How Do Antacids Work

With so much holiday food on the table - smoked turkey, stewed onions and scalloped potatoes - who could resist having seconds? What a wonderful meal! What a terrible case of heartburn!

You may know heartburn as dyspepsia, sour stomach or acid indigestion. The term your doctor uses is esophageal reflux. This simply means that stomach acid, rather than staying where it belongs, is splashing upward into the esophagus, the pipe between your stomach and your mouth.

If you frequently have heartburn with abdominal discomfort, you should see a doctor because it may indicate a serious problem such as ulcers. But in most cases, heartburn is easily treated at home with safe, inexpensive, over-the-counter medications called antacids.

How Do Antacids Work?

Antacids are among the most commonly used drugs. Here's why. Your stomach's gluids are highly corrosive. On the acid scale, they lie somewhere between pure lemon juice and battery acid. This makes them very efficient at digesting tough food fibers.

Your stomach has a very efficient lining that protects it from the corrosiveness of these acids, but the stomach's upstairs neighbor has no such protection. So after big meals, when food and acid rise to the top of the stomach and splash into the esophagus, the result is mild to moderate burning pain - heartburn, in other words.

Antacids, by neutralizing stomach acid, can help bank heartburn's fires. There are dozens of antacids to choose from, but most contain aluminum, calcium, magnesium, sodium, magaldrate, or a combination of these ingredients. All are effective but may cause mild side effects. After knowing how do antacids work, you might need to try several brands to find the one that works best for you.