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How Does Heartburn Medicine Work

Helps Lower Acid Production

How Do Reflux Medications Work? (PPI, H2 Blockers, Antacids, Alginates)

Like many heartburn medications, Dexilant is a proton pump inhibitor , which means that it prevents the proton pumps in your stomach from producing as much acid as they typically do.

When your stomach starts to produce less acid, you will feel less heartburn.

You also wont have as much pain because your esophagus and other related areas of your body will be able to heal from the excessive acid that has been bothering you.

Additionally, Dexilant does not block all of the proton pumps in your stomach since some amount of stomach acid is still needed to process food effectively.

That said, it uses two different types of granules to block some of the pumps so that you can live a more comfortable life.

How Should It Be Used

Tums comes as a tablet, chewable tablet, capsule, and liquid to take by mouth. The amount taken per day depends on the strength. Follow the directions on your prescription or package label carefully, and ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.

Take Tums exactly as directed. Do not take more of it or take it more often than prescribed by your healthcare provider. When using this medicine as a dietary supplement, take it with food or following meals.

Chewable tablets should be chewed thoroughly before being swallowed do not swallow them whole. Drink a full glass of water after taking either the regular or chewable tablets or capsules. Some liquid forms of calcium carbonate must be shaken well before use.

Do not take Tums as an antacid for more than two weeks without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Reasons Why Your Heartburn Medicine Isn’t Working

Perhaps you’ve been misdiagnosed. Perhaps your diet is exacerbating your symptoms. Find out why heartburn meds can let you down, and what to do about it.

If you have horrible, persistent heartburn, relief can be as simple as popping a pill once or twice a day. Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, put the kibosh on the stomachs acid production, keeping gastric juice from backing up into the esophagus and causing pain.

But they dont work for everyone. Even if youre one of those people who does well on PPIs you can still have breakthrough symptoms from time to time, when heartburn flares into an agonizing episode.

RELATED: 9 Things That Could Be Giving You Acid Reflux

Studies suggest that up to 40% of people with heartburn who take a PPI once a day still experience heartburn or other breakthrough symptoms once in a while, says David A. Johnson, MD, a professor of medicine and the chief of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., and past president of the American College of Gastroenterology.

Find out why heartburn meds can let you downand what to do about it.

Recommended Reading: What Foods Help Get Rid Of Heartburn

Heartburn Medicine Factors To Consider

When shopping for a new heartburn medicine, there are a number of important factors to consider. Some consumers might only need short-term relief from occasionally eating trigger foods. Others might need a longer-term treatment for chronic acid reflux, GERD, or a sensitive stomach. It isnt unusual to experiment with different types of heartburn medicines in order to find the one that brings the most reliable relief. Here are some important factors to consider while looking:

Relief onset time: While traditional antacid brands offer relief in seconds or minutes, H2RAs and PPIs generally take hours or even days. This delay isnt necessarily a bad thing since these medicines provide longer-term relief. When comparing H2RAs and PPIs, keep in mind that H2RAs usually have a faster onset time, but the effects of PPIs last longer. If faster relief of an occasional bout of heartburn is the goal, try an H2RA first. For more frequent acid reflux, a PPI might be more appropriate.

Mechanism: Different types of heartburn medicine use different mechanisms to address the same basic problem. Antacids chemically neutralize stomach acids but dont affect acid production. H2RAs enter the bloodstream and block acid production. PPIs actually shut down acid production. Consumers should consider the severity and frequency of their heartburn symptoms and shop accordingly.

Speed Up Stomach Emptying

Alginate antacids for treating reflux: a medication comparison study

Another type of drug that is less frequently used for acid reflux is prokinetic agents. These drugs work in two ways. It strengthens the contraction of the lower esophageal sphincter thereby ensuring that stomach acid is blocked from flowing backwards in to the esophagus. It also speeds up emptying of the stomach contents into the duodenum . In this way it minimizes the spillage of the acidic stomach contents into the esophagus.

Prokinetic drugs are not commonly prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux disease largely due to the side effects associated with its use. It is reserved for severe acid reflux where other medication has not yielded satisfactory results. Some of the side effects that may occur when using prokinetic drugs include fatigue, psychological disturbances such as anxiety and depression, as well as neurological conditions. Given the nature of these side effects, prokinetic drugs are not often favored for the treatment of acid reflux.

Also Check: What To Take To Prevent Heartburn

It’s Easy To Get The Care You Need

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Your heartburn medication could be working too well. By reducing acid in your stomach to squelch symptoms from acid reflux or GERD, it could be upsetting your stomachs natural balance of acid that protects you from other ailments. This growing body of research is still taking shape, but it already has the attention of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Taming acid reflux and GERD should continue to be your primary objective to avoid worsening symptoms and possibly esophageal cancer. However, sometimes less can be more in deciding what medication to take and how often to take it.

Heartburn medications come in two forms antacids and blockers. Antacids neutralize stomach acid. Blockers H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors reduce stomach acid and can help your stomach and esophagus heal. Both may pose risks, but PPI blockers may produce more serious ones.

