Sometimes making simple lifestyle changes is enough to reduce the occurrence of heartburn:
- Eat small, regular meals, and eat slowly.
- Try to stay away from spicy or acidic foods, or large fatty meals.
- Also avoid coffee, tea, milk and carbonated drinks with or without caffeine.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Pay attention to the reaction certain foods cause.
- Try not to lie down, stoop or strain to lift objects following meals.
- To prevent heartburn at night, raise the head of your bed six inches.
- When heartburn occurs, drink water to dilute and remove acid from the lower esophagus.
- Quit smoking.
- If you are overweight, talk to your physician about starting a diet and exercise program.
- Don’t wear tight clothing or belts.
- Avoid bending over if it causes heartburn.
Beyond simply changing your lifestyle, there are also several heartburn medications your healthcare professional can prescribe, depending on the severity of your symptoms. If you think of your stomach as a faucet, each of these drugs works in the following way.
“Slows down the faucet.” H2 blockers slow down the production of histamine, thus lowering the amount of acid in your stomach. The benefit of these types of products is that once they are absorbed into the bloodstream they last for several hours. They can be taken at the time of your meal before symptoms occur. An example is Tagamet®, Zantac® and Pepcid®.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
“Turns off the faucet.” Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI's) work by blocking the pumps in the stomach that produce acid. Examples include Prilosec OTC® and other similar drugs available by prescription.
“Changes the faucet output.” Antacids work by neutralizing the acid that causes heartburn. By reducing the acidity, the acid is less able to irritate the esophagus. There are many forms of antacids, such as liquid gels, suspensions and chewable tablets. The advantage of taking antacids is that they do not have to be absorbed into the bloodstream before they start working and they start neutralizing stomach acid as soon as they contact it. Examples are Tums® and Rolaids®.
Antacids containing alginic acid
“Changes the faucet output and acts like a stopper.” Gaviscon® neutralizes stomach acid and forms a barrier to heartburn. Prescription heartburn medication doesn’t always provide the relief you need. Managing heartburn can be a daily struggle for many patients, even if they have been placed on a regimen using acid suppressing prescription medication like Proton Pump Inhibitors or H2 Blockers. PPI's may take one to four (4) days for full effect, and heartburn may occasionally come back when patients aren’t expecting it. This is also called acid breakthrough.