If you suffer from heartburn, you’re not alone. It’s a weekly occurrence for 20 percent of Americans.
But as medications to treat heartburn are now being linked to a growing number of complications, more patients are exploring alternative ways to relieve symptoms.
A class of drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are commonly prescribed for people who suffer from acid reflux, or heartburn. These medications have been linked to joint pain, dementia, heart attacks and an increased risk of kidney damage.
The drugs help relieve heartburn by reducing the amount of acid the stomach produces. But that acid serves other important functions in the body and helps the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Keep in mind that every medication has side effects, and if the benefits of the drugs outweigh the risks for someone, they should keep taking them under medical supervision. You should not stop taking them without talking to your doctor first.
Alternatives to Medicine
If you’re not currently on medication, I would recommend first trying alternative methods to relieve symptoms:
If your body mass index is in the overweight range, you’re almost twice as likely to have acid reflux. Losing weight is one of the best ways to find relief without medication.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol
Both can make symptoms worse.
Eat smaller meals
Overeating can cause indigestion, so it’s better to eat reduced portions throughout the day.
Keep a food diary
This can help you determine which foods and drinks might be triggers. Everyone is different.
Don’t exercise too soon after meals
Pushing yourself too hard, too fast can also cause heartburn. But don’t stop exercising — it can help keep weight under control and prevent acid reflux from happening in the first place.
Elevate the head of the bed
Prop it up six to eight inches to prevent reflux when sleeping.
Heartburn can be a symptom of a more serious condition, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which should be treated. Stomach acid can damage the soft tissues of the esophagus and even lead to esophageal cancer.
If you’re worried you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease, talk with a Baylor Scott & White Health gastroenterologist about options for treatment.