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Heartburn and Acid Reflux a Common Condition and Treatment

December 2nd 2005

Heartburn and Acid Reflux a Common Condition and Treatment

Esophagus and Stomach

According to the National Institutes of Health the incidence of a deadly form of esophagus cancer is on the rise.  The primary cause of this cancer is gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD).  About 90 percent of those that develop this cancer called adenocarcinoma of the esophagus will be dead within five years and there are very few treatments for it.

It is important to learn the warning signs of GERD.  Reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and the stomach contents leak back in to the esophagus. 

When the food leaks from the stomach and touches the lining of the esophagus you may feel a burning sensation in the chest or throat.  This is called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth and this is called acid indigestion. 

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Occasional heartburn is common and this does not mean you have GERD.  GERD is commonly found in infants, children and pregnant woman but can be experience by anyone.  Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD and should be treated.   

GERD can occur in some people without them knowing it.  Some people may experience pain in the chest, or a hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing.  You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat or like you are choking.   You may feel like your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.

There are specialist (Internist or gastroenterologist) that can help with GERD symptoms. You should see on of these doctors if you have a concern.  The treatment will depend on the severity and he / she may prescribe a medication.

There are some lifestyle changes that will help.  If you smoke you should stop.  Do not drink alcohol.  Personally, I have heartburn after drinking coffee.  You should also lose weight and eat smaller meals.

Wearing loose fitting clothes can help alleviate the symptoms.  Also avoid lying down within three hours after a meal, and raise the head of your bed.  This will help keep the acids from traveling into the esophagus. Use some wood under the bedposts or just add an extra pillow. 

There are over the counter products than can help.  You may want to try some antacids like Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Pepto-Bismol, Rolaids, and Riopan.  Foaming agents such as Gaviscon work by covering the stomach contents with a foam.  The foaming agents help those without damage to the esophagus.

Tagament HB (cimetiding), Pepcid AC (famotidine), Axid AR (nizatidine) and Zantac 75 (ranitidine) help by impeding acid production. These drugs are available in prescription strength and are also available in lower dosages over the counter.  These H2 blockers, as they are referred to as, are effective in about half of the GERD cases.  They are effective at bedtime and in combination with proton pump inhibitors.

Proton pump inhibitors include Prilosec (omeprazole), Previcid (lansoprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), Aciphex (rabeprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole).  These are available by prescription.  According to the National Institutes of Health they can relieve symptoms in just about everyone with GERD.


There are some drugs that will help strengthen the sphincter muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus.  This group of drugs called prokinetics include Urencholine (bethanechol) and Reglan (metoclopramide).  They also help empty the stomach quicker but have frequent side effects. 

Like treatments for other ailments a combination of drugs may be best.  Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.  A combination of antacids and H2 blockers may be the ticket.  The antacids will work to neutralize the acid in the stomach while the H2 blockers will help stop the production.  By the time the antacids stop working the H2 blockers will kick in. 

If you experience frequent heartburn talk to your doctor.  Treat the heartburn before serious conditions arise.


By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:40 PM