Chicago Health | Homepage
Fast relief for occasional heartburn

Fast relief for occasional heartburn

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: I get heartburn occasionally. On average, I have about three episodes per month. But once the heartburn starts, it can sometimes last all day. What do you suggest?

A: Heartburn is caused by stomach acid moving up out of the stomach into the lower part of the esophagus. Reducing the overall acidity protects the esophagus from burning or irritation when the stomach contents back up or “reflux.”

The fastest treatment is to neutralize the acid already in the stomach and lower esophagus by taking an antacid. You can usually feel relief within minutes.

There are many varieties of antacids with different active ingredients, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide and aluminum carbonate. Magnesium containing products may cause loose stools, while aluminum may be constipating. That’s why many antacids contain a combination of magnesium and aluminum.

Antacids work quickly, but symptom relief often doesn’t last. If that happens, you could repeat the antacid. But I would suggest following the antacid with an H2 blocker. H2 blockers work by inhibiting stomach cells from making acid.

There are several different H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid) and ranitidine (Zantac). There are generic versions available at quite reasonable prices.

Some H2 blockers get marketed as faster acting. Rather than a swallowed pill, the product containing the H2 blocker might be in liquid form. Or it could be a chewable or effervescent tablet. For most people, the onset of symptom relief is similar for all of them. But you may find a particular preparation that works best for you.

Ideally you should not take an H2 blocker at the same time you take an antacid. Wait for 30 to 60 minutes. The H2 blocker starts to act within an hour. Generally the medicine keeps working for another 10 to 12 hours. So, you might need to take another dose later on.

The strongest stomach acid inhibitors are called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They start acting on the day you take the first pill. But it may be many hours before you get relief. And the maximal benefit might take two to three days. So, PPIs are better suited for people with more frequent heartburn than you have.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Could It Be Crohn’s?

Could It Be Crohn’s?

Young people with the disease often go undiagnosed By Rhonda Alexander Imagine jolting awake from a deep

Count ingredients, not calories

Count ingredients, not calories

By Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. Shift your focus from the calories label to the ingredients label, and

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

What Doctors Know Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pneumonia puts thousands of young children

Cartilage repair, restoration becoming more common

Cartilage repair, restoration becoming more common

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I recently heard about cartilage being used in knee joints. Last summer

Discovering need to treat high blood pressure may be too late

Discovering need to treat high blood pressure may be too late

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham whatdoctorsknow.com Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, wreaks havoc on the

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

September 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
August 28, 2016 August 29, 2016 August 30, 2016 August 31, 2016 September 1, 2016 September 2, 2016 September 3, 2016
September 4, 2016 September 5, 2016 September 6, 2016 September 7, 2016 September 8, 2016 September 9, 2016 September 10, 2016
September 11, 2016 September 12, 2016 September 13, 2016 September 14, 2016 September 15, 2016 September 16, 2016 September 17, 2016
September 18, 2016 September 19, 2016 September 20, 2016 September 21, 2016 September 22, 2016 September 23, 2016 September 24, 2016
September 25, 2016 September 26, 2016 September 27, 2016 September 28, 2016 September 29, 2016 September 30, 2016 October 1, 2016

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives