Relieving acid reflux symptoms
There are a number of pills and potions that claim to help with relieving acid reflux symptoms, heartburn and indigestion. You should decide which is best for you based on your symptoms and the cause of your problem.
In extreme cases your doctor may recommend surgery – but usually only after you have exhausted all other possibilities.
Remember acid is not the real problem. You still need to be able to digest. No amount of antacid will neutralise all your stomach acid.
You wouldn’t want it to!!
At best the antacid will affect the acid that has escaped into your esophagus. On the downside, antacids often contain mint.
Mint can make things worse by relaxing the sphincter at the top of the stomach allowing more acid to escape.
Antacids may give you very short term relief.
For acid reflux or heartburn you really need an antacid with…
Sodium alginate is extracted from seaweed (specifically the brown seaweeds).
It is used as a thickening agent in food, drinks and cosmetics because it forms a gel in water.
How can it help with reflux?
The alginate floats on the surface of the fluids in the stomach and forms a barrier which prevents the acid from escaping into the esophagus.
You should take alginate remedies after you have eaten, as the barrier will be disrupted by anything you eat afterwards.
Antacids with alginate work well against acid reflux in clinical trials according to the results of clinical trials .
These are the most effective over the counter remedies.
Gaviscon is the best known and is available in several forms – click here to see which would best for you…
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. They are effective in the treating of ulcers, as well as acid reflux.
PPIs work by blocking (inhibiting) a chemical system called the hydrogen-potassium adenosine triphosphatase enzyme system (otherwise known as the ‘proton pump’).
This chemical system is found in the cells in the stomach lining that make stomach acid.
You can buy low dose PPIs in pharmacies, but your doctor may prescribe them in higher doses.
There are several types, and a number of brands:-
Pantoloc – the active ingredient is Pantoprazole. Pantoloc can be bought over the counter.
Nexium (Esomeprazole), probably the best selling PPI, is also available on line.
Because PPIs do not start relieving acid reflux symptoms immediately, you may have to take them for a day or so to notice a difference.
You should see your doctor if you need to take them for more than two weeks .
H2 antagonists or H2 blockers
H2 antagonists act on the cells lining the stomach to reduce the amount of acid they produce.
The best known over the counter brand is Ranitidine
H2 blockers are not as effective as proton pump inhibitors, but if your symptoms are not severe Ranitidine may work for you.
Before you take any over the counter medication, read the package inserts carefully.
You must check for interactions with any medication you are already taking.
You should consult your doctor if you have any doubts or concerns.
- Chamomile Tea may have a soothing effect on the esophagus. It is a traditional sedative that may help with stress-related heartburn.
- Slippery elm contains mucilage, a substance that forms a gel when mixed with water, which forms a protective coating in the esophagus.
- St John’s Wort is associated with relief of stress and mild depression, but there is some evidence that it can help in relieving acid reflux symptoms.
It has properties that protect the lining of the stomach and esophagus. Animal studies have shown an effect on healing ulcers.It may also have a pain relieving effect.
- Aloe vera juice may also have some action in combating acid reflux, but does have some side effects (particularly due to its laxative qualities), and must never be taken by diabetics or pregnant women.
Oh yes….and, believe it or not, chewing gum can help.
This is because chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva.
Saliva helps to neutralize acid because it contains bicarbonate, an alkaline chemical. It also encourages frequent swallowing, which clears irritating acid from the esophagus more quickly.
In extremis – Surgery
If your doctor recommends surgery for acid reflux, it is likely to be a procedure called “fundoplication” (a wonderful word…). This involves reinforcing the lower esophageal sphincter by wrapping the top part of the stomach around it. If you have a hiatus hernia this will be repaired at the same time.
The operation can be carried out using “laparoscopic surgery”. The laparoscope and instruments are inserted into the abdomen through several small (less than 1 cm or ½ inch) incisions on the abdominal wall. The surgeon performs the operation using a magnified image from the laparoscope.
The small incisions allow for a quicker recovery, as well as less pain and scarring.
If this is not possible you may need a larger incision. The operation is just as likely to be successful, but your recovery time will be longer.
This is a highly successful operation, but there are some after effects, and the usual risks associated with surgery. In rare cases the symptoms of acid reflux return.
For these reasons surgery is the remedy of last resort, when it is clear that there is no other way of relieving acid reflux symptoms for you.