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