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Natural Relief, Over the Counter, and Prescription Medications for Acid Reflux, GERD, and Constant Heartburn

Updated on November 30, 2008
http://www.medicinenet.com/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd/article.htm
http://www.medicinenet.com/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd/article.htm

Introduction to GERD

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Most commonly it occurs when the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus does not close properly or completely and allows acid, bile, and pepsin back into the throat. The acid causes the most dangerous long term damage to the esophagus because it eats away the esophageal lining. GERD is most frequently characterized by heartburn and nausea. GERD can lead to many harmful conditions if not treated properly.

I was diagnosed with GERD when I was 15. I have found many natural methods for dealing with the constant flare-ups of indigestion, heartburn, nausea, and upset stomach. I have also used prescription medications to reduce the amount of acid wear on my esophagus and to repair previous damage to it. Once a medication is started to repair acid reflux damage, it should be an ongoing therapy. GERD is a chronic condition and the acid damage will reoccur once medication is stopped. Leaving esophageal damage unattended increases ones chances of being diagnosed with throat cancer. Do not ignore the signs and symptoms, visit your doctor and implement as many methods as possible to improve your health and your quality of life.

Natural Methods

Natural methods for treating GERD are available and do indeed work. The least expensive way to minimize symptoms is to make a lifestyle change. Implement the following steps to reduce the production of stomach acid and to increase the function of your esophagus.

  1. Do everything in your power to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Eliminate acidic foods, spicy foods, and fatty foods from your diet. Do not eat citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, or meals high in fat. Opt for smaller, lean meals throughout the day.
  2. Do not eat 3 to 4 hours before you lay down for bed. Allow your stomach time to digest food before going to bed. The less food in your stomach, the less acid produced to digest it.
  3. Elevate the head of your bed and let gravity be your esophogus' friend. The elevation will help the acid stay down in your stomach, where it belongs. I elevated the head of my bed by placing a brick under each leg of my bed. I also bought extra pillows to help prop me up throughout the night.
  4. Learn the common GERD triggers and avoid them. They are not the same for all people but may include mint, carbonated drinks, chocolate, milk, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. (Many people think milk coats the stomach and helps with heartburn, but it truly does not. It causes the stomach to produce more acid for digestion and can cause symptoms to flare up.)

Over the Counter Methods

Many prescription medications for heartburn have been released for sale over the counter. The medications work fine and may be less expensive than prescriptions if your medical insurance does not cover them. They are meant to be used by patients with mild heartburn and not with severe GERD symptoms. Heartburn can be treated with Tums, Rolaids, or any other chewable antacid. However, if you are taking these chewable meds every day for an extended amount of time, visit your doctor. You may be dealing with GERD and not just heartburn. There are also once a day medicines available for heartburn such as Pepcid and Prilosec OTC. Again, these are meant to be used by patients with mild heartburn and should not be used to treat severe GERD.

Prescription Options

Prescription strength medications are available and should be taken long term to reduce symptoms, reduce damage to the esophagus, and repair previous damage to the esophagus. Available types of prescription medications include H2 blockers and PPI's. Both work to reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. If the blockers do not work, a patient may also be prescribed a pro-motility drug along with an acid production blocker. Pro-motility drugs are used to speed up the process of digesting food. These are used when excess acid is produced because food stays in the stomach too long due to a slow digestive process.

I am not a doctor and I am not offering advice on how to treat your heartburn or GERD. I am simply sharing what I have learned over the years through my own research and experiences with GERD. If you are ever in doubt about your condition, call your doctor to be safe.

My symptoms are controlled through lifestyle changes and prescription medication. I avoid trigger foods, I elevate my head and chest to sleep, I don't eat late at night, and I take a prescription to repair damage to my esophagus.

