Heartburn Medicine – An Overview Of The Options

If you’ve got heartburn, you probably want relief. If you’ve had it before, you know the symptoms of heartburn – that awful, burning in the chest or throat. There are several options for relief. Some are sold over-the-counter; others require the doctor to prescribe relief. Let’s take a look at the kinds of heartburn medicine available and the similarities and differences between them.

Antacids – The First Heartburn Medicine Option

The job of an antacid is to neutralize the excess acid in the stomach. Because an antacid is a base, that’s exactly what it does – it neutralizes the acid that rises up into the lower esophagus. The symptoms of heartburn will be eliminated.

Using an antacid is a good answer if it is sufficient to fix the problem. In order for it to be effective, the antacid needs to be taken as soon as heartburn symptoms are noticed. If taken as a precaution, before getting symptoms, take it about an hour after eating. The relief using an antacid is usually very quick, which is one of the benefits of this heartburn medicine.

Unfortunately, the relief from heartburn with this medicine may only last one half-hour to an hour. Also, an antacid won’t help heal the damage done to the esophagus by the acid. And if you take an antacid, there can be side effects if taken for a long time. These side effects include diarrhea or constipation, and kidney disease.

Baking Soda As A Heartburn Medicine

If you drink a small glass of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) mixed in water, it can relieve heartburn by neutralizing the acid. If you use this too much, however, it can raise your blood pressure.
Alginates – The Barrier Method

An alginate creates a barrier in the stomach to keep the acids out of the esophagus. It is non-systemic, meaning it works faster than an H2 Blocker. This heartburn medicine also gives relief longer than an antacid.

H2-receptor Antagonists Decrease Acid

H2-receptor antagonists (which are also called H2 Blockers) can decrease the body’s production of acid. H2s are systemic, which means they take longer than baking soda or an antacid to work, sometimes a half hour or longer. Often, they are prescribed for use before heartburn occurs.

Low doses of these drugs are available over-the-counter, and are known as Tagamet, Pepcid, and Zantac.

Proton-pump Inhibitors – How Do They Work?

Proton-pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are a systemic heartburn medicine. It blocks the production of acid by changing the proteins (those are the proton pumps) which affect the pH of the stomach. This is not a quick heartburn medicine, but it does give relief for a longer time.