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Categories > Digestive Disorders > GERD

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Feeling the heartburn
Antacids aren’t always the answer

A burning question: What is heartburn

As food moves down the esophagus toward the stomach, it has to pass through an opening between the esophagus and stomach. This opening should act as an automatic door, closing as soon as food passes through. But if it doesn’t, acid from your stomach can splash back up through the opening and into your esophagus, causing irritation, or heartburn.

Taking an antacid or other acid reducer is a quick way to relieve heartburn, but this over-the-counter solution is only temporary. If these drugs become a long-term fix, they could be harmful to your health.

Antacids and other acid reducers can cause diarrhea or constipation. Long-term, heavy use of certain antacids may lead to excess calcium in the blood, which, in turn, can result in kidney stones and impaired kidney function, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Some antacids and other acid reducers may make blood-thinning medications and other prescription medications less effective.

Finally, soothing your heartburn with over-the-counter drugs may just be masking a more serious problem such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or an ulcer. If you’re experiencing frequent heartburn, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. And try the following tips to prevent your heartburn:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Lose excess pounds through a healthier diet and exercise.
  • Reduce stress with yoga or meditation.
  • Avoid triggers such as chocolate, coffee, alcohol, fried and fatty foods, minty foods, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, onions, garlic, citrus fruits or juices, tomato sauce, ketchup, mustard, vinegar and pain medications other than acetaminophen.
  • Wear clothes that don’t fit tightly around the waist.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Place blocks under the head of your bed, elevating it six to nine inches, to keep stomach acids down. Pillows won’t work as well.
  • Wait at least two to three hours to lie down after eating.


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