Confused by all the heartburn treatments out there? Here’s how to find the best one for you.
Ever polish off a bowl of chili only to feel a burning sensation in your chest? Heartburn has a way of ruining delicious meals. But you don't have to suffer in silence. Read on to learn about the variety of treatment options that are available—and which is right for your type of heartburn—so you can find lasting relief.
These are the four main options for treating heartburn, a condition that happens when digestive acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus.
Dietary/lifestyle changes: If possible, you can try making certain dietary or lifestyle changes. For example, avoiding certain foods (such as spicy or fatty foods), eating smaller meals, eating dinner at least three hours before bedtime, making sure you stay at a healthy weight, and elevating the head of your bed by six to nine inches are all natural ways to ward off heartburn.
Antacids: These are over-the-counter medications that are often made with magnesium, aluminum, or calcium. They act fast and help neutralize stomach acid, and they're best taken while you're experiencing heartburn. You can get them in a few different forms, such as chewable gummy or tablet, liquid, or pill. This type of medication works well for mild and infrequent cases of heartburn.
H2 blockers: Also called histamine-2 receptor antagonists, when these are taken preventatively, they help your stomach to produce less acid for up to 12 hours. Your doctor might recommend starting with an over-the-counter medicine and then moving on to a higher-dose prescription if the OTC versions isn’t doing the trick. This is a good treatment option if you've already tried antacids and they aren't helping enough with your occasional heartburn, or if your heartburn has increased in severity or frequency.
Proton pump inhibitors: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the strongest option available and are best for those who have frequent heartburn — aka you experience symptoms two or more days a week. Like H2 blockers, they reduce stomach acid—they just do it in a different way. They block the hydrogen-potassium adenosine triphosphatase enzyme system (also known as the 'proton pump'), which is located in the cells of the stomach lining and makes stomach acid. There are over-the-counter versions, like Nexium 24HR, as well as prescription versions.
The Bottom Line
If you have questions, you can always call your doctor before choosing a medication. Your physician will want to make sure that what you have is indeed heartburn, go over any other health conditions that you may have, and review any other medications you're taking.