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How Can You Ease Heartburn Symptoms?

You don't have to take a PPI like omeprazole to ease heartburn symptoms. Other medications and some nondrug approaches can help.
How Can You Ease Heartburn Symptoms?
Heartburn is a feeling of burning in people chest, and is a symptom of Acid reflux or GERD. A woman suffering from heartburn on a gray background.

If you suffer from heartburn, you might describe it as a burning sensation under the breastbone. People with recurrent reflux can usually also talk about the types of foods that trigger their discomfort. They may take one of several kinds of medications to ease heartburn symptoms, but nearly all of them have some disadvantages as well.

Trying Different Drugs to Ease Heartburn Symptoms:

Q. I took omeprazole for years, but when I learned it could weaken my bones my doctor switched me to ranitidine (Zantac). I was pleased to be using something safer for my reflux, but then I read that ranitidine may contain a cancer-causing chemical.

What else could I take to ease heartburn symptoms? I do not want to return to a PPI like omeprazole.

Possibly Pepcid:

A. Have you considered famotidine (Pepcid)? As a histamine-2 blocker, it is in the same class as ranitidine. However, its different chemical makeup means it has not been linked to potential carcinogens. You can purchase it without a prescription just like you bought ranitidine. That would definitely be one way to ease heartburn symptoms, but there are others.

Actually Antacids:

Although many people refer to all acid-suppressing drugs (including both PPIs and H2 blockers) as antacids, they aren’t. But you are probably familiar with some antacids that neutralize stomach acid in the short term to ease heartburn symptoms that crop up occasionally. Drugs like Tums (calcium carbonate), Rolaids (calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide) and Maalox (aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and simethicone) have been mainstays of OTC treatment of indigestion for years.

You can learn much more about preventing and treating acid reflux and other gastrointestinal conditions in our newly revised eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders. Adopting some dietary changes might help ease heartburn symptoms without serious side effects.

If you have found a good way to manage reflux, be sure to share it in the Comments below.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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