Reflux 101 – Part 2:
While acid reflux medicine can lessen heartburn and other associated symptoms, there are side effects that you need to know about before moving forward with acid reflux medication treatment. Before you read any further, please note: you should never change your reflux medications without consulting your doctor. There can be consequences to abruptly stopping or changing treatments.
In this post, we’ll take a close look at acid reflux medications, side effects, and how our Reflux Relief System can help. Use the links below to skip ahead to the section you’re most interested in, or read through for a comprehensive overview of acid reflux medicine.
- Introduction to Acid Reflux Medications
- What’s an Antacid?
- Antacid side effects
- What are H2-Blockers?
- H-2 Blocker side effects
- What’s a PPI?
- PPI side effects
- Alternatives to Acid Reflux Medicine
- Find Acid Reflux Relief With Our Help
In our first Reflux 101 post, we talked about acid reflux, GERD, and how lifestyle changes are the first line of defense in relieving your acid reflux symptoms. The next course of action often involves over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications recommended by your doctor. Before beginning treatment with an acid reflux medication, it can help to have an understanding of the various types as well as their respective uses and side effects.
Over-the-counter acid reflux medications include:
- Antacids such as Tums
- H2-blockers like Zantac
- Low-dose Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) like Prilosec OTC
If symptoms persist after using over-the-counter acid reflux medication, then your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, generally either an H2-blocker or one of the many prescription PPIs, which may be the same brand as the OTC version but with a higher dosage.
Let’s take a look at each category of medications—antacids, H2-blockers, and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)–for a better understanding of what they are and how they work.
Antacids have over 100 different formulations that contain a key ingredient to neutralize stomach acid. Common examples of over-the-counter antacids include Tums, Mylanta, and Rolaids. Most antacids contain at least one of these ingredients: calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, aluminum hydroxide, or sodium bicarbonate. While all of these ingredients work to neutralize your stomach’s acid, it’s important to choose one that makes sense for you and avoid possible reactions.
Like any medication, antacids have certain side effects that are important to consider as you look for ways to treat your acid reflux symptoms. In this section, we’ll take a look at some common and extreme side effects associated with antacids.
- Sodium bicarbonate antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer and Bromo Seltzer, contain baking soda. These antacids should be avoided if you have high blood pressure or are on a salt-restricted diet. Alka-Seltzer contains aspirin, which is linked to Reye syndrome, a rare but serious illness in children.
- Calcium carbonate antacids, such as Tums and Alka-Mints, are sometimes used as calcium supplements. These products may cause constipation.
- Aluminum-based antacids, like Amphojel, are less potent and work more slowly than other products do. They may also cause constipation. Some may cause calcium loss and should not be taken by women who are past menopause. If you have kidney problems, check with your doctor before using aluminum-based antacids.
- Magnesium compounds, such as Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, may cause diarrhea.
- Aluminum-magnesium antacids are less likely to cause constipation or diarrhea than the aluminum-only or magnesium-only antacids. Examples include Maalox, Mylanta, and Riopan. Many of these types of antacids contain simethicone to help break down gas bubbles in your stomach.
- Antacids with alginic acid, like Gaviscon, contain a foaming agent that floats on top of the stomach contents. This may help keep acid from coming in contact with your esophagus.
Although antacids are a widely available and commonly used type of acid reflux medicine, it’s always important to consider their potential side effects and how a medication may interact with your body before taking one regularly.
Histamine H2-receptor antagonists, also known as H2 blockers, are another type of acid reflux medication that can be found over-the-counter or as prescribed. H-2 blockers help relieve acid reflux by decreasing the amount of acid produced by the stomach—the less acid produced, the lower the risk of reflux. Signals that tell the stomach to make acid are blocked by this type of acid reflux medicine, which makes the stomach contents less acidic and, therefore, less bothersome to the esophagus. H2 blockers are available both over-the-counter (OTC) and with your doctor’s prescription.
