What can I do to feel better?
You might be able to avoid heartburn by making some changes in your lifestyle.
Tips on preventing heartburn
- Place 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed to raise it.
- Try to eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Lose weight if you're overweight.
- Don't overeat.
- Eat high-protein, low-fat meals.
- Avoid tight clothes and tight belts.
- Avoid foods and other things that give you heartburn.
What if my symptoms get worse?
If lifestyle changes and antacids don't help your symptoms, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to take prescription medicine or schedule you for some tests.
Tests might include X-rays to check for ulcers, a pH test to check for acid in the esophagus, or an endoscopy to check for other conditions. During an endoscopy, your doctor looks into your stomach through a long, thin tube which is inserted down your esophagus. Your doctor may also check for H. pylori, bacteria that can cause ulcers.
What about medicines for heartburn?
Several kinds of medicine can be used to treat heartburn. Antacids neutralize the acid that your stomach makes. For most people, antacids that you can get without a prescription (over-the-counter) give fast, short-term relief. However, if you use antacids too much, they can cause diarrhea or constipation. Look for antacids that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. (One causes constipation while the other causes diarrhea so they counteract each other.) Some brands of antacids include Maalox, Mylanta and Riopan. Follow the directions on the package.
H2 blockers (some brand names: Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac) reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. Several are available without a prescription.
Other medicines, such as omeprazole (brand name: Prilosec) and lansoprazole (brand name: Prevacid), also reduce how much acid the stomach makes. Metoclopramide (brand name: Reglan) reduces acid reflux. To find out what medicine is right for you, talk with your doctor.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff