How is heartburn treated?
The most important treatment is for you to change your lifestyle (see Self-Help) below). In addition there are several different types of medicine that can help heartburn:

Medicines that neutralize any excess acid are known as antacids and contain aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, magnesium salts or sodium bicarbonate; most will contain a combination of two or more of these ingredients. Many antacids will also contain alginates (see below) or a medicine called simethicone, which helps gas bubbles in the stomach to join together and be expelled.

Medicines that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach fall into two classes: H2-antagonists and proton pump inhibitors. H2-antagonists include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid) and ranitidine (Zantac). Proton pump inhibitors include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix) and rabeprazole (Aciphex).Medicines that tighten the stomach valve and make the stomach empty more quickly and help to reduce any acid reflux such as metoclopramide (Reglan).

Surgery is only needed if the valve mechanism is damaged and treatment has not stopped the symptoms.

Self-help measures

  • If you smoke, try to stop. Cutting down is not enough.
  • If you are overweight, try to reach your ideal body weight. Heartburn often stops when your weight is back to normal.
  • Avoid very large meals and drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Avoid spicy foods, hot drinks and fruit juice.
  • Drink low-fat milky drinks.
  • Avoid aspirin and drugs such as ibuprofen if possible, as they may aggravate heartburn.
  • Sit upright for about an hour after eating. Try to eat a few hours before going to bed.
  • Raise your bed-head by four to six inches (use bricks, books, or blocks) or sleep with three pillows.
  • Avoid tight clothing or belts around your stomach.
  • Squat or kneel to avoid bending and stooping.

Further information
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/index.aspx

Last Reviewed: May 2013