Common H2-Blockers and their OTC counterparts:
- Axid/Axid AR
- Pepcid/Pepcid AC
- Tagamet/Tagamet HB
- Zantac/Zantac 75 and Zantac 150
H2-blockers, which have been used since the 1960s, are said to have occasional side effects including headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. While H2-blockers have been found to help acid reflux symptoms, relief for GERD sufferers is not always a given. Studies show that for people taking H2-blockers, more than 5 out of 10 people still have some GERD symptoms.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach. Then, if stomach contents leak back into the esophagus, there is less irritation because the acidity isn’t as strong. Available as both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, PPIs have received negative press lately because of significant side effects that may occur with prolonged treatment.
Common prescription PPIs:
- Vimovo (contains a PPI and naproxen)
- Common over-the-counter PPIs:
- Prilosec OTC
- Zegerid OTC
- Prevacid 24HR
Over the past few years, multiple studies have raised concerns over possible side effects of long-term PPI use. These side effects include higher risk of:
- Hip, wrist, and spine fracture
- Bacterial infections such as clostridium difficile
- Bone weakening (osteoporosis)
Regarding bone weakening, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “Patients taking prescription PPIs should understand the possibility of increased fracture risk… those using over-the-counter PPIs to treat heartburn should be cautioned not to take these drugs for more than 14 consecutive days and not to take more than three, 14-day treatment courses in one year.”
In 2009, based on health claims data, over 20 million people filled PPI prescriptions in the United States and, on average, continued with their prescription for about 6 months. As this was prior to the FDA’s warning, hopefully, patients and doctors have adjusted their treatment routines in light of the new findings. But are the possible side effects worth it? More than 5 out of 10 people taking PPIs still have GERD symptoms, so it’s in your best interest to research your options, carefully weigh the facts and determine–along with your doctor–what makes the most sense for you.
Considering the possibility of serious side effects linked to acid reflux medications and the lack of effectiveness for many, it’s important to give lifestyle changes a chance before committing to medication.
Make sure you’re not turning to acid reflux medications in lieu of changing habits that can actually improve your health all around. There are several home remedies and lifestyle changes you can leverage to find relief without having to rely on prescribed or over-the-counter acid reflux medicine. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Eat smaller meals
- Don’t eat too late at night
- Avoid trigger foods such as foods that are high in fat or acid
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Try natural remedies for reflux like chewing gum, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and chamomile
- Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medications
- Try sleeping with a MedCline Reflux Relief System to relieve your acid reflux naturally
- Try sleeping with a MedCline Therapeutic Body Pillow behind your back to keep you positioned on your left side.
Our patented three-part Acid Reflux Relief System has been clinically proven to improve symptoms of acid reflux, laryngopharyngeal reflux, and gestational reflux. Constructed using the physician-recommended posture for sleeping with acid reflux, our system not only aims to provide relief but also facilitate a comfortable environment for a good night’s sleep.
Heartburn: Antacids, Read More
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise, Nonprescription Medicines and Products: Antacids and Acid Reducers, (December 15th, 2010).
Micromedex, Histamine H2 Antagonist (Oral Route, Injection Route, Intravenous Route), Read More (March 10th, 2012)
Heartburn/GERD Health Center, H2 Blockers (Acid Reducers) for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Read More (March 16th, 2010)
These medications — known as histamine (H-2) blockers — include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC) and nizatidine (Axid AR). H-2 blockers don't act as quickly as antacids, but they provide longer relief and may decrease acid production from the stomach for up to 12 hours.What is the best acid reflux medicine with the least side effects? ›
If your symptoms strike less often, use a fast-acting over-the-counter antacid such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums. Or try an over-the-counter H2 blocker, such as famotidine (Pepcid AC) or ranitidine (Zantac 75). They tend to cause fewer side effects and are typically cheaper than PPIs.What is the safest drug for acid reflux? ›
Antacids are among the safest drugs for acid reflux and side effects are rare. Depending on the antacid's ingredients, side effects may include diarrhea, constipation, calcium loss and kidney stones.What happens if you take acid reflux medicine everyday? ›
Recent studies show that overuse of PPIs can be harmful to your health and should not be used long-term. Side effects of proton pump inhibitors include infections, bone fractures and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Research has even connecting extended PPI drug use to increased risk of stomach cancer.How long should you take acid reflux medication? ›
To treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) for erosive esophagitis: Adults—20 milligrams (mg) once a day for 4 to 8 weeks. Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.How long does it take for acid reflux to go away with medication? ›
If you have reflux, medicine that reduces the stomach acid helps your body heal. It might take 1 to 3 weeks to heal.What is the best thing to take for acid reflux daily? ›
- Prevacid 24HR (lansoprazole)
- Nexium 24HR (esomeprazole)
- Prilosec OTC (omeprazole magnesium)
- Zegerid OTC (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate)
- Antibiotics, such as tetracycline and clindamycin.
