How to Treat Symptoms of Heartburn

Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is a burning sensation mid chest that worsens when you bend over or lay down. It usually occurs after eating and at night. It is caused by reflux. Reflux occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your food pipe (esophagus), resulting in inflammation. It is considered a disease when you have symptoms more than 2 times a week.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition of digestion that allows stomach acid to go up the esophagus due to a weakening of the muscle at the point where the esophagus ends and your stomach begins. GERD often interferes with routine daily activities, and result in damage to your esophagus.

Symptoms include heartburn, vomiting or spitting up blood, bitter taste in your mouth, burning sensation in your chest pain, dry cough, painful throat, painful swallowing, and a hoarse voice.

Complications from GERD include scarring of the esophagus, bleeding in stomach or esophagus, and ulcer formation in the esophagus or stomach. Risk Factors for GERD include eating spicy or
hot foods, alcohol, soda, caffeine, fatty foods, gassy foods (certain vegetables), pregnancy, obesity, smokers, and those with abdominal hernias.

Treatment for GERD includes the following:
Antacids help to neutralize the pains in your stomach, but will not treat the inflammation of the esophagus. Over use can cause constipation and diarrhea.
Gaviscon
Tums
Maalox
Mylanta
Rolaids

Histamine-2 (H2) Blockers reduce production of acid in the stomach. May not be as good for treating esophagitis (inflammation that occurs in the esophagus). Histamine stimulates acid production, especially after meals, so H2 blockers are best taken 30 minutes before meals. They can also be taken at bedtime to suppress nighttime production of acid. Examples of prescription H2 blockers:
Nizatidine (Axid)
Famotidine (Pepcid)
Cimetidine (Tagamet)
Ranitidine (Zantac)

These drugs are useful at relieving heartburn, but may not be as good for treating esophagitis (inflammation that occurs in the esophagus). Side effects can include headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, gas, sore throat, runny nose, and dizziness.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs that block acid production more effectively and for a longer period of time than the H2 blockers. PPIs are best taken an hour before meals. They include:
Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
Esomeprazole (Nexium)
Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
Omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid)
Pantoprazole (Protonix)
Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)

Many doctors do not believe that one drug is more effective than the others in treating GERD. These medications are also good for protecting the esophagus from acid so that esophageal inflammation can heal. Side effects can include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, nausea, and gas.

Home Care
Avoid eating foods and drinks that trigger heartburn. Fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, citrus fruits (pineapple, strawberries), vinegar, foods that can cause gas (peppers, cabbage,), and caffeine may make heartburn worse. Do not over eat. Try eating smaller frequent meals. Do not lie down after a meal, and wait 2- 3 hours after eating before lying down or bending over. Elevate the head of your bed. Do not smoke. Avoid medications that can irritate your stomach, like NSAID's (Aspirin, Aleve, Ibuprofen.

Seek medical attention if symptoms occur for more than 2 times a week, and over the counter medications do not help, if you have difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, or weight loss.