The Best Acid Reflux Treatment Options
Apr 1, 2020 • 3 min read
If lifestyle changes aren’t easing your acid reflux symptoms (especially things like ditching trigger foods and replacing them with foods that calm acid reflux), it may be time to add some medicine into the mix. Drugs that can help tame the flame include non-prescription antacids, histamine receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Sound like a tongue twister? Let’s untangle them for you here:
For mild acid reflux symptoms, antacids work by reducing the acid in your stomach that causes heartburn. Ingredients typically include either calcium carbonate (Tums) or magnesium and aluminum (Alka-Seltzer Gold). They work within minutes of taking them but the neutralizing effects may only last for about 30 to 60 minutes after each dose, says Neil Gupta MD, regional director of the Digestive Health Program at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, IL.
For slightly more moderate acid reflux, H2 blockers reduce acid production in the stomach. They do this by preventing histamine (an inflammatory for the body) from attaching to H2 receptors on cells in the stomach found in the gastric glands. This, in turn, prohibits these cells from producing excessive acid. H2 blockers contain ingredients such as ranitidine HCL (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid). “Generally, H2 blockers take a little longer to work than antacids, with peak effect happening within two and a half hours,” says Dr. Gupta. However, they last longer and if taken right before eating trigger foods can help prevent heartburn symptoms.
For severe acid reflux symptoms or for heartburn that doesn’t go away with the above medications, PPIs can be even more effective. Similar to H2 blockers in its mechanism, PPIs reduce the amount of acid by blocking the enzyme in the cells of the stomach lining responsible for producing stomach acid. Common ingredients include over-the-counter remedies like omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole magnesium (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid). If an OTC med isn’t working for you, rabeprazole (AcipHex) and pantoprazole (Protonix), may help but require a prescription. Dr. Gupta suggests starting with a PPI if you have heartburn symptoms at least twice a week or symptoms that significantly affect your quality of life. “If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor,” he says.
Most PPIs are best taken after a fast and 30 minutes before a meal, so a half-hour before breakfast is best. They build up in your bloodstream and can take at least a week to feel the full effect. “Doctors usually prescribe a six- to eight-week course of PPIs, as this gives enough time for patients to make dietary and lifestyle changes to hopefully eliminate the need for ongoing medications,” says Dr. Gupta.
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This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 1407 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10018, 1 (844) 265-6444, www.blinkhealth.com.
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