- Bisphosphonates taken orally, such as alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva) and risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia)
- Iron supplements.
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and aspirin.
- Potassium supplements.
- Stage 1: Mild GERD. Minimal acid reflux occurs once or twice a month. ...
- Stage 2: Moderate GERD. Symptoms are frequent enough to require prescription acid reflux medication, which is typically taken daily. ...
- Stage 3: Severe GERD. ...
- Stage 4: Precancer or cancer.
Can drinking milk neutralize stomach acid? Yes, drinking a glass of cow's milk can help control acid reflux symptoms and may immediately relieve heartburn. This is because milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid.
Is yogurt a good choice? Yogurt that is not too sour is also excellent for acid reflux, because of the probiotics that help normalize bowel function. Yogurt also provides protein, and soothes stomach discomfort, often providing a cooling sensation.Can you get off acid reflux medicine? ›
Slowly taper off the PPI over 2-4 weeks (the higher the dose, the longer the taper). While the taper is being completed, use the following for bridge therapy to reduce the symptoms of rebound hyperacidity. Encourage regular aerobic exercise. Encourage a relaxation technique such as deep breathing.Can you take acid reflux medication for life? ›
“To prevent recurrence and further damage to the esophagus, people may have to stay on the drugs for years, even for life.” The risks of repeated episodes of GERD are clearly undesirable; but, are there any risks to staying on GERD medications over the long-term? Simply put, yes.What are the long-term side effects of reflux medication? ›
The most common side effects reported include headache, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Reports of more serious side effects include kidney disease, fractures, infections and vitamin deficiencies, but these are very rare and are generally associated with long-term use (using these products for more than a year).Can you stay on omeprazole for life? ›
Depending on your condition or the reason you're taking omeprazole, you may only need it for a few weeks or months. Sometimes, you might need to take it for longer, even for many years.How do I know if my acid reflux medication is working? ›
A great tell-tale sign that your reflux medication isn't working properly is your voice. If you're noticing that in the morning your voice is scratchy and you have to clear your throat frequently, you're either catching a cold or acid is getting into your lungs from reflux.How do you know if your GERD is healing? ›
After you're healed, you might be able to taper off the medication without having your symptoms return. While you're treating GERD, your symptoms may become less frequent and severe. If your symptoms go away entirely and you're able to stop treatment, your GERD is cured.What foods heal the esophagus? ›
- fresh, frozen, and dried fruit.
- fresh and frozen vegetables.
- whole-grain breads and pasta.
- brown rice.
Water. In general, drinking water can help balance the pH of a particularly acidic meal, which may help to lower the risk of acid reflux. Studies show that drinking mineral water with a high hydrogen carbonate content can help to alleviate the frequency and severity of acid reflux.What triggers acid reflux? ›
The most common cause is food that's acidic or high in fat—like citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, chocolate, coffee, cheese, and peppermint. Spicy foods or large meals can also be the root of distress. Other sources of heartburn include aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as some sedatives and blood pressure medications.
