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Treatment Tips for Frequent Heartburn Sufferers

If you have frequent heartburn or acid reflux, try these tips for relief.

Acid Blockers

Another group of drugs works by blocking how much stomach acid you produce. Not as fast-acting as antacids, these acid blockers last longer and can be effective for several hours at a time, says the AGA. Over-the-counter (OTC) acid blockers include Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac. These medications are also available in prescription strength if the milder, OTC forms don't provide enough relief.

These drugs block one type of histamine, produced by your stomach, which in turn blocks acid production. Histamine blockers are typically taken twice a day, 30 to 60 minutes before eating to be most effective, says O'Brien. They're best used as a preventive measure rather than sudden, fast relief of symptoms, she says.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, shut down tiny proton pumps in the stomach that produce acid, lowering acid levels dramatically. They're often used when histamine blockers don't provide enough relief or you have erosions in the esophagus or other complications from GERD. One proton pump inhibitor, Prilosec, is available over the counter. Others, such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix and stronger Prilosec require a doctor's prescription. Another PPI product consists of a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid). PPIs (except for Zegarid) are best taken an hour before meals. 

Other Heartburn Treatment

Reglan is another prescription drug that works to stop acid reflux by speeding up how quickly your stomach empties. Reglan strengthens the digestive contractions that move food through your esophagus. Faster digestion means less heartburn.

Gaviscon, an over-the-counter heartburn treatment, works as both an antacid and a foam barrier where your esophagus empties into the top of your stomach. You swallow the tablet, the antacid neutralizes excess stomach acid, and the foaming agent creates a physical barrier that helps prevent acid reflux.

Call Your Doctor or Pharmacist If:

Here are some warning signs to trigger a call to your doctor or pharmacist, from the American Gastroenterological Association:

  • You're using more than the package directs for any heartburn treatment.
  • You've been using OTC antacids for a prolonged time.
  • Your symptoms aren't relieved, no matter what you do.

One final precaution: Always talk to your doctor about any chest pain that you may have. Sometimes a mild heart attack can masquerade as heartburn, and people have ignored chest pain that was really a heart attack.

Reviewed on April 13, 2009

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