Heartburn Treatment Options
Heartburn or acid indigestion is a painful burning sensation that is often felt in the center of the chest or upper stomach. Pain can also radiate to the arms, neck or jaw. These feelings can last for only a few minutes or up to several hours. These symptoms may return several times in a day or be sporadically over time.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is caused by the improper function of a small muscle at the top of your stomach and bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter. When this muscle opens too frequently or doesn’t close tightly enough, stomach acid can rise into the throat which causes the painful feeling.
Heartburn can often be felt in the following situations:
- Triggered by specific diets
- Lying down after eating
Additionally, individuals who are overweight, smokers, pregnant, or have a hiatal hernia are at increased risk for heartburn.
Your Heartburn Treatment Options
If you're suffering from heartburn, there are several heartburn treatment options available, from over-the-counter, prescription medications, to natural remedies and simple lifestyle changes.
Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medication
Heartburn is a common condition today, and several over-the-counter medications aim to reduce or treat its causes. These over-the-counter options are called antacids. The role of antacids is to help reduce the amount of stomach acid and acid indigestion levels in the body – which case the symptoms of heartburn.
While this may be a great option for many people with heartburn, some brands of antacid may cause diarrhea or constipation in some individuals due to the ingredients in the medication. You should follow the directions or consult with your physician, especially if you begin to require their use regularly.
Proton-Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPI's) are intended to treat frequent heartburn or heartburn that occurs at least twice a week for two weeks. The PPI’s that were named are also available in higher strength prescription forms.
Another option for over the counter medication that utilizes both an antacid and an acid reducer is Pepcid Complete.
However, none of the over the counter medications are designed to be used for long terms without the direction of a physician. If you have symptoms that are lasting more than two weeks, you should schedule an appointment and describe your symptoms. Physicians will likely want to rule out other serious conditions and evaluate the effectiveness of your current regimen.
Prescription Medication for Heartburn
Most of the over the counter medications are not designed to be taken for an extended period of time. That’s why it is necessary to speak with your doctor if our notice that you need medications regularly. Physicians are likely to prescribe a medication that is designed to be used for an extended period.
The prescription medications are similar in type to their less potent counterparts. They may include histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
The third type of medication, called a promotility agent, is aimed at strengthening the sphincter muscle and stimulating the muscles of the intestinal tract to reduce the amount of stomach acid available.
Natural Heartburn Treatments
If you would rather forego medication and attempt to reduce or eliminate the effects of heartburn in a different way, there are several other treatment options. Some of these options include changing your diet.
Heartburn is often triggered by overeating or eating certain types of food. A simple reduction in the amount of food that you consume at any one time may help to alleviate your symptoms.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
You may also want to watch the types of foods that you eat. Foods that have had an association with heartburn include greasy, fatty, or spicy foods. Citrus, peppermints, tomatoes, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and carbonated drinks have also contributed to feeling heartburn.
Also, smokers are more prone to have heartburn, so quitting is another option.
Focus on Effective Exercises
While weight loss is considered another factor that can help reduce the frequency or severity of heartburn, researchers also caution against heavy exercise. Heavy exercise can jar the stomach acids and cause them to rise into the esophagus. Additionally, yoga or activity that causes you to move into inverted positions can also lead to heartburn.
Other Simple Tips
Other heartburn treatment options include eating well before bed and to avoid lying down for 2-3 hours after eating. Wearing loose clothes helps to reduce pressure and restriction on the stomach and does not force stomach acid past the esophageal sphincter.
What to Keep in Mind While Treating Heartburn
Heartburn is an uncomfortable condition that certainly needs attention. Don’t suffer in silence or assume that you must learn to live with it. It is essential to pay close attention to how often you are medicating yourself at home as most medications are not intended for long-term use.
If you notice a continued need for over-the-counter medications, then you likely need medical assistance. If you suffer from heartburn, make sure to notify your doctor right away. You could get faster relief or rule out other illnesses or conditions.