Talk with your health care provider about which medications may work best for you based on your medical history, symptoms and current health issues. Also, heartburn medications can interact or change the way your body absorbs other medications youre taking.

If you have mild heartburn or feel your symptoms may be controlled without PPIs, talk with your doctor about other ways to douse the fire.

What Are The Risks Of Using Proton Pump Inhibitors

PPIs have traditionally been considered to be safe and well-tolerated medications. However, research now suggests that certain risks may be involved with long-term use of these drugs.

A recent study found that people who use PPIs long-term have less diversity in their gut bacteria. This lack of diversity puts them at an increased risk for infections, bone fractures, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Your gut contains trillions of bacteria. While some of these bacteria are bad, most of them are harmless and help in everything from digestion to mood stabilization. PPIs may disrupt the balance of bacteria over time, causing the bad bacteria to overtake the good bacteria. This can result in illness.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public safety announcement in 2011 that stated long-term use of prescription PPIs might be associated with low magnesium levels. This can result in serious health problems, including muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, and convulsions. In about 25 percent of the cases that the FDA reviewed, magnesium supplementation alone didnt improve low serum magnesium levels. As a result, PPIs had to be discontinued.

Yet the FDA emphasizes that theres little risk of developing low magnesium levels when using over-the-counter PPIs as directed. Unlike prescription PPIs, over-the-counter versions are sold at lower doses. They are also generally intended for a two-week course of treatment no more than three times a year.

Also Check: What Fruit Helps With Heartburn

What To Do When The Pain Wont Stop

Even if youre doing well on PPIs, its a good idea to have a backup plan to cope with breakthrough symptoms.

About 73% of people with GERD taking prescription PPIs say theyre satisfied or very satisfied with the medication, according to a 2009 survey of 617 patients published in Current Medical Research and Opinion and funded by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Prevacid. Nevertheless, more than half56.7% of patients on once-a-day PPI therapy and 65.9% in the twice-a-day grouphad heartburn in the week before they took the survey.

Overall, 40% said they resorted to other medications for acid reflux, mostly over-the-counter antacids or histamine-2 blockers.

The most common reason that they were using the over-the-counter medicationis related to incomplete relief of their heartburn, explains lead author William D. Chey, MD, a professor of internal medicine and the director of the gastrointestinal physiology laboratory at the University of Michigan Health System, in Ann Arbor.

RELATED: Have GERD? Stomach Acid May Not Be the Only Cause, Study Says

Patients werent reaching for additional heartburn soothers on their own. It turns out that roughly 60% were advised by their doctors to take antacids or H2 blockers to help with residual reflux symptoms, he says.

Precautions And Possible Side Effects


Antacids can have a variety of side effects which can persist for a long time as well, which is why long-term and excessive usage of these drugs is not advised.

The side effects can vary depending on the contents of the antacid. Brands with magnesium may cause diarrhea and those with aluminum may cause constipation.

Some brands with calcium can also cause kidney problems.

Some common problems that excessive intake of antacids cause is depletion of some important ions or compounds in the body such as copper, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B complex, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

The deficiency of these metals and compounds can lead to severe diseases, for example, calcium and copper deficiency leads to osteoporosis, iron and vitamin B deficiency leads to anemia, magnesium deficiency leads to heart problems, phosphorus deficiency leads to seizures, and confusion, and zinc depletion slows down growth .

One of the most specific side effects of excessive calcium containing antacid is a milk-alkali syndrome, which has serious toxicity and can be fatal. It results in severe hypercalcemia, alkalosis, and renal failure.

Taking non-calcium antacids for a long time can lead to increased risk of rib, hip and spine fractures along with osteoporosis.

Antacids cannot cure more severe problems such as pain in the stomach due to appendicitis, gallstones and stomach ulcers.

Also Check: Best Medicine To Treat Heartburn

Symptoms And Causes Of Heartburn

Heartburn happens when your esophagus the tube that joins your throat to your stomach becomes irritated due to stomach acid. The pain caused by heartburn can be treated quickly with over-the-counter medicines like antacids.

The main symptoms of heartburn include:

Heartburn symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few hours.

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. The acid leaks into the tube through a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter , which connects the esophagus with the stomach. If the LES is weak or not tight enough, the acid flows into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest.

While heartburn is fairly common and can happen to anyone, certain risk factors make you more likely to have it:

Acidic foods or foods high in fat often trigger heartburn. The most common culprits are tomatoes, citrus fruits, cheese, onions, garlic, chocolate, coffee, and peppermint. Eating spicy or indulgent meals can also cause the condition.

What Are The Long

Long-term acid reflux may lead to GERD, which is a more chronic form of acid reflux. Over time, this can damage the esophagus, leading to a condition known as Barrett√Ęs esophagus, which is typically a precursor to esophageal cancer. On average, less than 10% of GERD patients have some form of esophageal cancer.

