Whether we think of it as acid reflux, gastric reflux, or even heartburn, this uncomfortable and painful burning sensation in the chest is something many people experience regularly. If you’ve ever suffered from acid reflux or heartburn, then you know how miserable it can make you feel. Whether you are experiencing the unpleasant burning sensation at 2pm or are waking up multiple times during the night because of it, it certainly can disrupt your day-to-day life. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent and relieve this condition.
Treat the Problem with Medicine
Heartburn is both a symptom and a disease. When symptoms of heartburn are frequent or severe, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Untreated GERD can lead to esophageal cancer. There are two types of effective stomach heartburn medicine used to treat heartburn: antacids that neutralize acid, and acid-blockers, which stop the stomach from making acid.
Antacids relieve heartburn by directly countering the acid in your stomach. Antacids can help relieve symptoms for people with occasional heartburn. These include calcium carbonate (Tums), magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia), and aluminium hydroxide (Asphodel).
The primary advantage of antacids as stomach heartburn medicine is that they provide rapid neutralization of gastric acid and short-term relief (up to one hour) of heartburn pain. The main disadvantage is that their action is brief; the acidity in the stomach quickly neutralizes the basic compound in the antacid, so another dose must be taken within an hour or so. Also, these compounds may cause diarrhoea if used frequently or taken in large doses.
Acid-blockers are a group of medications that stop the stomach from making acid. You can purchase these medicines at a pharmacy and also receive them from a doctor. Some examples include:
Omeprazole (Prilosec and generic).
Lansoprazole (Prevacid and generic).
Famotidine (Pepcid and generic).
Ranitidine (Zantac and generic).
Sometimes you need to take these stomach heartburn medicine options for longer periods of time to keep symptoms at bay. In that case, your doctor might prescribe a drug from a class called H2 blockers sold under names such as Pepcid AC. These drugs reduce the production of stomach acid. If they don’t work well enough on their own, they can be combined with stronger proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which block acid production altogether.
If your heartburn is frequent, or severe enough, that you’re considering medication long term, talk to your doctor about potential risks and side effects. In some cases, PPIs can cause or worsen osteoporosis and may increase the risk of infection with Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a bacteria commonly found in hospitals and nursing homes that can cause diarrhoea and colitis.
Chew Gum to Neutralize Stomach Acid in the Oesophagus
Chewing gum may help to neutralize stomach acid in your oesophagus due to its alkaline nature. Because the chewing action produces more saliva, it can also help with acid reflux symptoms by washing acid back down into your stomach where it belongs. Try chewing gum for about half an hour after you eat, which is about as long as it takes for the food to pass through your stomach.
Raise the Head of Your Bed to Alleviate Some of the Symptoms
For many people, elevating the head of the bed by four to six inches can help relieve these symptoms by improving the flow of digestive fluids. Raising your head with blocks may be an alternative if you do not experience relief from the use of pillows. If the incline produced by your pillows is too steep, you may wake up feeling like you’re sliding out of bed. Raising your head with blocks can also reduce pain in the neck, as well as back and shoulders, associated with heartburn and acid reflux.
Avoid Eating Within Three Hours of Going to Bed
As a general rule, you should avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. This is because your stomach takes about three hours to empty itself and when food sits in your stomach for too long, it causes acid reflux that can disrupt sleep.
It is also essential to remember that acid reflux often occurs if you have eaten too much food. It is therefore important to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, rather than eating two or three large meals in the course of one day.
Say No to Alcohol
One of the most common causes of acid reflux in people with obesity is a higher alcohol intake. Obese people have a higher body mass index, which means they have a larger amount of fat tissue on their bodies. This is important to know because the fat tissues in their body are not only pushing on the stomach and causing acid reflux, but they are also potentially increasing the amount of alcohol they drink.
When a person drinks alcohol, it causes the blood vessels in their stomach to relax. When this happens, it allows more fluid to escape into the surrounding tissue and cause irritation. This irritation can lead to heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.
Studies have shown that there is a higher correlation between an alcoholic intake and acid reflux symptoms than there is between an increase in weight and acid reflux symptoms. This means that if you are overweight or obese and you have been drinking heavily over the past few years, then you may want to reduce your weight before you start drinking more alcohol.
To Sum Up
The key thing is to remember that regular treatments and prevention are just as important as your initial visit. The fact of the matter is that heartburn has no “cure” per se, but only a way to ease and control it with the right treatment plan. But don’t be discouraged! Learning how to treat and prevent heartburn ultimately will make your life easier, and give you back some much-needed peace of mind.