What is heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning feeling in your chest just below or behind the breastbone. Heartburn can occur when the acid that is normally in your stomach backs up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach). Some people have heartburn symptoms occasionally, while other people have heartburn after every meal. The condition can be caused by overeating, eating spicy, fatty, or citrus foods, smoking, or drinking alcohol. Regular use of certain medications, like aspirin or ibuprofen, can also cause heartburn symptoms.
What is acid reflux?
If you get heartburn symptoms more than twice a week you may have acid reflux. Acid reflux is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other signs of acid reflux include burning in the throat or an acid taste in the back of the throat or stomach or chest pain. Some people may experience stomach or chest pain, trouble swallowing, raspy voice, or chronic cough.
Acid reflux is often treated by over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes. Patients may visit a Take Care Healthcare Clinic if heartburn symptoms do not go away after taking medicine or occur more than twice a week. Our nurse practitioners and physician assistants can assess your symptoms and make recommendations for lifestyle changes or prescribe a medication that may work better for you than an over-the-counter product. More severe cases may require you to see your primary care provider or a specialist called a gastroenterologist.
What is the treatment for heartburn and acid reflux?
- Avoid triggers. For some people a trigger may be a certain food or type of food, beverages, or even a component of their lifestyle. Foods that frequently cause acid reflux include chocolate, coffee, peppermint, spicy foods, and fried foods. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and being overweight can contribute to heartburn or acid reflux in many people. Losing weight, quitting smoking and eating smaller meals may help reduce acid reflux. Its better to eat five small meals than two or three big meals. Finally, avoid lying down at least two or three hours after eating. This will allow your body to digest your food and clear it from your stomach which can decrease your chance of having acid in your stomach that can potentially spill into your esophagus. Some patients may even benefit from raising the head of their bed six-to-eight inches with blocks or a foam wedge to help acid from coming back up.
- Medications. There are three kinds of medicines to treat heartburn symptoms:
- Antacids, for mild heartburn that occurs less than twice a week. Antacids like Maalox, Mylanta or Tums can be purchased at drug stores and grocery stores. Antacids contain calcium which neutralizes the acid in the stomach.
- H2 blockers, or Histamine- 2-receptor antagonists are stronger and last longer than antacids. Famotidine (Pepcid AC®), cimedidine (Tagamet®), and ranitidine (Zantac®) are all examples of H2 blockers that are available over-the-counter. You can buy H2 blockers without a prescription at most grocery stores or drug stores.
- PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) include Omeprazole (Prilosec OTC®), esomeprazole (Nexium 24HR®), and lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR®) and are available to buy over-the-counter. Other PPIs may be stronger or work better for some people and are available with a prescription1.
This treatment is available at Healthcare Clinic locations for patients 18 years and older.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
1 Prescriptions written when clinically appropriate. Patients have a choice of pharmacy.
This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.