GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It’s a chronic disease that affects the digestive system. With GERD, acid and small contents from the stomach run back up the esophagus, which irritates the delicate tissue in your esophagus.
Anyone can develop GERD (also called acid reflux disease). It’s not limited to a particular ethnic or age group. In the US, about 20 percent of the population deals with GERD on a daily basis.
Sometimes over-the-counter GERD medications are enough to manage the condition. Other times, the patient needs prescription medicine for acid reflux.
In very extreme cases, the patient may need to undergo acid reflux surgery. This article includes a list of the best medicine for acid reflux and GERD.
Most of us experience indigestion and heartburn once in a while. Many times, we have merely overdone it with a spicy meal.
Though, if you feel a burning in your chest twice a week or more, you may have GERD. Acid reflux occurs when food or liquid in your stomach travels back up into your esophagus.
Your esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. What comes up is partially digested material. It’s acidic and irritates your esophagus.
In addition to heartburn, other symptoms include indigestion. You may feel bloated and burp more often. The acid in your esophagus can cause it to spasm. The spasms are painful and may create a feeling of tightness in your chest.
Other common symptoms include vomiting and nausea, bad breath, tooth erosion. It can also cause you to have a problem swallowing or dysphagia.
Finally, gastroesophageal reflux disease can also cause abdominal pain and respiratory problems.
Treatment for Acid Reflux
Most likely, your doctor will recommend over-the-counter medications and some lifestyle modifications to remedy your GERD and stomach acid problems.
If you don’t find relief a few weeks, your doctor will order stronger prescription medications and perhaps even surgery if your case is severe.
Some things you can do to ease your GERD symptoms are to quit smoking and avoid triggers. Smoking weakens your esophagus. Also, some foods and drinks can trigger a GERD attack.
You should stay away from spicy foods, citrus fruits, and tomato sauce. Fried foods, garlic, and onions can also cause problems. Finally, avoiding alcohols, sodas, and caffeine may also help control acid production.
Other recommendations are maintaining a healthy weight and eating smaller meals. Overeating can trigger acid reflux.
After you eat, be sure to sit up for at least 3 hours before you lie down. Raising the head of your bed by 6-9 inches may also help.
Acid Reflux Surgery
You can usually keep GERD under control with medication. In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery.
One procedure is called a fundoplication. A surgeon takes the top of your stomach and wraps it around the lower esophageal sphincter. This tightens the muscle and prevents reflux.
Another procedure is to implant a LINX device. The LINX is a ring of small magnetic beads. The surgeon wraps it around the area where the stomach meets the esophagus.
The magnetic attraction keeps the junction closed to refluxing acid. Don’t worry, food can still pass through.
Over-the-counter Medicine for Acid Reflux
Fortunately, most people can treat their acid reflux over-the-counter medications (OTC) and maybe a few lifestyle changes. You’ll see the best results by taking the medication daily as a preventative rather than as symptoms arise.
OTC antacids like Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums neutralize stomach acid. Thus, they can provide fast relief. Though, antacids by themselves won’t heal the inflammation in your esophagus.
Plus, using too many antacids can cause diarrhea or sometimes even kidney problems.
OTC H-2-Receptor Blockers
H-2-receptor blockers don’t act as fast as antacids do. But they do provide lasting relief. They also decrease the stomach’s acid production for as much as 12 hours. All of these medications come in stronger prescription versions.
OTC Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)
Proton pump inhibitors block acid production and help heal the esophagus from the damage GERD has caused. These medications are stronger acid blockers than the H-2-receptor blockers described above.
They allow more time for esophageal tissue to heal. Doctors prescribe PPIs to treat acid reflux as well as stomach ulcers.
Two widely-used OTC proton pump inhibitors are lansoprazole (Prevacid 24 HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC, and Zegerid OTC).
Prescription Medicine for Acid Reflux
For more severe cases of GERD, doctors often prescribe stronger GERD medications. The dosages in the prescription versions are much higher than their OTC counterparts.
The most commonly-prescribed medicine for acid reflux fall into two categories, Histamine-2 (H2) blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Histamine-2 (H2) Blockers for Heartburn and Reflux
In their prescription form, H2 blockers treat reflux and relieve heartburn, especially if you’ve never had treatment before. These drugs alleviate heartburn well.
But they are not as effective in treating the inflammation in the esophagus (also called esophagitis) that GERD causes.
Histamine stimulates acid production after meals. Thus, you should take H2 blockers 30 minutes before meals to receive the maximum benefit. You can also take them at bedtime to hinder nighttime acid production.
Some side effects patients may experience include abdominal pain, headache, and sore throat. They may also experience nausea, gas, diarrhea, a runny nose, and dizziness.
Here are some effective prescription H2 blockers:
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) for Heartburn and Reflux
If OTC medicines aren’t managing your acid reflux, your doctor can prescribe PPI drugs. PPI medications better block acid production and for a more extended period than the H2 blockers.
These drugs are the proton pump inhibitors mentioned earlier. You should take PPIs an hour before meals to get the maximum benefit.
Typically each PPI drug is no more or less effective than the other. They all manage GERD well. In addition, they all protect the esophagus from acid. The esophagus then has a chance to heal.
Some side effects associated with PPIs include nausea, gas, and diarrhea. Some patients also experience abdominal pain, constipation, and bloating.
Here is a list of the best acid reflux medicine in the PPI category:
- Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec and Zegerid)
- Pantoprazole (Protonix)
- Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)
Price Comparing Medicine for Acid Reflux
The medications listed in each class are comparable when it comes to their effectiveness and side effects. Because of this, it’s worth price comparing to see which is the more affordable medicine for acid reflux.
If you have any thoughts or questions or about acid reflux medicines, please leave a comment below.