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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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How Acid Reducers Can Help Treat Heartburn

How Is GERD Treated?

Your doctor might offer suggestions for treatment of GERD that involve lifestyle changes and medications. The following lifestyle changes might help you avoid GERD symptoms:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Losing weight, if necessary
  • Eating frequent, small meals
  • Avoiding tight clothing
  • Not lying down for three hours after eating
  • Raising the head of your bed by 6-8 inches
  • Avoiding food or beverages that might make symptoms worse

Foods that might make symptoms worse include:

  • Beverages that contain caffeine
  • Tomato-based food products (such as spaghetti, chili, or pizza)
  • Citrus fruits or juices
  • Greasy or fried foods
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Mint flavors

What Types of Drugs Treat GERD?

You might find relief from over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Or your doctor may prescribe drugs to treat your GERD. You should consult your health care provider before adding any kind of medication, including OTC drugs. The drugs work to control acid production or to improve the functioning of digestive muscles. GERD treatments may include antacids, foaming agents, proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, and prokinetics.

Antacids are often the first treatment for GERD. Many of these products combine aluminum, magnesium, or calcium with hydroxide or bicarbonate ions to neutralize stomach acid. Common brands include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Rolaids, and Tums. A similar product is the foaming agent, Gaviscon, which provides the stomach lining with a layer of foam protection against the acid.

Histamine 2 blockers (H2 blockers or H2-receptor antagonists) also treat GERD. Histamine is a compound that has wide effects in the body. In the stomach, it's involved in acid production. H2 blockers prevent histamine from landing on H2 receptors. That prevents the stomach from getting the message to make more acid. Therefore, less acid is produced, reducing heartburn. H2 blockers are used to treat both GERD and peptic ulcers. These products are available in a lower strength as OTC medications and at a higher strength as prescription drugs. Commonly used H2 blockers are:

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) block the enzyme in the stomach wall that makes acid. They work a little differently than the H2 blockers. Commonly used PPIs are:

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