GERD is a digestive condition that occurs when one experiences frequent acid reflux. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter does not function properly, allowing the acid in one’s stomach to travel back up into the esophagus.
Most commonly characterized by a burning sensation, it also causes an acidic taste in one’s mouth as well as a feeling as though food is in one’s throat. GERD ranges in severity and can affect anyone, although some risk factors increase the likelihood of it occurring.
Some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of GERD include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Trigger foods and beverages
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Lower esophageal sphincter abnormalities
For those experiencing GERD, there are a number of treatment options available to them. Lifestyle changes are often recommended to minimize the occurrence of GERD. The most common lifestyle changes are:
- Avoiding trigger foods and beverages, including coffee, alcohol, chocolate and peppermint
- Losing weight if overweight
- Quitting smoking, if applicable
- Wearing looser fitting clothes
- Eating smaller meals
- Raising the head of the bed 6 inches
- Waiting 3 hours after eating to go to bed
Medicine for GERD
Besides lifestyle changes, there are also a number of medications available for the treatment of GERD. Often times, doctors will recommend starting with an over the counter medication although there are stronger prescription medications available as well.
Medication is conjunction with lifestyle changes give one the most comprehensive treatment plan to reduce the symptoms of GERD.
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Over the Counter Options
Antacids are the most common medication used to treat GERD. This medication works by neutralizing stomach acid, reducing the symptoms of acid reflux. Antacids work quickly but will only provide temporary relief of the symptoms and will not any inflammation present in the esophagus. Antacids should not be used long term as it can cause negative side effects, including diarrhea, magnesium buildup and decreased calcium absorption. Commonly known brands include: Mylanta, Maalox, Rolaids and Tums.
H2 Blockers are another medication used to treat GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid for up to 12 hours. While it takes longer to work than antacids, it usually provides a stronger relief. This option is best for the treatment of acid reflux but does not work as effectively to treat the inflammation in the esophagus. It is recommended that this medication is taken 30 minutes before a meal or at bedtime.
Side effects include headache, diarrhea, nausea, sore throat, dizziness, gas and abdominal pain. Commonly known brands are Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC, Axid AR and Zantac.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Stronger than H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors also block the production of acid in the stomach. However, they work for a longer period of time than H2 blockers, therefore giving the esophagus a chance to heal from irritation. It is recommended that one takes this medication one hour before meals.
Side effects include headache, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. Commonly known brands are Prevacid 24 HR, Prilosec OTC and Zegerid OTC.
Foaming agents work by creating a barrier that sits on the stomach contents, preventing them from causing irritation, inflammation and acid reflux.
Prescription strength H2 blockers function in the same manner as their over the counter counterparts by blocking acid production but are significantly stronger. They also have side effects including headache, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and gas. Common brand names include Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton Pump Inhibitors block the production of stomach acid just as the over the counter options do but are much stronger. Long term use of these medications have been shown to slightly increase the risk of bone fracture and B12 deficiencies. Other side effects include headache, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and gas. Common brand names include Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec and Aciphex.
Baclofen is another medication option for the treatment of GERD. It works by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter by decreasing the frequency that it relaxes. While it is a less effective treatment than proton pump inhibitors, it is still effective for the treatment of severe GERD. However, it has significant side effects associated with its use, including fatigue and confusion.
GERD sufferers do not have to rely on medications and over-the-counter drugs to find fast relief from their symptoms. In fact, thousands of Americans have found a natural way to end their suffering.
If one is experiencing symptoms of GERD, it is important that they see a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. The information provided here is meant to be informative and does not constitute medical advice in any way. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never take medication without first discussing it with their physician or midwife.