two-week course of treatment
Long-term relief
Cons
Greater risks

Why we chose it

Best for serious heartburn

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are the heavy artillery of the heartburn world. For this category, we’d suggest Nexium 24HR. The active ingredient, esomeprazole, is a newer member of the PPI class that got high marks from our experts for efficacy.

Two-week course of treatment

For severe heartburn, the PPI active ingredient esomeprazole has received praise for effective relief (better than older PPIs like lansoprazole — found in Prevacid — and omeprazole — found in Prilosec.) “All PPI medications heal the esophagus at about the same rate by the eighth week of treatment,” said Dr. Liu, “but esomeprazole seems to relieve heartburn symptoms faster at five days into therapy.” For full effect, you should commit to a two-week course of treatment: one capsule a day for 14 days.

Long-term relief

How soon can you expect relief? “PPIs take longer than H2 blockers and antacids, around three hours,” said Dr. Sam Malloy, medical director at Dr.Felix.co.uk, an online medical service and pharmacy in the United Kingdom. “And it’s important to take these medicines before you eat, as the process of digestion is what activates them. Taking them before breakfast yields the best results.”

Points to consider

Greater risks

Like H2 blockers, PPIs prevent your stomach from producing acid, but they’re more potent and can cause dependency if used for extended periods of time. “People don’t realize that you can become dependent on taking acid blockers forever, especially PPIs. If you skip a dose of a PPI, you could experience the worst heartburn of your life,” Dr. Liu warned us.

Dr. Dobbs agreed. “Even though people end up taking PPIs for years, the medication has been shown to change the pH of your stomach, potentially causing serious health effects. Studies have shown that long-term use of PPIs can increase your risk of developing kidney disease, osteoporosis, community-acquired pneumonia, and developing a bacterium called C. diff., which can cause severe diarrhea. Long-term use could also deplete nutrients in your body.” In other words, they’re best reserved for when nothing else works, and stick to the two-week course recommended on the back of the bottle. If symptoms come back shortly after, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

Guide to Heartburn Medicine

Identify your best course of treatment

Know when it’s more than heartburn

Many visitors to the ER complain of chest pain and a possible heart attack until tests reveal that it’s heartburn, according to Dr. Nishi. “When we see upper abdominal pain, two possibilities at the top of the list are GERD or gallbladder problems.”

But the flipside is also true: Sometimes heartburn symptoms can mask more serious problems. Medline Plus, an NIH-run service, recommends that you see your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, bleeding, or persistent pain that doesn’t improve.

Limit your medicine intake

When it comes to H2 blockers and PPIs, “it is very dangerous to exceed the prescribed dose,” warned Dr. Svetlana Kogan, integrative physician and author of Diet Slave No More! “This can knock out acid production in the stomach entirely, leading to undigested proteins and possible malabsorption of vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, the cytochrome P450 — a place in the liver where medication gets processed — will be overwhelmed, and you may experience side effects that include all the things listed on your medication’s paper insert: headache, nausea, osteoporosis — a full two-page list.”

As long as you’re following the recommended dosage, this shouldn’t be an issue. But if none of the medications you try seem to be working, don’t just keep popping pills. Take it as a sign that you should talk with your doctor.

Avoid heartburn altogether

All of our experts agreed that heartburn can be reduced — and possibly avoided altogether — by making lifestyle changes. Losing weight and moderating your consumption of fatty foods, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate will help. If you smoke, try to quit. Dr. Kogan also offered these specific tips:

  • Use two pillows to elevate your head above your stomach at night, keeping stomach acid from entering your esophagus.
  • Do not eat anything one hour prior to bedtime. (Three hours is even better, according to Dr. Nishi.)
  • Avoid acid-producing foods, including coffee and caffeinated tea, chocolate, tomatoes, eggplants, lemons and limes, and spicy or salty foods.
  • Avoid nuts and mints — both increase lower esophageal sphincter pressure and allow the reflux of acid into your esophagus and throat.

“There’s also a link between heartburn and GERD and stress levels, so try to take time out to relax if you’re developing these kinds of symptoms,” suggests Dr. Malloy.

Heartburn Medicine FAQ

Can you take antacids while pregnant?

Heartburn is common during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic, because pregnancy hormones can cause the esophageal valve to relax, allowing stomach acid to irritate the esophagus. Antacids are typically safe for pregnant women, though it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor. If antacids don’t help, “over-the-counter H2 blockers are usually the first line of action for pregnant women,” said Dr. Malloy, “but PPIs are often prescribed if the symptoms persist.”

What are the best liquid antacids?

During our research, we ran across a few sources suggesting liquid antacids work slightly faster than tablets or chews, but we couldn’t find any clinical evidence to support this. Because our testers also gave overwhelmingly negative taste-test ratings to our liquid finalists, we opted not to recommend any products from this category. If you are looking for something easy to take, either Tums or Rolaids serve as a great Maalox substitute.

Is there a cheaper alternative to Zantac?

With the same active ingredient as our top pick — 150 mg of ranitidine — GoodSense Acid Reducer is a generic medication that’s a thrifty alternative to Zantac. At $8 for 50 tablets, GoodSense costs about half the price of a name-brand H2 blocker.

The Best Heartburn Medication: Summed Up

Tums Ultra Strength 1000 Rolaids Ultra Strength Soft Chews Zantac 150 Nexium 24HR
Best for
Best for Mild Heartburn
Mild Heartburn Runner-up
Best for Moderate Heartburn
Best for Intense Heartburn
Price
Price
Price
Price
Price
Active ingredient
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Ranitidine
Esomeprazole
Type
Antacid
Antacid
H2 Blocker
PPI
Max dosage per day
2.5
2.5
2
1
Form
Chewable
Chewable
Tablet
Capsule

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