understanding how heartburn medications work

Millions of people are living with heartburn each and every day, but what most people don’t know is that its possible to get your heartburn under control enough to be able to eat the foods you want (within reason). In this blog, I’ll take you through a few home remedies as well as medical solutions for heartburn. It’s important to remember that everyone’s case is different so something that works for a colleague or neighbor might not work at all for you and that is O.K. Don’t get discouraged and keep trying to manage your heartburn.

Heartburn happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that works to separate the stomach from the esophagus functions improperly. The LES is a valve that is responsible for allowing food to enter the stomach then sealing off the entrance to prevent acid from traveling back up through the esophagus resulting in heartburn.

There are some foods that are known to relax the LES and these include: spices, garlic, tomatoes, citrus, spices, alcohol, and fatty foods. Smoking cigarettes is also commonly known to relax the LES and cause heartburn after eating. Below you will find heartburn home remedies and medical solutions, but to learn more about what causes heartburn click the link.

HOME REMEDIES:

1.     Sugar free gum

Sugar free gum following a meal causes extra saliva to be produced in the mouth and this could work to combat the acidic taste creeping up the back of your throat. The extra saliva in the mouth makes it easier to wash away the acid accumulation.

2. Baking Soda    

Any middle school science class will teach you that to neutralize an acid you simply add a base, and any college science class will tell you to be very careful when doing this. Luckily someone else took the plunge and tried out this next home remedy first. Baking soda can be used to neutralize the acid on your stomach by simply adding one tablespoon to a glass of water and drinking it following a meal.

3. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is powerful plant with many health benefits. When you get a sunburn aloe can be used to soothe the burn, and it works similarly with heartburn. Drinking aloe juice before and after a meal can reduce inflammation and redness in the esophagus caused by heartburn. But be forewarned, aloe can also be used as a natural laxative.

OVER THE COUNTER MEDS:

1.     Alka-Seltzer

2.     Pepto-Bismol

3.     Tums

4.     Rolaids

5.     Maalox

If after trying these solutions you are still having a problem with heartburn it might be time to visit a doctor and ask him or her about what your best options are. There are three main types of medicine doctors will prescribe for heartburn and these include: antacids, H2-receptor Blockers, and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs).

ANTACIDS:

While there are antacids that can be purchased over the counter like Tums, if the need for higher strength antacids is necessary you must see a doctor. Antacids are used to neutralize stomach acid and work much like a base being added to an acidic solution.

H2-RECEPTOR BLOCKERS:

H2’s are used to reduce the amount of stomach by slowing the production of acid in the stomach. H2-Blockers can also be used to treat symptoms commonly associated with heartburn.

PROTON PUMP INHIBITORS (PPI’S):

PPI’s are the most effective form of heartburn medication for two primary reasons:

1.    They are typically the strongest heartburn medications available.

2.     Unlike other over the counter medications, which neutralize acid and alleviate heartburn symptoms, PPI's completely stop the production of acid in the stomach.

When you are suffering from heartburn, it's important to understand the various options out there that can treat your symptoms. One of the hardest choices is decided what's right for you. Medication can be a fast, effective way to alleviate the occasional symptoms of reflux and heartburn, but it's important to note that for patients who frequently suffer from acid reflux or have a chronic condition like GERD, medication is only a temporary solution. In order to cure your reflux completely, you must treat the condition, not just the symptoms. 

Heartburn medications are a great temporary solution for patients whose reflux episodes are situational and occasional, but there are health risks associated with taking stronger medications like PPI's on a long-term basis. There are a number of treatment options available for reflux, from simple options like lifestyle changes or medication to things like anti-reflux surgery. For patients who have been diagnosed with GERD, it's worth taking the time to sit down with your reflux doctor and determine what method of treatment makes the most sense for you specifically. 

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