GERD Treatment And Medicines: Causes And Types Of Medicines

GERD Treatment and Medicines

GERD Treatment and Medicines

Acid reflux occurs when the food inside the stomach moves up into the esophagus. It is also termed as acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux. If this reflux occurs more than twice a week, the condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

An uncomfortable feeling in the chest, radiating towards the neck is one of the first signs of GERD. The sensation is called heartburn, after which a sour or bitter taste may develop in the back of the mouth. Many people face this issue at some point in their lives, but it needs proper treatment and medication if it is repetitive and damages the overall health of an individual.

Causes

A circular band of muscles known as the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is present at the end of the esophagus. Normally, it relaxes and opens when the person swallows. It then tightens and closes again.

When the LES does not tighten or close properly, acid reflux takes place. The open passage would allow digestive juices and other components from the stomach to rise into the esophagus.

Types of Medicines

One of the quickest and effective methods to treat gastrointestinal problems is with over-the-counter drugs. They are safe to use if the issue occurs once in a while or is not serious. There are three types of OTC drugs that help in controlling GERD symptoms, namely:

Antacids:

When the stomach acid flows up into the esophagus due to the stomach’s contents pushing it up, acid reflux takes place. Antacids are the first line of treatment the doctors would suggest, to soothe the minor heartburn.

These drugs aid in reducing the symptoms by lowering the levels of acid in the stomach. Typically working within minutes of consuming, antacids offer a better and faster relief than other treatments.

Medicines classified as antacids contain magnesium, aluminum, calcium, or a combination of these substances. They are usually available as chewable pills, dissolving tablets, syrups, or capsules. If used in larger doses or repeatedly, the person may experience side effects like diarrhea and constipation.

Some of the common brands of antacids readily available over the counter are:

  • Rolaids
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Gelusil
  • Mylanta
  • MaaloxPept-Bismal

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs):

Acid production in the stomach can be blocked by the use of PPIs. For people experiencing frequent heartburn, it is the most powerful medication to decrease acid production. Along with being the most effective drug for GERD, it also heals erosive esophagitis in many patients.

PPIs are mostly sold in a pill form. Many of them are available on a prescription basis, but a few are obtainable as OTC drugs, such as:

  • Esomeprazole (sold as Nexium)
  • Omeprazole (sold as Losec, Omesec, and Prilosec OTC)
  • Lansoprazole (sold as Prevacid 24HR)
  • Omeprazole with sodium bicarbonate (sold as Zegerid)

Several side effects could be caused due to high usage or depending on the person’s body. These could be:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Painful abdomen
  • Stomach upsets

Some uncommon side effects may have serious effects on the patient’s health. These include a higher risk of pneumonia, bone fracture, and hypomagnesemia, which may be life-threatening.

H2 Blockers:

Another way of reducing the amount of acid secreted by the stomach is by utilizing H2 blockers. These drugs work within an hour of consuming, thus acting slower than antacids. However, they provide relief for a longer period, with its effects lasting between 8 to 12 hours.

Stronger versions of H2 blockers are available only through prescription. The ones sold over the counter include:

  • Nizatidine (sold as Axid, Axid, AR)
  • Cimetidine (sold as Tagamet HB)
  • Famotidine (sold as Calmicid, Fluxid, and Pepcid HC)

H2 blockers cause side effects similar to PPI medication, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Treatments for GERD

Gastronomical problems can also be treated by making certain lifestyle changes, which ultimately reduce the frequency of acid reflux. Dietary and lifestyle changes along with prescription medicine could show positive results by alleviating symptoms. GERD patients are recommended to:

Maintain a Healthy Weight:

Overweight patients or the ones with excessive body fat are suggested to lower their weight. Excessive fat can put pressure on the abdomen, pushing the stomach up and causing acid reflux into the esophagus.

Foods and Drinks:

Different foods trigger various reactions which may lead to heartburn, such as:

    1. Caffeinated beverages and other items that increase the level of acid in the stomach.
    2. Coffee, alcohol, and acidic drinks that affect the muscle movements of the digestive tract.
    3. Fatty foods, peppermint, alcohol, and other such food that decrease the pressure in the lower esophagus.

Eating Habits:

People susceptible to acid reflux should not lie down immediately after having a meal. At least two hours should pass, after which they can lie down or sleep. Similarly, during a meal the food should be chewed slowly and thoroughly. This can be encouraged by putting the spoon down after each bite and picking it up only after swallowing it.

Alterations to the Bed:

If the patient is experiencing heartburn regularly when trying to sleep, elevating the head of their bed is recommended. This can be done by placing wood or cement blocks under the bed’s feet, raising the bed’s head by 6 to 9 inches.

If the head cannot be elevated, a wedge can be inserted between the mattress and the bed frame to elevate the body from the waist up. Only raining the head with a few pillows may not be as effective. 

Smoking:

People diagnosed with GERD are encouraged to quit smoking. Smoking decreases the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to function.

Clothing:

Clothes that fit too tightly around the waist put pressure on the abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter, so it is best to avoid tight-fitting clothing for longer periods.

Alternative Treatments

There are no alternative medicinal therapies approved to treat GERD or reverse the damage caused by the acid on the esophagus. A few complementary and alternative treatments or medicines could provide some relief when combined with medical care.

These are handy for people who cannot take prescription medicine due to health reasons, or lifestyle changes that cannot solve the problem alone. Alternative treatment options could be:

Herbal or Natural Remedies:

Natural supplements and herbs can provide quick relief from GERD symptoms. These include ingredients found in the pantry, such as chamomile tea, licorice, marshmallow root, and slippery elm. Before taking them, consulting a doctor is necessary. In the case of OTC supplements, following safe doses is crucial.

Relaxation Therapies:

Reducing stress and anxiety through various techniques can lower the signs and symptoms of GERD. These relaxation methods could consist of progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, etc.

Conclusion

Surgery would be considered if GERD is not responding to the drugs and regular treatments. The doctor would also have to rule out any underlying health conditions contributing to GERD’s symptoms, before proceeding with prescriptions or medicated treatments.