Acid Reflux Medicines Come In An Array Of Choices
For most people, over-the-counter (OTC) antacids are the first line of defense for alleviating the symptoms of acid reflux, more commonly called heartburn.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid “refluxes,” or flows back, into the lower esophagus, causing painful burning symptoms in the stomach and chest area. The pain and burning occur when the harsh acid irritates the tender lining of the esophagus. There are many causes for acid reflux, and one of the most common methods of initially treating the symptoms is with antacids. These products actually act to neutralize the acid in the stomach, so that if reflux does occur, the pain and burning are eliminated. Because they neutralize the acids, these products offer relief almost immediately after taking them.
OTC antacids have been around for a long time, and are marketed under a number of different names, including Tums, Rolaids, Pepto Bismol, Mylanta, and Alka-Seltzer. These agents may rely on different compounds to achieve a reduction in stomach acid, including aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate and magnesium. Like any medication, overuse of these products can cause serious health problems, so dosing recommendations should always be followed. Because antacids neutralize stomach acids, they can interfere with the normal digestion process. As a result, the absorption of certain nutrients may also be blocked. If these products do not provide relief, you should see your doctor, rather than taking increased amounts of antacids.
Antacids containing certain compounds may exacerbate other medical conditions; for instance, antacids containing sodium may cause an increase in blood pressure in those with high blood pressure; calcium carbonate can increase the risk of kidney stones in individuals who are prone to develop them. Like any product containing calcium, calcium carbonate-based products can also result in an increase in acid production.
In addition, antacids should not be combined with certain other medications, including some antibiotics, corticosteroids, and iron- or aspirin-based drugs. Be sure to consult with your pharmacist prior to taking antacids if you are also taking any type of medication, to make sure there are no dangers of combining the agents.
H-2 acid blockers
A second type of medication which is available both over the counter and through a doctor’s prescription is the H-2 acid blocker. These agents work by bonding with the receptors (called H-2 receptors) in cells lining the walls of the stomach, actually preventing the production of stomach acid. These products can produce effects for one to two hours in most individuals, and like antacids, are available under a number of names, including Pepcid and Tagamet. Lower concentration acid blockers are offered over the counter, while more concentrated version require a doctor’s prescription. Acid blockers generally are associated with a lower risk of side effects than antacids, but like any medication, dosing guidelines should be followed.
Proton pump inhibitors
The third class of drugs is known as the proton pump inhibitors. These agents cause the same sort of effect as H-2 acid blockers, but they result in a much greater reduction in the production of stomach acid, and can offer much longer relief. Proton pump inhibitors also work on the cells that line the stomach, causing a significant reduction in the production of stomach acid. These agents are sold under a number of names, including Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium.
The final class of drugs that can be used for acid reflux treatment are the promotility agents. These products work by speeding up the digestion process, causing the stomach to empty more quickly, before excess acid can build up. Currently, these drugs are only available by prescription.
Finally, when none of these options offer sustained relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to help rebuild the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent acid reflux from occurring.
In addition to prescription and OTC drugs, there are certain natural remedies which have been helpful in treating or reducing acid reflux occurrence. Specific lifestyle changes, especially regarding diet, can also have an impact on the frequency of acid reflux.