You should avoid chunky peanut butter, as it's more likely to cause symptoms of acid reflux. Smooth peanut butter is often a part of esophageal soft diets. Your doctor may recommend this diet if you have esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus. Acid reflux is often a symptom of esophagitis.Why do I still have acid reflux with omeprazole? ›
This may be because you have been misdiagnosed with GERD, your diet is causing symptoms, or you are taking your medication incorrectly. If PPIs aren't treating your symptoms, work with your healthcare provider to figure out why they aren't working and what alternative treatments you can try.Can vitamin D supplements cause acid reflux? ›
But taking too many of them could lead to an unwanted side effect. According to express.co.uk, vitamin supplements may cause heartburn in some people. The pills could irritate the oesophagus, or allow some stomach acid to creep back up the oesophagus when it enters the stomach, said Dr David Katz.What is the fastest acting medication for GERD? ›
Gaviscon+ is the only antacid product that provides fast-acting, long-lasting heartburn relief. It quickly neutralizes stomach acid and helps keep acid down for hours. +Amongst national brands; *when used as directed.What can I drink at night for acid reflux? ›
Water. Most notably, mineral water with an alkaline pH – this may reduce the acidity of the stomach and help to denature the enzyme pepsin. It's this digestive enzyme that is thought to be responsible for much of the damage associated with reflux.What juice is good for acid reflux? ›
carrot juice. aloe vera juice. cabbage juice. freshly juiced drinks made with less acidic foods, such as beets, watermelon, spinach, cucumber, or pear.Is banana good for acid reflux? ›
Bananas for stomach acid are considered safe because they have alkaline (alkaline) properties. In addition, this fruit is also considered to help balance the acid in the stomach so that symptoms of acid reflux or GERD can be prevented.What aggravates acid reflux the most? ›
- Eating large meals or eating late at night.
- Eating certain foods (triggers) such as fatty or fried foods.
- Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol or coffee.
- Taking certain medications, such as aspirin.
Milk and dairy products are high in fat and tend to make heartburn worse. When you have frequent GERD symptoms, like heartburn, eating high-fat dairy products like cheese can aggravate your symptoms. Furthermore, cold dairy products like ice cream can actually numb and inhibit the lower esophageal sphincter's function.Is oatmeal good for acid reflux? ›
Oatmeal has been a whole-grain breakfast favorite for generations. It is a good source of fiber, so it keeps you feeling full and promotes regularity. Oats also absorb stomach acid and reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For something sweet, top your oatmeal with bananas, apples or pears.
Call your doctor right away if you have severe chest pain, bloody or dark stools or emesis (vomit), unexplained weight loss, trouble swallowing or a feeling that food is trapped, or a sensation of acid refluxed into the windpipe causing shortness of breath, coughing or hoarseness of the voice.Is toast good for acid reflux? ›
Toast can help decrease nausea and reduce heartburn, but not all toast is the same. Whole wheat bread is more healthful than white bread but is high in fiber and can be difficult for some people to eat. If a person has trouble digesting whole wheat toast, the first step is to try it plain without butter.What organ is acid reflux? ›
GERD happens when gastric acid from your stomach backs up into your food pipe (esophagus). A muscle at the bottom of the esophagus opens to let food from the bottom of the esophagus into the stomach. And it closes to keep food in the stomach. This muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).What should I drink first in the morning for acid reflux? ›
Drinks such as ginger tea, certain fruit and vegetable juices, and plant-based milks may benefit people experiencing acid reflux and heartburn. Avoiding citrus juices, carbonated beverages, and alcohol can also help to reduce symptom frequency and severity.Does honey and hot water help acid reflux? ›
One member of their team saw relief from his heartburn symptoms after consuming five milliliters (about one teaspoon) of plain honey. If you don't want to take one teaspoon of honey by itself, you can mix it with a glass of warm water or tea.Is chocolate bad for acid reflux? ›
8 Foods that make acid reflux worse
Chocolate — Everyone's favorite treat comes with a dark side; chocolate contains caffeine, cocoa, and plant chemicals that can all trigger heartburn. Also, a chemical in cocoa relaxes the LES, making it easier for stomach contents to leak into your esophagus.
So long and short of it, is that peanuts are acid forming. If you have a balanced diet alkaline forming diet, this isn't a problem but if you're like most North Americans and have a highly acidic diet, reducing your intake of peanut butter could be beneficial.Do blueberries help acid reflux? ›
Foods to Eat on an Acid Reflux Diet
Noncitrus fruits: Apples, bananas, blueberries, and strawberries are safe bets.
