Heartburn is a common digestive issue that causes a burning sensation or pain in the chest. The pain presents behind the breastbone. When a person eats, the normal function of the esophagus is to carry food from the mouth down to the stomach. Heartburn is caused when the lower part of the esophagus relaxes too much or weakens and stomach acids flow back up the esophagus. This is referred to as acid reflux. Acid reflux can progress into GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is more serious and can cause chronic heartburn. So, what are the most effective ways to relieve heartburn?
Answer: Over-the-counter and prescription medications can relieve heartburn symptoms
There are a few over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are effective in combating heartburn. Antacids are often the first line of treatment. Antacids help neutralize the acids in the stomach. Once the acids are neutralized, heartburn is relieved. However, this may only be temporary relief depending on the severity of the heartburn.
H2 blockers are another effective way to relieve heartburn. These are available by prescription or as an OTC medication. These are particularly effective for many who have GERD which causes heartburn. H2 blockers decrease the secretion of stomach acids, which helps relieve heartburn symptoms.
There are even more effective treatments for heartburn. These drugs help greatly reduce the production of stomach acid over a long period of time.
A different approach to the relief of heartburn is the use of prokinetic medications. As noted above, heartburn is caused when the esophagus relaxes too much or weakens; as a result, acid travels back up the esophagus. Prokinetics help strengthen the lower part of the esophagus, which helps stomach contents to empty faster. This reduces the risks of stomach acids flowing back up through the esophagus.
The above information only touches the surface of how to treat heartburn, and there are several resources available that provide more information on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of heartburn.
- Mayo Clinic – The Mayo Clinic is a world-renowned non-profit medical organization. The clinic takes on very challenging medical cases and is also a research-based medical institution. This link will provide more information on heartburn including implementing lifestyle changes. The Mayo Clinic has locations throughout the United States, but its main campus is in Rochester, Minnesota.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) – NIH is the premier government research agency. According to its website, it is the largest biomedical research agency in the world. This link is to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and provides more information on GERD.
- American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) – AGA is a research, policy, and educational association focused on gastroenterological medicine. The website provides a lot of links to journals and research articles on heartburn and GERD through a simple keyword search.