Heartburn and acid reflux tend to come hand in hand. The former is caused by stomach acid traveling up towards the throat, and this process is known as acid reflux. Should it happen repeatedly, it may be that you are suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease – although this is only the case for a small minority of sufferers.
For most of us, acid reflux is triggered by any one of a handful of things. Three of the biggest causes, however, are certain food or drink, smoking, and stress. As such, most sufferers can limit the symptoms by reducing the size of their meals, exercising more or finding ways to relax.
Of course, these methods are not always guaranteed to work. That is why we have provided a guide to the medicinal solutions available for acid reflux here. Join us as we break each down and explain how they may benefit you.
If you speak to your doctor about having acid reflux, one of the first suggestions they may make is to try antacids. As the name implies, these medicines counteract the acid in your stomach to relieve indigestion and heartburn. They can be bought over the counter and come in liquid or tablet form.
It is important to understand that antacids do not treat the underlying cause of your condition. In fact, they only relieve your symptoms for a few hours. For this reason, they should be used when you already have the symptoms or believe you will have them soon.
Most people usually take antacids just before bed as this is when they typically suffer acid reflux. That being said, it is best to take them with food or soon after eating because this is when you are most likely to get indigestion or heartburn. It is also a prime time because taking medicine with food can help the effects last longer. Alternagel, Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol all offer quick relief, are over-the-counter solutions, and come with limited side effects.
If acid reflux is a common problem, antacids may not be enough to counter the symptoms. H2 blockers attack the problem at the source instead, by reducing the amount of acid you produce. They include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac), and they work by stopping the acid-making cells in the stomach lining from responding to histamine.
Usually, H2 blockers provide quick relief and can help if the overactive acid in your stomach causes an ulcer. Again, they can be purchased over the counter – however, if you find yourself taking them for longer than two weeks, you should consult your doctor.
Most people who take the drug do not experience any side effects, yet it is worth mentioning that some report diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, rashes and tiredness. The leaflet that accompanies the medicine will explain more, but provided none of these side effects are persistent, you are generally safe to continue taking it.
Proton pump inhibitors
Much like H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by reducing the level of acid you produce. They include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec), and they are most commonly used to treat ulcers in the stomach and the part of the gut known as the duodenum.
Nexium can be purchased at pharmacies. Some PPIs, however, will require a prescription from your doctor. Regardless, you should consult your doctor on whether or not a PPI is the best course of action for you. They are best placed to determine the dose and how often you should take it.
Generally, PPIs will provide quick relief, unless you are suffering from a more serious condition. If not, your doctor will tell you to take the medicine ‘as required’. You should not take PPIs if you are pregnant or have certain liver problems. For further information on who should avoid Nexium or similar drugs, check the leaflet that accompanies the package.
Of course, your doctor will also recommend that you try to improve your lifestyle if you keep suffering from bouts of acid reflux. This does not just involve avoiding overeating but identifying and avoiding certain foods in the future. The same is true of carbonated drinks as they too can trigger a reaction.
If you smoke, you should quit, especially as nicotine arguably exacerbates the problem by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter. If your doctor advises you to lose weight, this is because regular exercise may spread the muscular structure that supports the esophageal sphincter.
Lastly, be conscious of your posture. If you stay up after eating, gravity will help keep acid in the stomach. By finishing eating three hours before you go to bed, you are less likely to suffer through the night. Likewise, your head should be six to eight inches higher than your feet. This can be achieved by using bed risers on the legs that support the head of your bed or using a foam wedge support for your upper body.
Let us make it easier
At Medix, we have a range of over-the-counter solutions designed to treat the symptoms of your acid reflux at an affordable price.
If you have any questions about how our service or the products that we stock can treat your conditions, please get in touch. You can call us on 1-866-500-6633 (toll-free phone number) or +44 1438 500111 (international phone number). Otherwise, please request a callback.