Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning pain or discomfort felt in the centre of the chest, which may travel from the tip of the breastbone to the throat. Heartburn is often brought on by lying down or bending forwards. It may be caused by eating rich or spicy food, or by drinking alcohol.

Recurrent heartburn is a symptom of oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus), which is usually caused by acid reflux.

Heartburn is a symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn is often treated with antacids. Lifestyle changes and dietary changes also help heartburn and GERD.

For detailed information, the main section about acid reflux disease and GERD Diets please see: Acid reflux disease 

Antacids

Drugs that are taken to relieve the symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux (the regurgitation of stomach acids into the oesophagus), oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus), and peptic ulcer. Examples of antacids include: Aluminium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, Hydrotalcite, magnesium hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate.

How they work

Antacids usually contain compounds of magnesium or aluminium, which neutralize stomach acid. Some also contain alginates, which protect the oesophagus by reducing acid reflux, or dimeticone, an antifoaming agent, which helps to relieve flatulence.

Side effects

Aluminium may cause constipation, and magnesium may cause diarrhoea. These effects can be avoided, however, if a preparation contains both ingredients. Antacids interfere with the absorption of many drugs and should therefore not be taken at the same time as other medications.

Warning

Antacids should not be taken regularly except under medical supervision because they may suppress the symptoms of a more serious disorder or provoke serious complications.