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    • Thomas Lartin profile image

      Thomas Lartin 

      4 years ago from Windham, NY

      I agree about apple cider vinegar, I use ACV for many different reasons other than this as I use it for blood sugar maintenance and as an oral rinse after flossing too.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Oooh Audrey - that's a very good guess! It makes sense to me so I will buy it :) Thanks for coming back and answering this. I sing often but I am FAR from a classical singer hahah

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      Came back for another look--classical singers manipulate the diaphragm all the time--stretching it by extending the ribs open to manage the breath flow over the course of the vocal line--My guess (from looking at your diagram) is that the lower esophageal sphincter is weakened by the constant stretch of the diaphragm--but that is only a guess--many singers take GERD medications

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      eye say, thanks for the suggestion - I will have to try it and see what happens :)

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Apple Cider Vinegar also works well. 1 tbsp mixed in a glass of 8oz of water before you eat a meal, will help empty the stomach quickly as I discuss in my hub, helping to stop heartburn, and it actually works as I have been discovering...

      https://eyesay.hubpages.com/hub/-My-Natural-Pain-R...

      great hub and thanks for sharing; this is a very common problem and all suggestions that might help are great!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Audrey, they do?! I never knew that. Do you know why?

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      Great information Ardie--a lot of singers suffer from GERD---

    • Melanie Gladney profile image

      Melanie Gladney 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hello! Thanks so much for this hub! I, too, have suffered from GERD. Please check out my hub for an all natural alternative to PPI's. :-)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      Gerd Relief? Yes, those are all terms associated with this article...Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Gerd Relief 

      7 years ago

      Gerd Relief,Acid Reflux,Heartburn,Acid Indigestion,Agita,Gerd Self Help , symptoms of gerd, what is gerd, gerd symptoms, gerd remedies, treatment of gerd, gerd causes

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      Vocalcoach - I hope it helps you or someone you know! My husband learned how to control his own reflux just by eliminating certain foods and by not eating after a certain time of day. It has really made a difference. Thanks for the vote :D

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      So glad I ran across this well written hub. I have learned which foods to avoid, thanks to you, to prevent reflux. Voted up!

      vocalcoach~

    • Meredith_A_Iager profile image

      Meredith_A_Iager 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      PROTON PUMP INHIBITORS CAN BE MURDER TO YOUR GI TRACT IF USED FOR NO REASON

      PLEASE NOTE: Proton Pump Inhibitors are used for ONLY Gastritis, GERD, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, or other POSITIVELY DIAGNOSED GI issues. ALWAYS MAKE SURE you get second, and possibly even a third GI doctor opinion. ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT (pardon the pun) feeling about a doctor; you don’t need anyone telling you it’s all in your head – ONLY YOU know how you feel, and know your “OWN” BODY!!!

      Over the past couple of months (5 months now) I've been going through a nightmare medical crisis. Back in October, I had my tonsils removed, because I had tonsil stones all the time. They are very gross, caused me breathing problems every morning, I had to pick them out every day with a dull dental pick, and it was a nasty mess. My Ear, Nose & Throat doctor said tonsil stones only go away if your tonsils are removed; so I had them removed, on Friday Oct. 8, 2010. Then was in the hospital a few times for minor dehydration, and some nausea from the liquid narcotics that I used for pain after the surgery. I was barely eating during this time of recovery, and the harsh liquid pain medications made me very nauseas, and I had a lot of horrid throat and ear pain, as well.

      Then the hospital suggested I see a Gastroenterologist because of my nausea and they wanted me to rule out gastritis as a possibility for my nausea. So, I went to a female GI doctor who immediately prescribed me a PPI drug to address the nausea. Two weeks after, she did an endoscopy to rule out Gastritis; also all biopsies taken were negative for various things: celiac spru, h-pylori, parasites, and other tests. ALL NEGATIVE! BUT, SHE WANTED ME TO STILL BE ON THE Prescription, 80mg daily, PPI DRUG (severe acid lowering medication).

      Over 11 weeks passed, I was getting worse over this whole time, chronic nausea (not a sea sick nausea – like from the liquid pain drugs during my tonsillectomy – but a nausea that was persistent and directly related to stomach pains, chest pains, and back pains all happening at once).

      Then on January 3, 2010, I started getting pains under my right breast, in addition to “attacks” of chest pains that were like heart attacks, plus the nausea, stomach and pelvic pain, and back pain. Breathing felt like murder because of the severity of my “attacks.”

      I started going to a new GI doctor (2nd GI doc) on January 5th, and he wanted a HIDA scan done asap, and make sure my Gallbladder was okay. Well, I didn’t make it to the HIDA scan. I had an emergency gallbladder removal surgery at on January 12, 2011 at 6 am. I also was diagnosed with mild pancreatitis. The surgeon said he didn’t know why I was having abdominal pain and chronic nausea.

