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Suffering From Heartburn? Pick The Right Medicine!

antacid for heartburn

Had chicken biryani last night at a friend’s party and spent the whole night holding the stomach in pain? Why worry, just pop an antacid. 

Enjoyed the wide range of platter at a wedding reception but reached all the way to home with stomach discomfort? Grab an antacid from your medicine cabinet. 

Ate samosas and deep-fried wadas for breakfast and from then on there can’t sit still and feel like puking? Ask your colleague to get an antacid tab on his way to the office. 

Acidity is one of the common health conditions that almost everyone of us might have experienced at least once in a lifetime. Moreover, we do not think twice before popping an antacid to get rid of acidity. As there are various antacids available in the market, knowing about the right one can help you to pick the best one. To help you get started, here is what you need to know. 

Medications For Acidity: Are All Antacids The Same? 

The medications used to treat heartburn either work by blocking the production of the stomach acids or aid in neutralizing the stomach acid. Based on their action mechanism, these drugs are classified into three main categories namely: 

1. Antacids 

Antacids, in simple terms, are the medications that provide rapid relief from acid reflux. These work by  neutralizing the acid in the stomach and hence are also known as stomach acid neutralizers. These medicines aid in soothing heartburn, stomach discomfort, and indigestion. They are available in the form of tablets as well as syrup. If you are using the tablets, then make sure you chew them properly before swallowing for quick action. Do check the label correctly before use or follow your doctor’s recommendations on the right way to use it. 

Antacids are further divided into different categories based on the ingredients they contain which include antacids that contain:

-Sodium bicarbonate: Sodium bicarbonate is a short-acting antacid which means it dissolves quickly to exert a rapid buffering action. It neutralises the stomach acid and make its pH more neutral. Due to its high sodium content, people who are on low-sodium diet or those suffering from hypertension or heart conditions should consult their doctor.

-Magnesium hydroxide: Just like sodium bicarbonate, antacids containing magnesium hydroxide dissolve quickly in the stomach and provide quick action. Magnesium hydroxide interacts with stomach acid to produce magnesium chloride which is absorbed by the body. It provides rapid relief from acid reflux by neutralizing gastric acid.

-Aluminum hydroxide: Antacids that contain aluminium hydroxide neutralises the acid in the stomach but is known to act slowly. It is also known to inhibit the activity of the enzyme pepsin thereby helping with heartburn. Excessive use of these antacids may cause hyperphosphatemia which may lead to muscle weakness.

-Calcium carbonate: Antacids that contain calcium carbonate are known to provide short-term relief as they have strong neutralizing capacity. However, they are not used for long periods of time because excess of calcium can lead to acid rebound, a condition which causes the stomach to produce more acid than earlier. 

-Alginate variants: Alginates are gum-like substances (insoluble compounds) which float on the gastric fluids to protect the esophagus from acid exposure. In simple terms, they act as a barrier thereby aiding in reducing the effect of the acid on the stomach and providing relief from the symptoms.

2. H2 receptor blockers 

These medications are used to treat conditions that can cause heartburn by providing a long-lasting but not immediate effect. They work by blocking the specific receptors present on the stomach cells that release acids. As a result, the secretion of stomach acid is reduced. Moreover, it also helps in the healing of the damaged tissues in the stomach caused by peptic ulcers, gastritis or stomach inflammation. 

3. Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) inhibitors

Commonly used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), these medications do help in relieving the symptoms such as heartburn. It is usually prescribed to people who do not show any improvement post diet and lifestyle changes or experience gastric symptoms on a regular basis. The action mechanism of PPIs is to block and reduce the production of stomach acid thereby providing long-lasting relief. These are available as both OTC and prescription medications. So talk to your doctor to know the right dose and the right time to take the medication. 

Choosing A Heartburn Solution: Tips To Keep In Mind 

Antacids are widely used for acidity or heartburn. These are considered to be safe in most people. However, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

Take antacids about 1 hour after eating or when you have heartburn. DO NOT take them with food If you are taking them for symptoms at night. 

-Do not give antacids to your kids without consulting your doctor. This is because kids usually do not suffer from heartburn and pain or discomfort in the stomach could be related to other health conditions. 

– People suffering from kidney disease or heart failure should get in touch with a doctor to know the right type of antacid. The reason being, most antacids contain electrolytes which can lead to fluid and electrolyte imbalance in the body. 

– Take these medications as directed by your doctor or mentioned in the leaflet as taking them for too long or taking too much of these medications can lead to overdose. This can put you at risk of side-effects as well. 

– Antacids can help relieve heartburn but if you fail to show any improvement in your condition or if the symptom gets worse even after taking antacids, call your doctor. 

Remember antacids can help neutralize stomach acid or block the production of stomach acid. So depending upon your condition and the symptoms, opt for the right medication. When in doubt, do not hesitate to get in touch with your doctor. 

References: 

1. Sandhu DS, Fass R. Current Trends in the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gut Liver. 2018 Jan 15;12(1):7-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753679/ 

2. Singh P, Terrell JM. Antacids. [Updated 2019 Jan 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526049/ 

3. Ching CK, Lam SK. Antacids. Indications and limitations. Drugs. 1994 Feb;47(2):305-17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7512903 

4. Antacids. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). https://www.iffgd.org/diet-treatments/antacids.html

 

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