Acid Reflux Medicines – How to Choose the Right One
03. 05. 2018
Are you on the hunt to find the fastest-acting heartburn relief medicine? Heartburn can range from an occasional occurrence, like that painful burn after eating jalapeno nachos, to a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular valve at the base of the esophagus, fails to close properly.
The best treatment for heartburn depends on the severity of your symptoms, so let’s distinguish among antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. The following list of medications is based on an online review of available OTC medicines using informal interviews of doctors and an overview of clinical research. It should not replace the advice of your primary care physician or gastroenterologist.
If you are a first-time heartburn sufferer, you may want to begin with an antacid. Antacids treat heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid, so they are a good option if you have overeaten or indulged in something too spicy. Some common antacids include calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids) or aluminum hydroxide/magnesium hydroxide (Mylanta, Maalox).
If antacids are not bringing you relief, you can try an H2 blocker. This type of medication is stronger than an antacid because it does not just neutralize stomach acid, it slows the production of stomach acid. H2 blockers include famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac).
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the strongest of the over-the-counter heartburn medications. PPIs reduce the amount of stomach acid by blocking production made by glands in the lining of the stomach. Special caution must be taken with PPIs because they can cause dependency and have serious side effects. Only a two-week course of treatment is recommended, and you should visit your doctor if you are still experiencing symptoms. PPIs include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium).
Be Prepared for Heartburn
About 20 percent of Americans have GERD, and most people will experience heartburn symptoms from time to time, so chances are high that you will need a heartburn medication at some point. It may be a good idea to have an antacid, an H2 blocker and a PPI in your medicine cabinet for those occasions when you have a burning chest, indigestion or sour taste in your throat (source: Reviews).
Medication is not always the answer, though. There are several home remedies for heartburn that can alleviate acid reflux as well, so it is important to have several methods to relieve reflux. If you experience reflux for more than two weeks, call your gastroenterologist and make an appointment. To find a specialist near you, click here.