Choosing the Right Heartburn Treatment


Filed under Health & Wellness

For the more than 60 million people that suffer from heartburn each month in the U.S,* finding an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment option that is right for them can be a challenge. “The key is to understand what type of heartburn you have, and choose a medication accordingly,” says Dr. Philip Miner, MD, Director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Digestive Research.

The Heartburn Spectrum

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just one type of heartburn, a condition that’s caused by stomach acid flowing up into the esophagus:

• Episodic is a common type of heartburn that occurs infrequently and is often predictable and manageable in the short-term.

• Frequent heartburn (FHB) is heartburn that occurs two or more days a week. People with FHB might also find themselves using multiple OTC medications more than two days a week to get relief.

• Persistent heartburn is heartburn that doesn’t respond to OTC treatment and keeps recurring. It could be an early warning sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and should be evaluated by a doctor.

“The good news is that once you know what type of heartburn you have, then you can pick the type of treatment that is most appropriate for you,” says Dr. Miner. “Heartburn medications are all effective, but knowing the differences between them can increase the chances of keeping heartburn in check.”

Different Medications Make a Difference

The stomach is lined with millions of acid producing pumps which rely on three chemical signals that tell them to produce stomach acid. The key point of difference between the categories of over-the-counter heartburn medications happens at a cellular level in the stomach:

• H2RAs (histamine-2 receptor antagonist) block one of the signals, thereby reducing the amount of acid produced. One dose works relatively quickly and can generally last from 8-12 hours.

• PPIs (proton pump inhibitor) shut down the active pumps themselves. When used as directed, one daily dose can suppress acid for a full 24 hours.

• Antacids don’t affect acid production itself; they work to neutralize existing stomach acid. While they work the fastest of all treatments, their effects usually last only about 2 hours.

New Study Underscores Importance of Knowing Your Heartburn

A recent study, published in the “Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics,” directly compared two widely-used OTC heartburn medications, Prilosec OTC omeprazole magnesium, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), and Pepcid AC famotidine, a histamine-2 receptor antagonist (H2RA).

Researchers found that both medications worked as well to suppress stomach acid over the first day of use. However with daily use, Prilosec OTC worked better for acid suppression for the remainder of the 14 day study, while the H2RA acid suppression decreased after just a few days.

“Different OTC heartburn medications have different uses and work in different ways,” advises Dr. Miner. “People who find that heartburn keeps coming back while using OTC treatments should talk to their doctors to make sure they are using the right medication for their type of heartburn.”

For more information on heartburn and how to treat it, visit the National Heartburn Alliance at

Article courtesy of ARAcontent

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