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America Asks About Heartburn & GERD

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Heartburn Worry: Serious or Not?

What you need to know about heartburn -- when to worry, when not, what to do.

How Is Heartburn Treated?

If you have uncomplicated heartburn from acid reflux, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter or prescription medicines. These include common antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums. Your doctor may also prescribe more powerful medications called proton pump inhibitors, such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec, and Protonix. These medicines are considered very effective and help heal the esophageal lining. Other drugs like Tagamet and Pepcid reduce acid production, while still others like Reglan help empty the stomach.

Lifestyle modification, such as cutting down on foods that trigger your heartburn, can help. So can avoiding heavy meals, not eating a big meal within two hours of bedtime, and not lying down soon after a meal. Stress reduction may help reduce heartburn incidents. If you smoke, you should quit, as it can be a heartburn trigger.

If you get exercise-induced heartburn, "try to exercise on a relatively empty stomach," Katz says. Take medication for heartburn before your workout.

If none of those steps help enough, surgery can help. Surgery can be done to strengthen the LES muscle or to repair the hiatal hernia.

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Reviewed on January 23, 2009
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