Types of Medication for GERD (Heartburn)

Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2022

What is GERD (Heartburn)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, thereby irritating the esophageal lining. Many people experience refluxes now and then, but when reflux occurs frequently over time, it can cause GERD (heartburn).

Most people manage GERD symptoms with lifestyle changes and medications. In rare cases, some people may need surgery to correct this condition.

What are the most common medications?

Some of the commonly prescribed medications for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) include:

  1. Antacids: Antacids relieve the symptoms of GERD by neutralizing the stomach acid that causes reflux.
  2. Histamine-2 (H2) blockers: H2 blockers relieve GERD by blocking the action of histamine. Histamine activates stomach acid, especially after a meal.
  3. Proton pump inhibitors: These drugs block acid production for longer periods than H2 blockers. They should be taken one hour before a meal.
  4. Promotility agents: These agents work by activating the digestive tract muscles that prevent acid from staying in the stomach for a long period. Additionally, they strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter to reduce reflux into the esophagus. Metoclopramide is the drug used for reducing reflux.

What are the common side effects?

Common side effects of antacids include:

  • Brands with calcium or aluminum may lead to constipation.
  • Brands with magnesium may lead to diarrhea.
  • Rarely, brands with calcium may cause kidney stones or other problems.
  • Consuming large amounts of antacids that have aluminum might put you at risk of calcium loss, leading to osteoporosis (weak bones).

Common side effects of H2 blockers include:

Common side effects of proton pump inhibitors include:

Common side effects of promotility agents include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea 
  • Restlessness
  • Movement problems

This is not a complete list of side effects and other serious side effects or health problems that may occur because of the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


GERD is the back up of stomach acid into the esophagus. See Answer

What is the best medication?

Proton pump inhibitors are the most powerful drugs to prevent acid reflux. All drugs belonging to this class work similarly, and no one drug is superior to another. However, long-term use may not be safe, so it is better.

Is it safe to take gerd medications during pregnancy?

Antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are safe during pregnancy. Always consult your physician before taking any type of antacids as some of them may contain sodium, causing more water retention. Some also have aluminum, which isn’t considered safe during pregnancy.

Promotility agents should be considered with extreme caution during pregnancy. They should be taken if the benefits outweigh the risk during pregnancy.

Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking gerd medications?

  • Cimetidine may react with alcohol, leading to increased dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Even metoclopramide may interact with alcohol.
  • Other H2 blockers, antacids, and proton pump inhibitors don’t interact with alcohol, and combining them is safe.

However, drinking alcohol can worsen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Therefore, it is better to avoid them completely or limit their use.


GERD is the back up of stomach acid into the esophagus. See Answer

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2022