Throw Away the Tums! Healthy Alternatives to Antacids

Heartburn? Upset stomach? The answer to these ailments is all to often popping an antacid such as Tums. And why not? they are just over the counter meds that might even give you a dose of calcium along with it. In fact, more and more often, I’m seeing the recommendation to take Tums with calcium as a supplement with the added “stomach soothing” benefit. Or, for those that have ongoing heartburn, a class of drugs known as “proton pump inhibitors” (PPI’s) such as Prilosec, are recommended for relief. These drugs are meant for short-term use (though in my opinion, are far over-prescribed), but end up being used long-term. This post is aimed to explain the downside to taking antacids and offer some dietary strategies to provide you with some relief with the big take-away being, get to the root of your heartburn for long term relief and leave the meds at the pharmacy.

The burning sensation, or “flame” that you feel in your stomach, chest, or traveling up your throat is heartburn and it can be caused by a number of different things. Often times it is experienced after eating spicy foods, drinking coffee, or eating fried foods. It is aggravated by stress and constipation and often the root of the problem is food sensitivities and/or (believe it or not) not producing enough acid, a condition called “hypochlorhydria”. The acid in your stomach is called hydrochloric acid (HCL) and it is critical for digestion and for killing pathogens that make us sick. The production of HCL signals a whole chain of digestive processes. Too little, such in cases of hypochlorhydria, and you risk not digesting properly (feeling extra full, constipated, not fully breaking down food to get the nutrition) and becoming ill. Specifically, HCL enhances the absorption of iron, zinc, copper, folic acid, B-vitamins, calcium and more. Did you note the calcium in there? Yes, so that calcium you are getting with the Tums that is reducing your stomach acid probably isn’t absorbing so well…

Here are some signs that make you think you might not be producing enough stomach acid:


So what should you do?

Before you head for the Tums, try these simply dietary strategies. And definitely get to a nutritionist that specializes in food sensitivities, digestive disorders and all things GI to help sort out what is going on beneath it all. Reflux and indigestion will return if you don’t get to the underlying the problem. Again, and in my experience, acid reflux is often related to food sensitivities.


*Note: Aloe Vera can interact with some medications and should not be taken by most children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Discuss use with a healthcare professional.

There is a heck of a lot more you can (and should) do for long term relief -and to prevent damage to your digestive system. Make an appointment with me and we’ll figure it out together!

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  1. Sarah on September 17, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Thanks for sharing these healthy alternatives to OTC antacids. Many suffer from hyperacidity so this can really help. Now they have an alternative to running to the drugstore when it attacks. 🙂

  2. Danielle Omar -- Food Confidence RD on October 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Many people are also treating “hypochlorhydria” with antacids because they don’t test their HCl levels first. Love these natural remedies!

    • Laurie on January 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      How do you test it?

  3. Craig Scott on February 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    These are great preventative measures for acid reflux. I take TUMS regularly and it helps, but doesn’t solve the problem. I usually take a glass of water with some apple cider vinegar, that soothes my stomach. I also tried baking soda, that also helps a little bit. One product I’ve had great success with is Episolve GI. I take about four before I go to bed as I have heartburn worst through the night. Episolve GI took the edge off my morning heartburn. It’s mainly comprised of Olive oil. Apparently Olive oil is good for your stomach? TUMS doesn’t last as long so I took this instead.

    Has anyone else had success with this supplement? I’m eager to know if it works for others as well… Being a chronic heartburn sufferrer, I know how incapacitating it can be.

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on February 4, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      It sounds like you are doing a great job exploring alternative options! Sometimes, if water and apple cider vinegar works, it means you aren’t producing enough acid (as opposed to too much). Chewing thoroughly, eating slowly, making sure not to eat too much especially late at night can all help. Would be curious what the underlying cause is to your heartburn (i.e. not producing enough digestive enzymes? gut bacteria a little out of whack? are just a few causes). It’s worth exploring so you don’t constantly have to treat the symptom! I’m going to look into the product you mentioned.

  4. Melissa on May 7, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Yes! I dealt with awful heart burn for a while and found ACV to be amazing. My chiropractor also recommended a supplement that I’ve used on occasion. But eating real vs processed food has been the biggest game changer for me. The only time I need something now is after I overindulge on junk food (unfortunately it happens sometimes).