      I thought I was healing from gallbladder surgery during the past few weeks, but the nausea and stomach pains persisted, and worsened anytime I ate food, and hours after eating. The GI doctor said it was all in my head, and those feelings were related to what I had been through and that I was just recovering from my gallbladder surgery (Cholesectomy), however, he wouldn't do any more tests. So I needed a new doctor, I NEEDED MORE TESTS TO FIND OUT WHAT THE HELL IS STILL WRONG WITH ME. This was very real, and disturbing to someone that is NOT NORMALLY SICK.

      Then I found a new GI doctor, my third GI Doc, he wanted to check the pancreas levels, liver function, and have me do an MRCP, and a stomach emptying test - they make you eat a radioactive scrambled egg and watch it digest in 90 minutes. My stomach emptying test showed that my food was barely moving from the stomach into the small intestine. I was then diagnosed with Idiopathic Gastroparesis.

      This means, I do not have diabetes, bulimia, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS, or anything that could have affected the vagus nerve giving me Gastroparesis. Idiopathic means that they don’t know how my vagus nerve was damaged and caused severely slow emptying. NO – what it means is the PPI I was on made me get slow emptying, it also gave me gallstones, and messed up my pancreas too. It is the only DRUG I WAS ON FOR 11 weeks, causing me all these problems, and I hope they aren’t for eternity. I hope my body (which was completely healthy before all of this mess) can recover fully.

      Now, I've been on many motility drugs and they aren't working (one isn't even FDA approved, which is extremely scary), either are the many anti nausea medications I've tried, I'm waiting now to get further help, and am a candidate for a Gastric Stimulator device.

      THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER TAKE A PROTON PUMP INHIBITOR FOR NO REASON IT CAUSES MURDER IN YOUR GI TRACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      PLEASE EMAIL ME IF ANYONE HAS ANY QUESTIONS OR A SIMILAR STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS WHOLE EXPERIENCE AND NOW MY CHRONIC CONDITION CAUSED BY A DRUG IS VERY DISTURBING AND I WANT TO REACH OUT AND HELP OTHERS LIKE MYSELF WITH IDIOPATHIC GASTROPARESIS; OR WHAT I CALL PPI INDUCED GASTROPARESIS.

      mereaiager@yahoo.com

      Gastroparesis : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH000134...

      Medtronic Enterra Stimulator Device: http://www.medtronic.com/our-therapies/gastric-ele...

    • onceuponatime66 profile image

      Jackie Paulson 

      7 years ago from USA IL

      Thanks for such a great topic on reflux. I am so lucky I do not have this. I also eat a bunch of garlic daily to help me.

    • profile image

      Rontaek 

      8 years ago

      I am taking Nexium, but sometimes my reflux attack still comes, this may be due to my eating habits. What I found out recently, when having the attack, avoid hard gardening; just recently, while I was having an attack, and when I was feeling much better in the evening, I went out to do some gardening, I was bending and digging away and almost immediately after that piece of work, I experienced the gas building up in the stomach and soon after that, I had hell.

    • profile image

      treating acid reflux 

      8 years ago

      Really nice information. I like the ideas.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      9 years ago from Neverland

      Hello elvislugerd,

      While I respect your right to an opinion your method of delivery is rude. I am sorry you have had no luck with the above mentioned methods and I wish you the best in your pursuit of health. Thank you for visiting.

    • profile image

      elvislugerd 

      9 years ago

      this information is crap... it helps but minimal results.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      9 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Lgali, great to see you and thank you very much!

      Hi Sufidreamer, Thank you for the tip. I also now eat a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil and seem to be doing much better. But as soon as I eat something greasy, Im back to base one. :)

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 

      9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Hi Ardie,

      Don't know if this will help your situation, but my partner used to suffer awfully with a stomach ulcer. Since moving to Greece, with a diet rich in olive oil, she has had no such problems.

      Hope that helps!

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 

      9 years ago

      Best information on acid reflux Nice hub

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      10 years ago from Neverland

      Thanks, rharper! Its not a very entertaining topic, but one I know : )

    • rharper profile image

      Robert 

      10 years ago from West Texas

      Super! This has to be the best information on acid reflux...

      Robert

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