What helps a stomach ache? 5 over-the-counter remedies – Insider

Stomach aches and nausea are common ailments that everyone experiences from time to time. There are numerous possible causes for stomach ache, including gas, indigestion, stress, food allergies, food poisoning, and more. 
A variety of effective over the counter medications is available for people experiencing stomach problems and looking for quick relief. But if the pain is persistent, you should consider seeing a doctor as the condition could be indicative of a more serious underlying condition.
Here are some of the most popular OTC medications for stomach aches and how they work. 
The active ingredient: Bismuth subsalicylate
Best for: Nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, and indigestion 
When to take it: At the onset of symptoms
How it works: Pepto bismol reduces inflammation in the gut, says Harish Gagneja, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist with Austin Gastroenterology. Additionally, it slows down how quickly fluids and electrolytes flow into the bowel, which can help reduce diarrhea and any stomach ache associated with it. 
On top of all this, Gagneja says bismuth subsalicylate has some antibacterial properties, which may help to further soothe the stomach and relieve diarrhea if a bacterial infection is contributing to the problem. 
The active ingredient: Simethicone
Best for: Stomach pain caused by excess gas
When to take it: At the onset of symptoms or after meals
How it works: Gagneja says Gas-X dissolves excess gas bubbles that are causing gas pains and bloating. 
“It acts in the stomach and intestines to change the surface tension of gas bubbles, enabling their breakdown and the formation of larger bubbles which break easily. In this way it is believed that gas can be eliminated more easily by belching or passing [gas],” says Gagneja. Once that gas is released, your uncomfortable symptoms will be relieved. 
The active ingredients: Aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate 
Best for: Heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach
When to take it: After eating
How it works: Magnesium carbonate is an antacid, meaning that it neutralizes acid in the stomach. Additionally, Gagneja says the aluminum hydroxide coats the stomach and the esophagus. This coating creates a barrier on top of any stomach contents, which can help keep acid down and prevent acid reflux. 
The active ingredient: Calcium carbonate
Best for: Heartburn, indigestion, and nausea
When to take it:  At the onset of symptoms
How it works: Stomach acid can contribute to feelings of a sore stomach and burning sensations associated with heartburn and indigestion. Calcium carbonate is alkaline, or basic, which helps it neutralize stomach acid, says Gagneja. Tums are pretty fast-acting since calcium carbonate starts to neutralize the acid on contact. 
The active ingredients: Calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide
Best for: Heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach
When to take it: At the onset of symptoms
How it works: Just like Tums, Rolaids contain calcium carbonate which neutralizes stomach acid, but it also has added magnesium hydroxide which is an antacid. Together, both of these ingredients combat stomach acid to relieve stomach symptoms caused by acid reflux. If you don’t have any Tums or Rolaids handy, check out Insider’s guide on natural remedies for acid reflux.
If your symptoms are persistent and you’re having ongoing abdominal pain, it’s best to see your doctor rather than continuing to take these meds to rule out serious conditions.
Also, if your stomach ache is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and fever, Gagneja says you should seek medical attention as soon as possible instead of trying to mask the symptoms with OTC medications. These symptoms could be a sign of appendicitis, which must be treated by a doctor.
Keep in mind that OTC medications are just band-aids for relieving symptoms. They are not designed to address any serious underlying condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, ulcers, or cancer, Gagneja says. This is why it’s not recommended to take these medications long-term if symptoms are persisting. 
“If people keep on taking these symptom relief over the counter meds, then those diseases can be missed,” says Gagneja.