- Lactobacillus strains. One of the most helpful probiotics is also the most readily available. ...
- Bifidobacterium strains. ...
- Kefir. ...
Regular exercise and stress reduction through relaxation can be helpful for decreasing GERD symptoms. Avoid exercise that can increase GERD symptoms: Exercising right after you eat increases your chance of developing GERD. Very strenuous exercise like cycling, running, and weight lifting can increase GERD.
- Prilosec OTC.
In the short term, the isomer arrangement of Nexium means that the drug gets metabolized more slowly. This means that Nexium stays in the body longer, which is why it offers slightly better acid control. Because of the chemical makeup, Nexium is likely to cause fewer potential drug interactions than Prilosec.Which is better for acid reflux Pepcid or omeprazole? ›
Famotidine (Pepcid) and omeprazole (Prilosec) are two medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Both medications are effective in helping to manage GERD symptoms. Famotidine kicks in faster, but omeprazole works better and provides longer-lasting relief.Which is better for acid reflux Pantoprazole or Pepcid? ›
Which Works Better for Heartburn: Pepcid, Tagamet or Protonix? Both PPIs (Protonix) and H2 blockers (Pepcid, Tagamet) work by blocking and reducing the amount of stomach acid our body produces. However, randomized controlled trials have shown that PPIs (Protonix) is more effective in treating GERD than H2 blockers.What is better than omeprazole for acid reflux? ›
In conclusion, esomeprazole 40 mg provides more effective acid control than twice the standard dose of omeprazole.Is there anything safer than omeprazole? ›
One analysis of four studies found that esomeprazole 40 mg was better than other PPIs (including omeprazole 20 mg) at lowering stomach acid levels in people with GERD.Is there a safer drug than omeprazole? ›
There are other medications that can be used instead of PPIs in the treatment of conditions like acid reflux. H2 blockers include: Cimetidine (Tagamet) Nizatidine (Axid)What is the safest PPI to take long term? ›
PPI have minimal side effects and few slight drug interactions and are considered safe for long term treatment. Pantoprazole is significantly effective both for acute and long-term treatment with excellent control of relapse and symptoms. It is well tolerated even for long-term therapy and its tolerability is optimal.Which antacid is most potent for reducing acid reflux? ›
Calcium Carbonate [CaCO3] – Calcium Carbonate (chalk) is the most potent usable antacid. It can completely neutralize stomach acid.What is the best proton pump inhibitor with the least side effects? ›
Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant) is the newest PPI with the advantage that you can take it with or without food. It also tends to cause fewer abdominal side effects.
Can I take famotidine complete (Pepcid Complete) every day? Famotidine complete (Pepcid Complete) shouldn't be taken as a daily preventative medication like some other heartburn medications, because the effects of antacids are only temporary and last about 30 to 60 minutes.Is it better to take PEPCID in the morning or at night? ›
How to use Pepcid AC. Take this medication by mouth with or without food as directed by your doctor, usually once or twice daily. If you are taking this medication once daily, it is usually taken right before bedtime. The dosage and length of treatment are based on your medical condition and response to therapy.What foods should you avoid while taking pantoprazole? ›
It's best to avoid foods that seem to make your symptoms worse, such as rich, spicy and fatty foods. It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee and cola, as well as alcohol. Alcohol does not affect the way pantoprazole works.Which acid reflux medicine works fastest? ›
Gaviscon+ is the only antacid product that provides fast-acting, long-lasting heartburn relief. It quickly neutralizes stomach acid and helps keep acid down for hours.What can I do instead of taking omeprazole? ›
- Prilosec OTC.
You're not taking your acid reflux medication correctly (you're either taking the wrong dose, taking the medicine at the wrong time, or missing doses). Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure how to take your GERD medication. You're taking over-the-counter antacids and need something stronger.Which has less side effects omeprazole or pantoprazole? ›
Pantoprazole can cause dizziness, joint pain, dry mouth, and blurred vision. Omeprazole has been associated with diarrhea related to Clostridium difficile (C. diff), an infection that causes watery diarrhea accompanied by fever and stomach cramping.