Ways to Treat Heartburn
Because heartburn can vary among individuals, the appropriate treatment for one person may not be right for another. Some people may even benefit from basic lifestyle changes. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you make the right decisions. The three main heartburn remedies are antacids, H2 blockers, and PPIs. PPIs, such as Prilosec OTC®, are specifically designed to treat frequent heartburn.
Why Prilosec OTC® Is Different
Prilosec OTC is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). As the first over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor, Prilosec OTC is different from many other heartburn treatments and medications. Here’s how PPIs compare to antacids and H2 blockers:
When you eat, millions of tiny pumps in your stomach produce acid to break down food—and heartburn can occur when excess acid refluxes into your esophagus. A PPI treatment, such as Prilosec OTC, works by turning off many of these pumps to reduce the amount of acid produced, but leaving enough acid for digestion. Prilosec OTC effectively treats frequent heartburn for 24 hours with one pill a day for 14 days. Prilosec OTC starts working on day one, and some people get complete relief of symptoms within 24 hours. It may take one to four days for full effect.
Antacids neutralize the acid in your stomach. Antacids go to work on your heartburn immediately. Unlike a PPI, antacids are commonly taken after you eat or when discomfort begins. While no heartburn treatments cure the condition, antacids provide only temporary relief.
H2 blockers relieve heartburn symptoms by blocking histamine type 2 receptors, one of the three triggers of acid production. H2 blockers can begin working within an hour, so they act faster than a PPI, but they do not provide the immediate relief of an antacid. H2 blockers then continue to work in the body for up to 12 hours. H2 blockers can work preventatively against heartburn, but they do not last a full 24 hours from just one pill.
Citrus and coffee are just two of many triggers. Learn about the most common causes of heartburn. And note that the trigger for any given heartburn episode may be multifactorial—that is, attributable to multiple factors, such as the glass of OJ you drank while exercising and the big dinner you ate just before bedtime.
How Triggers Cause Heartburn
Triggers can cause heartburn in a variety of ways. Chocolate and mint, for instance, appear to relax your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that keeps stomach acids where they belong, thereby allowing those juices to rise up to the esophagus and irritate it. Other substances, such as coffee and beer, increase the amount of acid your stomach produces. And some activities—bending over, wearing a tight belt and clenching your abs, for example—simply put pressure on your stomach, forcing up its contents.
Tracking Your Heartburn Triggers
To track your triggers, download our Prilosec OTC Trigger Tracker as an Adobe® Acrobat® Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Use it to take notes on the foods and drinks you consumed prior to the episode; the medications you were on; and your activities, including sleep and exercise. In addition, record any treatment you took to ease heartburn and whether it worked.
If you decide to consult a healthcare practitioner, your Reflux Record will also help that professional better understand why you experience heartburn—and the kinds of treatment most likely to ease your symptoms.