What is the quickest way to get rid of heartburn?
Taking antacids is considered the quickest way to get rid of heartburn. These over-the-counter medications help neutralize stomach acid. They are one of the first recommended treatments. They may provide quick relief. However, antacid overuse can cause problems such as diarrhea or chronic kidney disease, especially if they contain aluminum and magnesium.
Other common ways to get rid of heartburn include
- H2 receptor blockers: These medications work to reduce the amount of acid that is made in the stomach. While they do not work as quickly as antacids, they provide longer relief for up to 12 hours. Examples of these include Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Zantac and Axid AR. Although most people have no problems taking them, long-term use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency leading to an increased risk of bone fractures.
- Proton pump inhibitors: This class of medications block acid production. They also help to heal any damage caused to the lining of the esophagus. They are much stronger than the H2 receptor blockers and include Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix and Zegerid. Excessive use of these medications can cause diarrhea and nausea, vitamin B12 deficiency and an increased risk of bone fractures.
- Baclofen: This medication works to strengthen the muscular valve present at the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. However, it may cause nausea and fatigue in some people.
- Surgical procedures: In rare cases, these are required to help with severe heartburn symptoms.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where acid in the stomach flows back into the esophagus causing irritation of the esophageal lining. The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle that controls the passage of food and drink between the esophagus and the stomach. Sometimes, this muscle does not close completely allowing acid from the stomach to flow back into the throat or esophagus. This abnormal condition is called gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. Its symptoms include sore throat, hoarseness in the voice and a very bad taste in the mouth. When these symptoms become recurrent and severe, it is called GERD. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn (pain in the upper abdomen and chest that sometimes feels like you're having a heart attack).
Three conditions can cause GERD
- Poor clearance of food or acid from the esophagus or throat
- Too much acid in the stomach
- Delayed stomach emptying
Symptoms of heartburn include
- Sensation of burning, pain or discomfort after eating located in the breastbone (middle of the lower chest underneath the sternum). The discomfort may increase when bending over or lying flat on your back.
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or feeling like food is stuck in the lower esophagus
- Cough or respiratory discomfort
How can I relieve heartburn without medications?
If you suffer from heartburn, try one of the remedies below
- Lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle: Weight gain strains the muscular structure that supports the lower esophageal sphincter, reducing the pressure that holds the sphincter closed. This leads to reflux and heartburn. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and losing weight can help reduce symptoms of acid reflux.
- Don’t smoke: Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter causing heartburn symptoms of heartburn. Quitting smoking may help reduce acid reflux symptoms.
- Skip carbonated beverages: Carbonated beverages may make a person burp, which sends acid into the esophagus. Skip carbonated beverages and drink water instead of sparkling water to curb acid reflux symptoms.
- Eat sparingly and slowly: Patients can try grazing (eating smaller meals more frequently rather than three large meals daily) to reduce acid reflux symptoms.
- Avoid certain foods: People with acid reflux may be instructed to eliminate some foods that are more likely than others to trigger reflux, including mint, fatty foods, spicy foods, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, chocolate and alcohol.
- Prop yourself up after eating: When standing or sitting, gravity alone helps keep acid in the stomach where it belongs. Finish eating at least three hours before going to bed. This means no naps after lunch and no late suppers or midnight snacks.
- Don't move too fast: Avoiding vigorous exercise or strenuous workouts for a couple of hours after eating can curb the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Check your medications: Some medications such as postmenopausal estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants and anti-inflammatory painkillers can relax the sphincter or irritate the esophagus. Identifying and curbing such medication use after discussing it with the doctor may help reduce acid reflux symptoms.
- Adjust sleeping position: Most acid reflux occurs during sleep. To prevent nighttime attacks, patients may need to position their head above their abdomen. Elevate the head of the bed a minimum of 30 degrees. A firm foam-rubber wedge or bricks placed under the bedposts can help elevate the head of the bed. Avoid lying flat down, especially right after eating.
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American College of Gastroenterology. "Acid Reflux." 2017.
familydoctor.org. "Heartburn." Updated: Mar 2014.
National Library of Medicine; PubMed Health. "Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD." Updated: Nov 18, 2015.
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