Millions of Americans have been taking a popular heartburn drug for years. Known as Zantac, it has now been pulled off the market.
Available without a prescription and over-the-counter, this medication was used to prevent and treat heartburn and other symptoms caused by too much acid in the stomach (also known as acid indigestion or acid reflux).
What are the causes and symptoms?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid gets pushed up into the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food and drink from the mouth to the stomach. While some reflux is totally normal and harmless, when it happens too frequently it can burn the inside of the esophagus.
An estimated up to 20% of all adults in the US have reflux in some form or another with the most common symptom being heartburn - a painful, burning feeling in the chest or throat.
Of those who regularly experience heartburn, many are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease known as GERD. This is the most serious form of acid reflux.
In addition to heartburn, common symptoms of reflux include an acidic taste at the back of the mouth and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms include a cough, asthma, tooth erosion and inflammation in the sinuses.
But what can heartburn sufferers take or do instead?
There are many lifestyle and diet changes that have been found to help. Here are our top ten:
Baking soda is a good treatment for immediate relief from heartburn or acid reflux. The recommended dosage for adults is 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in a 4 ounce glass of water. It's best to sip this drink slowly to avoid side effects like gas and diarrhea, repeating every two hours.
- Try to avoid processed food as much as possible, changing instead of a balance diet rich in fruits and vegetables. And don't over eat. Most symptoms occur after a meal with larger meals making the symptoms worse. But regarding fruits and vegetables, raw onion has been shown to increase heartburn, acid reflux and belching when included in a meal. Raw onions can irritate the lining of the esophagus. Try leaving them out of your meal.
Losing weight is another helpful solution. Excessive pressure inside the abdomen is one of the reasons for acid reflux. Losing excess belly fat could well relieve some of the symptoms.
Fermented vegetables can naturally improve stomach acid levels. These include kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles.
- Take up a daily drink of organic apple cider vinegar and include some raw ginger in your diet.
- Change to a low-carb diet as research has found that undigested carbs may be causing bacterial overgrowth and elevated pressure inside the abdomen.
- Cut down or cut out alcohol as this might help to ease some of the pain. Too much alcohol intake has been found to worsen acid reflux symptoms.
- Don't drink too much coffee as evidence suggests that, like alcohol, coffee makes acid reflux and heartburn worse. If you have noticed that drinking coffee can increase your symptoms, consider reducing the number of cups you drink.
- On the subject of beverages, sodas can have a similar effect while some sufferers have found that citrus juice (such as orange or grapefruit juice) can make their heartburn symptoms worse. Researchers believe that citrus juice can sometimes irritate the lining of the esophagus.
- There are a few suggestions regarding your sleeping habits at night. Some people suffer from reflux symptoms during the night. Elevating the head of your bed may reduce these. Another suggestion is to avoid sleeping on the right side of your body. The esophagus enters the right side of the stomach and if you sleep on your left side, the lower esophageal sphincter will sit above the level of stomach acid.
Many women suffer from heartburn during pregnancy.
Even if you have been relying on over the counter solutions to prevent or relieve your symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux, it is always preferable to find a solution that gets to the heart of the problem and gives relief in as natural a way as possible.