Acid reflux happens when your stomach acid travels up the oesophagus towards your throat. It is also known as heartburn and causes an uncomfortable burning feeling in the chest. In this post, we answer the common question ‘how do you stop heartburn and acid reflux?’
What is heartburn and acid reflux?
Heartburn and acid reflux are different names for the same thing. They describe when your stomach acid travels up from your stomach towards your throat. The main symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest that can sometimes move towards your back.
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Heartburn is one of the many symptoms of indigestion. Other symptoms of indigestion include:
- Feeling bloated and full
- A bitter taste in the mouth
- Feeling sick
If acid reflux happens often, this is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or GORD). Acid reflux and heartburn are the main symptoms of GERD.
Heartburn can be caused by a number of things such as eating certain foods, anxiety or stress, being overweight, certain medicines, and hiatal hernia.
Heartburn and acid reflux treatment
Acid reflux is a common problem affecting the digestive system and around 40% of adults will have symptoms of indigestion every year. Many treatments are available because it is such a common condition. As well as acid reflux medication, there are many lifestyle tips you can use for the relief of heartburn and acid reflux.
- Stay at a healthy weight. For obese or overweight people, losing weight may help improve your symptoms. Treatments such as Orlistat, Wegovy and Saxenda pens are available for weight loss assistance from our range. If you are thinking about using the weight loss medicine Orlistat, see our recent article discussing how best to use this medicine.
- Try to avoid trigger foods. These can be different for everyone and a good way to identify trigger foods is to keep a food diary. Common trigger foods include spicy or fatty foods, tomatoes, chocolate, and coffee.
- Aim to eat smaller but more frequent meals. Try to avoid eating large meals and aim to eat your last meal 3 to 4 hours before you go to bed. This can help if you suffer from heartburn at night.
- Another easy change you can make to ease nighttime symptoms is to raise the head of your bed. Placing something under one end of your bed can help by making it harder for stomach acid to travel up towards your throat.
- Smoking can be a risk factor for heartburn. If you smoke, stopping smoking can improve indigestion symptoms like heartburn.
- Stress and anxiety may worsen symptoms. The NHS has tips to help with stress and also has a large number of pages on mental wellbeing.
Heartburn and acid reflux medication
Various medicines are used to treat heartburn and both over-the-counter and prescription medicines are available.
Over the counter medicines include antacids and alginates. Antacids include products like Rennie and Milk of Magnesia. These help to relieve heartburn by reducing the acidity of your stomach acid.
Alginates include products like Gaviscon liquid or tablets, and Peptac. These often contain antacids and relieve heartburn by forming a “raft” on top of the stomach contents. This helps to stop acid from travelling up towards the throat.
A newer medicine available over the counter is esomeprazole. This is available as the brand Nexium. It is a type of medicine called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Most of these are only available on prescription.
Visit our online acid reflux/heartburn clinic for treatment options
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
PPIs work by blocking acid production by your stomach. Nexium is an over the counter PPI that contains the PPI esomeprazole. Other PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and pantoprazole. Prescription strength esomeprazole can be prescribed by your GP.
PPIs are very common medicines that can be prescribed for the treatment of acid reflux. They are also used to treat other conditions such as stomach ulcers. They generally help to improve symptoms within a few days and usually only need to be taken once a day.
If you take a PPI long term and stop it suddenly, it can worsen acid reflux symptoms as a side effect. If you are stopping a PPI after taking it for a long time, reduce your dose gradually to prevent this.
H2 receptor antagonists
These types of medicines also reduce stomach acid and relieve heartburn. Examples of these are ranitidine, cimetidine, and famotidine. Ranitidine is available over the counter and is also known by the brand name Zantac.
What can heartburn be a sign of?
Heartburn is a common problem and most of the time there is no obvious reason for it. Most people can use simple over the counter treatments to relieve their heartburn symptoms when they occur occasionally.
Sometimes heartburn can be a sign of more serious problems. It may be associated with problems such as stomach ulcers and damage to the oesophagus, amongst others. If your heartburn symptoms do not improve with treatment, or happen frequently, you should see your GP.
If you notice any other unusual symptoms alongside your heartburn, you should see your GP. This includes difficulty swallowing, losing weight (without trying to), and vomiting often.
Your GP can investigate your symptoms and rule out serious causes. You may be sent for a gastroscopy, pH monitoring or a barium swallow if your GP wants further investigation.
Acid reflux and heartburn are caused by stomach acid leaking upwards towards your throat. This causes a burning sensation in the chest. A number of factors can cause heartburn such as certain foods, stress, and some medicines.
Various treatments can be used to treat heartburn and acid reflux. This includes many over-the-counter products that can be effective treatments such as Gaviscon, Rennie, Acidex, and Nexium. Prescription medication includes proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole and pantoprazole.
If you are worried about your heartburn or have any unusual symptoms, you should see your GP. See the NHS page on heartburn for more information on when to see your GP.
At Simple Online Pharmacy, you can purchase over the counter heartburn remedies for delivery. We also have an online doctor clinic for acid reflux. With this service, you can complete an online medical questionnaire for our GPs to review. Using this information, they can offer advice or prescribe treatments that are delivered via our UK registered pharmacy.