GERD:Which over-the-counter remedy will help you reflux?

YOUR DOSE OF MEDICINE - Charles C. Chante MD () - November 20, 2005 - 12:00am
In drugstores across the country, people suffering a spectrum of reflux symptoms, from occasional heartburn to persistent regurgitation, are analyzing over-the-counter (OTC) warning labels: Do not use with other acid reducers. Use only for occasional relief of upset stomach. Stop use and consult a doctor if you need to use this product for more than 14 days. But what if you’ve seen your doctor if you need to use this product for more than 14 days. But what if you’ve seen your doctor, received a diagnosis and been sent off to the store for an OTC. If you feel like you’re getting mixed messages from your doctor’s office and OTC manufacturers, you’re not alone. But in less time than it takes to decipher the label on your reflux medication, you’ll understand why the fourteen-day rule applies to almost all over-the-counter medications for heartburn.

When stomach acid moves backward from your stomach into your esophagus, the result is often a burning sensation in the chest. Although occasional heartburn is not uncommon and may be treated with an antacid, a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), results when symptoms persist for several months and are accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth and frequent regurgitation. Over time, GERD can cause significant damage to the esophagus, lungs or mouth if left untreated.

If you’re experiencing mild symptoms less than two times a week, an antacid may be your best bet. An antacid alone is suitable for quick relief of occasional (no more than two times weekly) heartburn, says an associate professor of medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Antacids neutralize the acid in the stomach, which prevents the esophagus from becoming irritated when acid regurgitation occurs. Perhaps the most attractive benefit of an antacid is its ability to work quickly. There are plenty of brands of antacids in various forms you might try. The time and amount of dosing varies with each brand, so be sure to choose one that is right for you. Many antacids are even dual-action, combining calcium and anti-gas components with soothing heartburn relief.

Antacids may temporarily treat a mild case of heartburn effectively, but for more intense, persistent symptoms, low-dose H2 blockers are available over-the-counter. H2 blocker are available over-the-counter. H2 blockers work by preventing certain cells of the stomach’s lining form secreting acid, thereby resulting in less acid that can flow backwards from your stomach to your esophagus. Though often effective for people suffering from GERD, H2 blockers may cause dire effects like dizziness, dry moth and drowsiness and are not intended for long-term use unless prescribed by a doctor.

Not everyone has success with H2 blockers. For some, proton pump inhibitor (PPIs), which is also available in a stronger prescription formula, may be a more effective approach in treating GERD. Although intended for 14-day use, it can be taken long-term, can be taken for many weeks, months or even years if appropriate under the supervision and advice of a physician. May even reverse some of the negative effects or reflux disease by limiting acid production.

We all self-diagnose at one time or another, which, when it comes to heartburn, isn’t always as risky as it might seem. It’s not always necessary to consult a doctor before taking OTC medications for heartburn since heartburn is so common. Over-the-counter medications such as antacids can be taken as needed, but keep in mind that OTCs are only FDA approved for 14 days of continuous use, after which it is recommended that you consult a doctor.

Hopefully we’ve cleared up any confusion about OTC reflux medications. Now onto clearing up that heartburn.

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