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When Should I See My Doctor

Your pharmacist can answer questions about medications, side effects, and drug interactions, but can’t prescribe new medications for heartburn. So see your doctor if you think you should change your medication type, dose, or brand. Never stop taking a medication without first checking with your doctor, because suddenly stopping some drugs can cause medical complications.

You should schedule a visit with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms more than twice/week, your heartburn is increasing in frequency or severity or if it persists even after taking non-prescription or prescription medications.

Call your doctor if you experience chest pain that isn’t caused by heartburn or if you aren’t sure. A surprising number of people having mild heart attacks dismiss their chest pain as heartburn.

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How Do Antacids Work

acid reflux medication over the counter

Antacids are bases the chemical opposite of an acid. When you add a base to an acid-containing liquid such as stomach juices, the fluid becomes less acidic. In this way, antacids prevent the stomach contents from getting too acidic, and reduce the chances that the acid will travel up into the esophagus.

These medications may also have other effects that help prevent heartburn1.

Each antacid medication contains one or more active ingredients. These compounds usually work by neutralizing acid in the stomach1. The most common active ingredients in antacids include:

Recommended Reading: What Can I Do For Heartburn

Types Of Otc Heartburn Medicines

There was a time when the most common OTC remedies for heartburn were either chalky antacids or medicinal effervescent tablets. Anything stronger was usually very expensive, available only by prescription, and reserved for those who were diagnosed with bleeding ulcers or other serious digestion-related conditions.

In the 1980s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started approving OTC versions of several of these medications. Here are the three most popular types available without prescription:

Acid neutralizer

Acid neutralizers use chemical bases, such as calcium carbonate, to reduce the stomachs acidity level. When a base interacts with an acid, the pH level moves closer to neutral, thus reducing the effects of stomach acid on the esophagus. Antacids provide almost immediate relief because they interact directly with stomach acids, unlike the medicines described below, which must first enter the bloodstream. The soothing effects of antacids can be short-lived, however. Common antacids include Tums, Rolaids, and Alka-Seltzer.

Proton pump inhibitor

Histamine 2 receptor antagonist

Omeprazole May Cause Side Effects Tell Your Doctor If Any Of These Symptoms Are Severe Or Do Not Go Away:

  • constipation
  • severe diarrhea with watery stools, stomach pain, or fever that does not go away
  • rash on cheeks or arms that is sensitive to sunlight
  • increased or decreased urination, blood in urine, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, rash, or joint pain

People who take proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole may be more likely to fracture their wrists, hips, or spine than people who do not take one of these medications. People who take proton pump inhibitors may also develop fundic gland polyps . These risks are highest in people who take high doses of one of these medications or take them for one year or longer. Talk to your doctor about the risk of taking omeprazole.

Omeprazole may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone .

Read Also: Is Ranitidine Used For Heartburn

Sodium Bicarbonate: Most Affordable Heartburn Medication

Sodium Bicarbonate is an OTC medication that assists with neutralizing the levels of acid in your stomach due to its alkaline pH properties, which can help relieve heartburn. In particular, though, Sodium Bicarbonate is the cheapest antacid available, costing only $3.34 on the GoodRx site. This price is 59% off the retail price of sodium Bicarbonate, which is $8.16.

Through this low cost, individuals who suffer from heartburn can seek medical help at an affordable price. However, individuals who use Sodium Bicarbonate to help with heartburn should use it with care. Typically, doctors recommend only using it when symptoms first appear temporarily. This is because other issues could harm the body if the body becomes too alkaline.

The most common side effects of Sodium Bicarbonate include gas, bloating, cramps, and increased thirst. Doctors advise that children the age of six should only use Sodium Bicarbonate as a medication if prescribed.

Is There A More Natural Way To Manage Heartburn

How Heartburn Works Animation -Acid Reflux Disease Symptoms Causes & Treatments Video GERD Explained

Now that you know that many drugs like Dexilant arent meant to be taken for long periods, are you still sure that it is the right solution to your heartburn problems?

Though they are often taken as long term solutions, these drugs can actually contribute to a variety of health problems for people who take them for extended periods.

If you are looking for a natural and effective way to manage your heartburn, you might want to consider the Heartburn No More program.

Through a natural and holistic approach, this program walks you through the necessary steps to change your life and relieve your heartburn symptoms for good.

Also Check: Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Heartburn Fast

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Otc Medicines For Heartburn

If your heartburn is infrequent or moderate, over-the-counter medicines, which include antacids such as Tums and Alka-Seltzer, H2 blockers such as Zantac and Pepcid, or proton pump inhibitors such as Prevacid and Nexium, are effective, says gastroenterologist John Dumot, DO, Director of the Digestive Health Institute at University Hospitals.

Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach, while H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors work by suppressing stomach acid production.

Over-the-counter medicines can work quickly and are safe for intermittent problems, along with lifestyle changes such as eating smaller meals, avoiding late-night eating or lying down after eating, Dr. Dumot says.


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