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Antacids vs. Acid Reducers: Know the Difference

Acid reflux and heartburn are uncomfortable health conditions that can impact your well-being and productivity. That annoying feeling of burning under the chest and fatigue might prevent you from being able to perform your daily chores. Both heartburn and acid reflux can happen for numerous reasons, but luckily, they are not permanent and can be treated with some over-the-counter medications.

PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitors)

men taking pills antacid

PPIs are over-the-counter medicines and one of the most potent in reducing the production of stomach acid. Usually, they are used by people who are experiencing acid reflux and heartburn on a daily basis. Their effect lasts quite long, however, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for their effect to kick in. PPI can be both over-the-counter and prescribed, out of which the OTC can include lansoprazole, omeprazole and esomeprazole. Prescribed PPI, on the other hand, can include dexlansoprazole, pantoprazole and rabeprazole. When it comes to preventing GERD symptoms, it seems that both over-the-counter and prescription-strength meds can work well. An important thing to know about PPIs is that you will first need to consult with your doctor before taking them, especially if:

  • You have had a clostridium infection in the past, as these over-the-counter meds can increase the risk of its returning
  • You’re a postmenopausal woman, and PPI can reduce calcium absorption and increase the risk of osteoporosis
  • If you are older or have problems with your immune system. PPI may increase the risk of pneumonia

The most common side-effects of PPI are diarrhea, headache, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, fever, vomiting, fever, rash and nausea.

H2 Blockers

how antacids work

When compared to PPI, the H2 blockers have less power in reducing the production of stomach acid. These medications are great for those of you who are not experiencing heartburn on a regular basis. Besides being available as over-the-counter medications, they can also be prescribed. Some of the most common H2 blockers can include famotidine, nizatidine and cimetidine. These medications are mainly used for treating gastritis, inflamed stomach and peptic ulcers. The latter are painful sores that usually form in the stomach lining, the lower oesophagus and duodenum. The main cause of their development is inflammation and excess stomach acid. Higher doses and long-term use can increase the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures of the wrist, hip and spine.


What Are Antacids?

taking pill anticid

Antacid meds are a group of medicines designed to help you neutralize the production of stomach acid. Usually, these stomach medications include magnesium carbonate, magnesium trisilicate and aluminium hydroxide. The acid reducer antacid meds can come as tablets or liquids and depending on the brand, some of them can be combined with another ingredient like simethicone, which is used for reducing wind (flatulence) ( ). Besides this, antacid medicine can also contain alginate ( ) which is a compound used for protecting the lining of the oesophagus from constant stomach acid. Generally speaking, antacid can be used for:

  • Reducing the symptoms of inflammation of the oesophagitis which is a condition also known under the name GERD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease), as well as for reducing the symptoms of acid reflux.
  • Relieving the symptoms caused by stomach ulcers and a part of the gut known as the duodenum.
  • Neutralising stomach acid that occurs occasionally, like for example the ones from dyspepsia.

Although a lot of people lean on the use of PPI and H2 blockers because of their longer effect, it is believed that they are not that beneficial. Although more studies are needed, according to some, it is believed that long-term stomach reflux medications like PPIs might be linked to stomach cancer. So, instead of leaning on the sole use of PPIs or H2 blockers, it is best to use antacids and consult with your doctor in case the symptoms are frequent.

Important Information

Can You Take Antacids While Pregnant?

girl using anticids

Yes, you can. Obestriticians and gynecologists have been prescribing them for years, but mainly the ones that contain calcium carbonate. According to them, this type of antacid drugs can give moms the best of both worlds. In other words, they can provide supplemental calcium for both the mom and the baby and can treat pregnancy heartburn.

Who Shouldn’t Take Antacid and Acid Reducers?


The first people who should avoid taking these medications are people with kidney problems. However, you should also contact your healthcare provider in case you are feeling some discomfort after the use.

You should also contact your healthcare provider, if you have some of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody vomit
  • Bloody and black stool
  • Heartburn that hasn’t improved after 14 days of treatment with some of the aforementioned over-the-counter acid reducing medicines.
  • Trouble and pain when swallowing
  • Weight loss

Some side-effects that can occur from taking H2 blockers are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Ear ringing
  • Runny nose
  • Trouble urinating