Tums Antacid for Treatment of Heartburn

How It Works, Precautions, and Side Effects

A senior woman having heartburn.
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Tums is used as an antacid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, gas, and stomach upset. Learn when you could you take this medication, how should it be used, possible side effects, and when your symptoms may suggest something more serious is going on.

Benefits

Tums can be used to provide minor relief from heartburn, indigestion, and gas. Some people also use this preparation as a calcium supplement to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

How Does It Work?

Different antacids work in different ways. The active ingredient in Tums is calcium carbonate, which works to weaken the acid in your stomach. Calcium carbonate tends to be stronger and work slightly longer than some antacid products, Calcium carbonate may also increase motility (movement) in the esophagus, lessening the exposure to acid. Some formulations of Tums also contain simethicone to reduce gas and are usually labeled for gas relief.

Other antacids have different actions. For example, Gaviscon also contains alginic acid which provides a protective barrier preventing acid from moving back up into your esophagus.

Product Details

Tums comes in a variety of formulations, and they change over time. You may have older products at home that differ from those currently sold. Be sure to read the product instructions for the formulation you intend to use.

Tums has hard chews, soft chews, and a smooth dissolve formula. They also have products in a variety of strengths. Regular strength has 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate, extra strength has 750 milligrams, and ultra strength has 1000 milligrams.

At one time they marketed a Tums Dual Action that included famotidine and magnesium hydroxide in addition to calcium carbonate.

How Should It Be Used?

Tums comes as a tablet, chewable tablet, capsule, and liquid to take by mouth. It usually is taken three or four times a day. Follow the directions on your prescription or package label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

Take Tums exactly as directed. Do not take more of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor. When using this medicine as a dietary supplement, take it with food or following meals.

Chewable tablets should be chewed thoroughly before being swallowed; do not swallow them whole. Drink a full glass of water after taking either the regular or chewable tablets or capsules. Some liquid forms of calcium carbonate must be shaken well before use.

Do not take Tums as an antacid for more than two weeks without talking to your doctor first.

Precautions

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to calcium carbonate as well as noting any other allergies. Sometimes you may be sensitive to the inactive ingredients in Tums, which vary by product.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking. It is also important to list any nutritional supplements or herbal preparations you are taking. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you can take antacids with these medications, and if so, whether you can do so at the same time, or take the medications at a different time. It's often recommended that people take an antacid at least two hours prior to taking other medications, but this can vary.
  • Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had kidney disease or stomach conditions.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking calcium carbonate, call your doctor.
  • There are several products which contain calcium carbonate. Always check the ingredients on the package to make sure you are not doubling up on medication.

    Possible Side Effects

    Although side effects from Tums are not common, they can occur. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

    • Upset stomach
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Stomach pain
    • Belching
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Dry mouth
    • Increased urination
    • Loss of appetite
    • Metallic taste

    Temporary Use Caution

    Antacids are intended as a means of temporary relief. The package insert will state this, not because it can be dangerous to use these medications for a prolonged period of time, but because further testing or treatment should be considered if you are continuing to need an antacid. These medications have no enduring effect and wear off quickly. If you have symptoms of GERD, it's a very good idea to meet with your physician and consider alternative medications such as proton pump inhibitors.

    Lifestyle Factors

    It's easy to forget that there are non-medications ways to help heartburn and indigestion when so many relief preparations are available. Yet it's a good idea to consider these, especially if your symptoms are recurring. Heartburn is one way in which your body lets you know something isn't right. Even if Tums are alleviating your symptoms, take a moment to consider how lifestyle factors could reduce your risk of heartburn and indigestion.

    • Don't lie down immediately after eating. Eating late in the day can increase your risk for heartburn, and it's also linked with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
    • Avoid caffeine, especially in the evening.
    • Limit your intake of alcohol.
    • Don't smoke - Heartburn is but one condition caused by smoking.
    • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
    • Minimize spicy and fatty foods if you find them bothersome.
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