Navigation

Indigestion medicines

Expert reviewer, Madeeha Waheed, Oncology Pharmacist at Bupa, Clinical and Operational Improvement
Next review due November 2024

Indigestion medicines can help to relieve symptoms of indigestion (dyspepsia). There are several different medicines for indigestion. Which one is right for you will depend on what’s causing your symptoms and how often you’re having problems.

Senior ladies are eating a t a restaurant

Uses of indigestion medicines

There are a number of reasons why you might take indigestion medicines.

  • Occasional, mild bouts of indigestion. Most people experience this once in a while. It’s often triggered by what you eat, and certain factors such as being overweight and stressed can make it worse. If it’s only for occasional or short-term use, you can buy indigestion medicines from a shop or pharmacy to help manage this.
  • Indigestion during pregnancy. It’s common to get indigestion during pregnancy, and certain over-the-counter indigestion medicines are ok to take if you’re pregnant. Check with your midwife, pharmacist or doctor what is most appropriate for you.
  • Long-term digestive problems. Certain health conditions, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and peptic ulcers can cause frequent indigestion. If you keep getting indigestion, your doctor may prescribe stronger indigestion medicines to keep it under control.

 

Not all indigestion medicines are suitable for everyone. Check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines if you have any health conditions such as problems with your liver or kidneys. Some indigestion medicines can interact with other medicines you may be taking. For more information, see the section: Interactions.

 How healthy are you?

With our health assessments you get an action plan that’s tailormade for you. Find out more about health assessments >

Types of indigestion medicine

There are three main types of medicine for indigestion. They are:

  • antacids and alginates
  • proton pump inhibitors
  • H2-blockers

 

These all act in different ways to either neutralise or block production of stomach acid.

Antacids and alginates

You can buy these medicines over the counter, without a prescription from a doctor. Antacids often contain aluminium or magnesium compounds. They act to neutralise your stomach acid.

Antacids are often taken together with an alginate. These form a protective layer over the surface of your stomach contents. This stops acid rising back up your oesophagus (the tube that goes from your mouth to your stomach). Sometimes another medicine (simeticone), which reduces wind, is added too.

Examples include Gaviscon, Maalox, Setlers and Tums. You can ask your pharmacist exactly what active ingredients your medicine contains.

Proton pump inhibitors

You can also take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) if you keep getting heartburn. You can buy a PPI from your pharmacy if it’s just for short-term or occasional use. If you need PPIs long term or you have peptic ulcers or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, your GP may prescribe one. They work by reducing the amount of acid your stomach makes.

An example is omeprazole (for example, Losec and Mezzopram).

H2-blockers

You can buy low-dose H2-blockers for short-term use from your pharmacist without a prescription. Your GP may also prescribe H2-blockers in stronger doses and for longer use if you have ongoing problems with indigestion. Like PPIs, these medicines stop your stomach from producing so much acid.

Examples of H2 blockers are famotidine and ranitidine.

Taking indigestion medicines

How you take your indigestion medicines will depend on the specific type you’re taking. Here we give a general guide, but always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for full details. If you have any questions about taking medicines, ask your pharmacist for advice.

Antacids and alginates

Antacids and alginate medicines come as tablets or liquids. The ones that come as liquids generally work better than tablets and capsules. You take these medicines whenever you get – or expect to get – symptoms. This is usually shortly after eating or before bed.

Proton pump inhibitors

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) come as tablets or capsules, which you might take once or twice a day. You can buy PPIs from a pharmacy to treat heartburn. But if you have peptic ulcers or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, your doctor may prescribe you a full dose to take for four to eight weeks. If you’re still getting symptoms after this, they may suggest you continue taking it at a lower dose or just when your symptoms flare up.

H2-blockers

H2-blockers usually come as tablets. If you have bought a lower-dose form from a pharmacy, you take these whenever you get symptoms. If you’re taking a stronger medicine prescribed by your doctor, you might need to take it a couple of times a day, for a set period of time. Your doctor may prescribe these medicines if treatment with PPIs isn’t suitable.

Interactions of indigestion medicines

Indigestion medicines can sometimes interact with other medicines. This may affect how well your medicines work. For example, some antacids can affect how your body absorbs other medicines. The patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine will tell you about any interactions your medicines have with others.

Your doctor will offer you the best medicine, based on any other medicines you’re taking. But check with your pharmacist or GP before taking any new medicines or herbal remedies at the same time as an indigestion treatment.

There aren’t generally any restrictions around drinking alcohol with indigestion medicines. If you drink alcohol, your GP will advise you to keep to the recommended alcohol limits. If you find alcohol irritates your stomach, it makes sense not to drink alcohol while you have indigestion symptoms.

Side-effects of indigestion medicines

Side-effects are the unwanted effects that you may get from taking a medicine. Each type of indigestion medicine has different side-effects. The leaflet that comes with your medicine will tell you about these. Below are some of the most common side-effects for each type.

  • Antacids that contain magnesium tend to act as a laxative and can cause diarrhoea. Those that contain aluminium may give you constipation.
  • H2-blockers don’t usually give side-effects. But they can sometimes cause diarrhoea, dizziness, tiredness, headache and skin rashes.
  • If proton pump inhibitors give side-effects, they’re usually mild. They can cause abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, dizziness, feeling sick or vomiting.

 

If you’re having side-effects from a new medicine, wait a few days to see if they settle down. If they continue and you’re feeling unwell or concerned, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice and help.


About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. This is because we believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and wellbeing.

Our information has been awarded the PIF TICK for trustworthy health information. It also follows the principles of the The Information Standard.

The Patient Information Forum tick

Learn more about our editorial team and principles >

Medicines checklist

Our handy medicines checklist helps you see what to check for before taking a medicine.

Bupa's medicines checklist PDF opens in a new window (0.8MB)

Bupa medicines checklist

Frequently asked questions about indigestion medicines

  • Indigestion can affect children from time to time, just as it can adults. However, many over-the-counter indigestion medicines should only be given to children under 12 on advice from your doctor. Always check with your GP or the pharmacist before giving indigestion medicines to your child. And be sure to read the patient information leaflet that comes with their medicine carefully.

  • The main types of indigestion medicine are:

    • antacids and alginates
    • proton pump inhibitors
    • H2-blockers

     

    Have a look at our ‘types’ and ‘uses’ sections for more information about these. Which indigestion medicine works best for you will depend on what’s causing your indigestion and how often you’re having symptoms. Your pharmacist will be able to give you advice about over-the-counter indigestion medicines. If your doctor prescribes an indigestion medicine, you can ask them to explain why that is the best medicine for you.



Did our information help you?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our health information.

Related information

Tools and calculators

    • Dyspepsia. Patient. patient.info/doctor, last edited March 2020
    • Dyspepsia – proven functional. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised October 2018
    • Dyspepsia – pregnancy-associated. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised April 2017
    • Dyspepsia – proven GORD. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised April 2017
    • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and dyspepsia in adults: investigation and management. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2014, updated 2019. www.nice.org.uk
    • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in children and young people: diagnosis and management. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), last updated October 2019. www.nice.org.uk
    • Dyspepsia. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Antacids. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Omeprazole. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Famotidine. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Magnesium carbonate. NICE British National Formulary. Bnf.nice.org.uk, accessed November 2021
    • Therapy-related issues: gastrointestinal. Oxford handbook of Clinical Pharmacy (online). Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published April 2017
    • Gaviscon peppermint liquid relief. Electronic Medicines Compendium – eMC. www.medicines.org.uk, last updated September 2019
    • Maalox Plus suspension. Electronic Medicines Compendium – eMC. www.medicines.org.uk, last updated November 2021
    • Tums Assorted Fruit Antacid Tablets. Electronic Medicines Compendium – eMC. www.medicines.org.uk, last updated January 2018
    • Setlers Antacid Chewable Tablets Peppermint Flavour. Electronic Medicines Compendium – eMC. www.medicines.org.uk, last updated October 2019
    • Personal communication, Madeeha Waheed, Pharmacist, November 2021

     

  • Reviewed by Dr Kristina Routh, Freelance Health Editor, November 2021
    Expert reviewer, Madeeha Waheed, Oncology Pharmacist at Bupa, Clinical and Operational Improvement
    Next review due November 2024

ajax-loader