  5. Victoria Cooper on January 7, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Thank you so much for this! I have Hiatus Hernia which causes me to have severe heartburn and very powerful hiccups, and what’s worse is that I’m allergic to over the counter antacids, so these alternatives will be a huge help!

  6. Raquel on January 21, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Thanks so much for this! I always forget about the peppermint. How I forgot I don’t know especially when I make it a point to have these around the house yearlong.

    I have IBS, IC & lactose intolerant so I must always be aware of what I eat because the slightest derailment causes my system to get out of whack. It doesn’t happen often which I guess in way explains why I forget the home remedies.

    Thanks to you I also know now that my body does not produce enough HCL. With what you’ve detailed here and heeding my body’s messages, signals I can say with 100% certainty my body isn’t producing enough HCL.

    Thanks again!

  7. sanjid ahmed on July 26, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for the great article .. Its very helpful.

  8. Kari Matadobra on August 17, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I have heard that ACV sometimes helps with heartburn…that makes sense that it is related to hypochlorhydria. I do not consume coffee, soda or fried foods (except on rare occasion). I generally eat healthy and organic (I do not eat cow or pig either), and lately the only thing that stops me from constant nausea is eating something, which is something that used to happen when I was younger. Two months ago , I had an esophageal spasm that almost sent me to the ER, were it not for Pepto-Bismal. Potatoes, mushrooms and small amounts of organic chicken do not make me ill, at least for a couple of hours. Milk and oat milk used to help, but lately nothing does. Still, rather have to force myself to eat, even though I am 29 and very active – currently working on achieving my divemaster. I may have to go and see a GI Doctor, though I had hoped to correct the problem naturally… Thank you, Kari

  9. Barney Rubble on June 30, 2017 at 6:03 am

    What a load of good remedies thanks

  10. […] I tried eating antacid tablets for a while, all to no avail (this was a bad idea, they’re not healthy anyway). I felt like my esophagus was constantly on fire. Yep, nobody warned me about this one, […]

  11. berna dean brown on December 2, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Thank you for this article, it helped a lot especially the peppermint

  12. rocky on January 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

    What about lemon juice?

  13. Pamela on March 7, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Please note that pineapple can also interfere with medications.

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on March 21, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      Yes, correct. It’s always wise to work with a practitioner to sort through interactions and dosages for any supplements.

  14. John Smith on March 12, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    Why on earth would you suggest acidic substances as a treatment for acid reflux!?

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on March 21, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      I talked about how reflux is not always (and very often not) do to excess acid but actually underproduction of acid in the post.

  15. Arlene M Lawson on August 27, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you for your article. My friend told me that her doctor told her not to use Tums, but instead use Zantac, so she gave me one. It caused me to burp a lot and have a lot of gas…is this normal? It eventually cleared my heartburn, but took about an hour. I will try the alternatives instead but when traveling and in hotels, do not always have those alternatives. Does peppermint candy work (like the red striped ones)?

  16. Steph is on October 5, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    I wish I could find something other than tums that works for me. I get a feeling like there’s something stuck in my throat and a bloated feeling in my upper stomach,burping, sometimes a burn feeling. Tums helps so I don’t think it’s gallbladder related but who knows. I’ve found that eating tomatoes and ginger dressing (extremely disappointing) make the symptoms worse. I’d like to find a more natural way to treat as doctors just throw medicine at me

  17. Mary on November 19, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    I took a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar the other morning and my stomach was on fire and I almost vomited. So is the diagnosis that I have too much stomach acid.

  18. Laurie on January 25, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Is Episolve GI still on the market? Walmart and Amazon and others say its unavailable.

  19. Sandra Satre on February 3, 2019 at 3:32 am

    I eat about 4 tums a day not because of heartburn but just because I like the taste so much….is that bad?

  20. Nathaniel higgertz on October 28, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I suffer from neo ignanmous gastrointestinal gelatos esophagus reactivity and the be been taking tums for it every day for the last year and it helps some times but apple cider viNegar helps so much does any one else deal with this? I’d like a final solution to this genetic disability

  21. Lyn on March 15, 2021 at 3:42 am

    How does Apple Cider help if it’s acidic? Does it help with globus sensation? That’s what driving me nuts! Does anyone get sternum pain with globus? (Mucus that feels stuck in the throat) Does Globus cause irritation to the throat for anyone? Is Ginger tea good for acid reflux? I would think peppermint would irritate acid reflux…no?

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