Do you suffer from acid reflux and heartburn? There's good news: it's possible to ease your symptoms without a prescription!
Gastric reflux and heartburn: what are they about?
Many of us have suffered from heartburn. Most of the time, this pain is not serious and the various products sold over-the-counter are sufficient to adequately relieve it. However, for some, this excess acidity can be related to a more serious problem that will require medical attention.
Acid reflux (or gastric reflux) is a digestive disorder where the acidic stomach contents go back into the oesophagus. Heartburn is the most common manifestation of acid reflux. However, other symptoms can also be present such as difficulty swallowing, eructation (burping), unpleasant taste in the mouth or bad breath.
Heartburn and acid reflux are common ailments for which people often consult a pharmacist.
How can acid reflux and heartburn be prevented?
- Reduce stress.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid spicy or fatty foods.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid acidic foods such as citrus fruit, vinegar, and tomatoes.
- Eat several small meals instead of three heavy ones. Eat and drink slowly.
- Limit your caffeine consumption, such as coffee, tea, chocolate and certain soft drinks.
- Lose some weight, if it is above your healthy weight.
Which over-the-counter products can provide relief?
Certain over-the-counter medications can be taken to relieve heartburn.
Antacids act by neutralizing excessive acid present in the stomach. Owing to their rapid action, they are useful to relieve incisive heartburn; their action is short-lived.
These products must be used on an occasional basis. Speak to your pharmacist before using them. Some products may not be suitable for you or may interact with the medications you take.
Acid blockers (H2 blockers)
Acid blockers act by limiting acid secretion in the stomach. Their effectiveness lasts for about nine hours, but they may take up to an hour to act. To prevent heartburn, they should be taken one hour before meals. This medication can be taken once or twice a day.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
This drug class was formerly only available with a prescription. It is now possible to purchase PPIs over-the-counter. However, they are kept behind the pharmacy counter. These products do not act by neutralizing gastric acid, but rather by preventing its secretion. They act for a period of 24 hours.
What if symptoms persist?
Consult your doctor if your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, if they worsen or if you feel no relief after taking an over-the-counter product. It may be necessary to identify the cause of symptoms and attempt to eliminate them. In addition, your situation may require a prescribed treatment. Speak to your doctor about the different treatment options available to you.
You must see a doctor immediately if you:
- have had a gastric ulcer in the past
- have a family history of gastric ulcers
- are over the age of 60
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- have blood in your stools (black stools)
- have a pain in your arm, shoulder or neck that accompanies your heartburn
Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about acid reflux or heartburn.