When you have a terrible heartburn, it feels like your chest is on fire! That acid building up in your throat can cause damage to the lining of your esophagus! So it’s important to know how to treat heartburn and try to prevent it in the future.
Below are a few heartburn treatments that you can try at home or pick up at your pharmacy without a prescription.
Non-Medication Heartburn Prevention Options
A study had people chew sugarless gum after a fatty meal for 30 minutes. They found that the people who chewed the gum had fewer heartburn symptoms than the people who did not chew sugarless gum!
This is a great and painless heartburn treatment option if you want to avoid using medications.
Do you have heartburn symptoms at night when you are trying to fall asleep?
Consider brewing a cup of chamomile tea. It reduces acid in the stomach and also helps with inflammation in the esophagus.
Chamomile is is also thought to be a great stress reducer. If you heartburn is brought on by stress ( I know mine is!), chamomile tea might be a good option for you.
It also helps fall asleep because it is relaxant.
Apple Cider Vinegar
When my mother wants to prevent heartburn after a “risky meal”, she brews a cup of tea and places a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in it, then adds a teaspoon of honey.
It seems counter-intuitive to add acid to your stomach when you feel like you already have too much to start with, but sometimes it’s not about the acid.
It’s about balancing out the pH in your stomach.
Over-the-Counter Products to Prevent Heartburn
There are two main categories of heartburn medications used for prevention:
- Acid blockers, and
- Proton pump inhibitors.
These drugs usually end in “dine” like, Ranitidine or Famotidine. Sometimes they are called H-2 blockers or H2RAs.
They are my favorite class of medications because they usually work in about an hour and your body does not get addicted to them.
Acid blockers work directly in your stomach, inhibiting your stomach lining from producing acid. You can take this medication at the start of heartburn symptoms or if you know you’ll be eating food that day that causes heartburn.
WARNING: One of the acid blockers called Cimetidine has a ton of drug interactions. As a pharmacist, I always advise patients to avoid Cimetidine and take Famotidine or Ranitidine instead.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)
These drugs end in “azole” like Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, or Lansoprazole.
They take about one to three days to start working and are more often used for treatment of stomach ulcers and not as much for heartburn treatment.
PPI’s work by getting absorbed by your body, traveling through your blood stream, then incorporating themselves into your stomach lining. They inhibit proton pumps from producing acid.
This class of drugs works great if you have heartburn all the time and you have already tried lifestyle modifications, changing your diet and home remedies for acid reflux.
WARNING: Your body becomes dependent on this medication after you use it for more than a few weeks. If you suddenly stop taking it, you will likely have rebound heartburn. Talk to your physician or pharmacist if you want to stop taking your PPI. They can help transition you off of it!
Over-the-Counter Heartburn Treatment
If you just get heartburn once in a while, especially when you’re stressed or after a big meal, consider one of these heartburn treatments:
- Alka-seltzer: This effervescent tablet has three ingredients, aspirin, sodium bicarbonate and anhydrous citric acid. Dissolve the tablets in water and follow the directions on the package.
- Milk of Magnesia: This is a suspension of magnesium hydroxide and has a white milky appearance. It also works to reduce constipation, but if you take too much of it, it may cause diarrhea. Limit your use to no more than a few times a week as it can interfere with iron and folic acid absorption.
- Maalox: This liquid is a combination of magnesium, aluminum, and simethacone. The simethacone is a surfactant that helps break up gas bubbles in the stomach. This is a good option if you are having problems with bloating as well as heartburn.
- Pepto-bismol: The main ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate. It’s famous for it’s pink color and comes in a variety of forms that may include other ingrediants.
Interestingly petop-bismol may turn your stools or tongue black because of the sulfur component, but don’t worry! It goes away.
NOTE: Do not use pepto-bismol or alka-seltzer for people <18 years old due to the salicylate component in the medication. This can increase risk of death and other diseases if given to children.
What heartburn treatment or prevention strategies have you tried that have helped relieve your heartburn symptoms?