Heartburn Medicine Options: What You Should Know
Many people suffer from heartburn at some point in their life. Heartburn feels like a burning sensation in the lower chest behind the breastbone and happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and throat. Fortunately, there are many heartburn medicine options available to manage your symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Heartburn
A bitter or acidic taste at the back of your throat and an increasing pain when lying down or bending over are familiar sensations for those experiencing heartburn. Other symptoms include:
- A burning sensation in the chest that lasts for minutes to hours
- Pain after eating or at night
- Difficulty swallowing.
Heartburn sufferers experience many bothersome symptoms, but lifestyle changes and nonprescription medication can usually manage them.
Several lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce heartburn symptoms. These changes include:
- Eating smaller portions and more frequent meals
- Avoiding foods and beverages that can trigger heartburn, like spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine
- Elevating the head of the bed while sleeping
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
If lifestyle changes alone do not eliminate heartburn, medications may provide relief.
Antacids: Tums or Rolaids
Antacids are one of the most common over-the-counter heartburn medications. They work by counteracting and neutralizing stomach acid, which helps relieve the burning sensation associated with heartburn. Antacids are available as chewable tablets or liquids and can be purchased without a prescription.
If you only have occasional heartburn, antacids provide effective and efficient symptom relief. They do not, however, address the underlying cause of heartburn. Side effects of antacids include stomach upset, diarrhea, or constipation.
H2 Blockers: Pepcid AC or Tagamet HB
H2 blockers, or histamine-2 receptor antagonists, can help reduce heartburn symptoms. They work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach.
H2 blockers are more effective than antacids because they reduce the amount of acid the stomach lining secretes. Although they take longer to work, the result is longer-lasting symptom relief. However, side effects, such as headache, dizziness, or constipation, can occur.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Prilosec or Prevacid
PPIs keep the stomach from overproducing stomach acid. They provide longer-lasting relief than antacids or H2 blockers and promote a healing environment for an irritated esophagus and stomach lining. Side effects such as headache, nausea, or diarrhea can occur with short-term use.
If you are taking a PPI, you should take the lowest dose possible for the shortest time necessary. Although proton pump inhibitors are frequently prescribed for people with chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), they should not be taken for longer than two weeks without talking to your doctor.
PPIs carry certain risks when taken over an extended period. Some risks of taking PPIs long-term include an increased risk of bone fractures and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
What to Do If Heartburn Symptoms Do Not Improve
To alleviate heartburn, you can make lifestyle adjustments or take an antacid, an H2 blocker, or a proton pump inhibitor. If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend additional testing, such as an endoscopy, to look for signs of more chronic problems like GERD.
If you suffer from heartburn symptoms, schedule an appointment today for an accurate diagnosis and the right therapy for symptom relief!