Stopping the Burn: Effective Treatments for Reflux
That spicy taco you had for lunch or the slice of chocolate cake after dinner may have been tasty at the time, but treats like these can often leave you reaching for the antacids. The discomfort of indigestion, often described as reflux or heartburn, strikes all of us at one time or another.
Fortunately, most cases of reflux can be treated with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. You may need to experiment with different remedies to see what is most effective for your particular needs.
Six Remedies to Calm the Pain
Many heartburn sufferers have found the following changes helpful:
- Think Small Plate – Eating smaller meals can help combat reflux.
- Make a List of Food Culprits – Start noticing if certain foods trigger your heartburn. Common foods that may cause problems include fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and caffeine.
- No Late Night Meals – Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
- Modify Your Bed – Reduce reflux at night by putting wooden or cement blocks under the feet of your bed in order to raise the head end by 6 to 9 inches. You may also put a wedge under the mattress. However, propping up with pillows is not effective.
- Put Down the Cigarettes – Smoking can increase heartburn and affect the function of the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus.
- Check the Scales – Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds can put pressure on your abdomen and push up your stomach.
Treatment for reflux can also include over-the-counter medications. There are three different types of medications that are designed to either neutralize or reduce stomach acid. Some of these medications are also available in a prescription form.
- Antacids – Over-the-counter-medications designed to neutralize stomach acid include Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums. They provide relief from symptoms, but antacids alone will not heal an inflamed esophagus or stomach.
- H-2 Receptor Blockers – These medicines reduce acid production and include Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC, Axid AR, or Zantac.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors – These medications are stronger blockers of acid production than the H-2 Receptor blockers and include Prevacid, Prilosec, and Zegerid.
When to See a Doctor
While occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm, constant heartburn should be evaluated by a physician. Make an appointment with your doctor if you still have symptoms after using over-the-counter medications or your heartburn occurs more than once a week. You should also call the doctor if you have nausea or vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or weight loss due to difficulty eating.
Persistent symptoms like those described above could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. To determine if your heartburn is a symptom of GERD, your doctor may recommend testing or refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in disorders of the digestive system.
The gastroenterology team at Lebauer, located on North Elam Ave. in Greensboro, NC, includes seven physicians specially trained in gastrointestinal disorders and procedures. Appointments may be made by calling 336.547.1745. You can also learn more about procedures and treatments offered by the Lebauer team.