Last updated: Jun 01, 2009
Heartburn-Easing Foods That Fight GERD
Choosing foods wisely is key View slideshow
The best-known class of drugs for curbing heartburn are the antacidsthink Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta. Antacids, which contain the salt form of minerals such as magnesium and/or compounds such as calcium carbonate, curb heartburn by neutralizing acids in the stomach. Some antacids are also a supplemental source of calcium. "These products tend to offer instant relief," Dr. Chutkan says. "If you had corned beef and fries or if you overdid it at dinner and are having symptoms of heartburn, antacids are appropriate. Antacids make more sense for discretionary use and rare episodes of heartburn."
Histamine 2 blockers
Another class of heartburn drug that you can buy over the counter is a histamine 2 (H2) blocker. These remedies reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking histamine, an organic compound that tells your stomach to churn out acid. There are prescription and nonprescription H2 blockers; the choices you can find over the counter include Tagamet-HB, Pepcid-AC, Axid AR, and Zantac 75.
Available in the United States since 1989, PPIs block an acid-producing enzyme in the lining of the stomach. These drugs also help heal the lining of the esophagus, and do so more effectively than H2 blockers. Prilosec OTC is the only PPI available over the counter; the rest of the drugs in this class require a prescription.
When to see a doctor
Treating heartburn involves more than just popping a pill or munching on a fistful of antacids. These medications work in tandem with lifestyle changes such as cutting out caffeine; consuming smaller, more frequent meals; quitting smoking; and avoiding alcohol, a known heartburn trigger. Other tips that may help extinguish heartburn include not eating after 7 p.m. and propping your head up while you sleep. "You can't expect a pill to work if you are drinking eight cups of coffee and smoking two packs a day," Dr. Chutkan says.