Experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be painful. You’re probably wondering what can stop acid reflux to immediately relieve your symptoms? There are many over-the-counter drugs that can eliminate heartburn rather quickly.
However, some people want to know other safe and effective ways to manage GERD. Others want a long-term solution to get rid of it forever.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you can do for immediate acid reflux relief and how to manage GERD.
Regular Heartburn Medications: Pros and Cons
There are three types of heartburn medications:
- Histamine antagonists (H2 blockers)
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
They work quickly and liquid versions usually work faster. However, these medications can come in tablets, capsules, or chewable gummies.
Antacids neutralize the stomach acid and relieve heartburn and symptoms like indigestion. These drugs do not prevent acid production, though.
Examples of antacids include:
- Aluminum hydroxide
- Milk of magnesia
- Calcium carbonate
- Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)
Simethicone helps improve both heartburn and bloating. Some acids may cause diarrhea such as magnesium. Others, like Pepto Bismol or those containing aluminum, can cause constipation.
Some antacids have high amounts of sodium and may not be suitable for those with high blood pressure or heart diseases. Individuals with kidney problems should not take aluminum-based antacids. Overuse of antacids with calcium can lead to kidney stones, vomiting, and a change in mental status.
Antacids also interact with other drugs, particularly blood thinners.
Histamine Antagonists (H2 Blockers)
Examples of H2 blockers include cimetidine, famotidine, and nizatidine. Ranitidine was on the list, but the government withdrew it from the US market in 2020 due to cancer-causing compounds it contained.
H2 blockers decrease gastric acid secretion by binding to histamine H2 receptors on parietal cells of the stomach. You should only use this medication in the short term. Many H2 blockers are available over the counter. However, prescription H2 blockers contain higher amounts of active ingredients and work faster.
Side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- And more
For a long list of side effects, refer to the Mayo Clinic’s website.
Elderly people should use these drugs with caution. Individuals with kidney or liver conditions should consult a doctor before use.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
Drugs in this class include esomeprazole, lansoprazole, and omeprazole. They are highly effective and work quickly to stop acid reflux. You can get PPIs over-the-counter or with a prescription for higher strength.
Doctors recommend using PPIs for a short period of time – no more than two weeks.
Side effects include:
- Stomach pain
There are serious concerns with the long-term use of this medication. Overuse can lead to:
- Risk of severe infections with C difficile
- Liver diseases
- Bone fractures
- Nutrient deficiencies (Iron, B12, and magnesium)
- Rebound acid production
- Kidney diseases
- Potential risk of cancer
Talk to your doctor about your concerns about side effects and how to take PPIs correctly.
Home Remedies and Natural Supplements
There are some home remedies and natural supplements that can reduce acid reflux. There isn’t much scientific evidence natural remedies work to relieve acid reflux. This is only because researchers spend their time studying standard drugs. However, people have used natural supplements for thousands of years.
Herbs and supplements that can help manage acid reflux include:
- Chamomile tea
- Marshmallow extract
- Slippery elm
- DGL licorice
- Cardamom seeds
Some people also experience relief when they drink diluted apple cider vinegar. Probiotic-rich foods or supplements are also effective. However, probiotics can cause bloating and other digestive symptoms.
Herbs can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Those who have allergies to plants should consult a doctor that specializes in natural products.
There are a few more home remedies that can help reduce acid reflux quickly.
Use a few pillows to elevate your head when you sleep. Also, avoid sleeping on your right side to reduce acid reflux symptoms at night.
Pay attention to what you eat. Some foods can trigger acid reflux, while others can relieve symptoms. Track what you eat and how you feel afterward to know which foods to avoid.
Chewing gum, especially if it contains bicarbonate, helps increase saliva production. This then reduces acidity in the esophagus.
Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help. This reduces stress, which switches your body from a “fight or flight” reaction to a “rest and digest.” Your digestion will greatly improve. Just a few minutes of daily meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety.
How to Stop Acid Reflux Long-Term
If you are looking for a long-term solution to manage your GERD, you need help from your doctor. Rather than simply treating symptoms, you need to find the underlying cause. You can then treat the condition causing acid reflux and find relief.
Some potential underlying conditions include delayed gastric emptying, autoimmune disease, or Hiatal hernia.
Eliminating risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, and a fatty diet can reduce symptoms. Sometimes treating other conditions associated with GERD like irritable bowel syndrome or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can also lead to improving acid reflux.
If a medication causes acid reflux, a doctor may be able to find alternative options. Look for the root cause of GERD and manage the condition effectively. This will help you stop acid reflux once and for all.