Are you taking medicine three or more times a week for heartburn? If so, read the warning label. Not all heartburn medicines are meant to be used that often, and it could be harming your health.
Antacids like Tums and Rolaids contain calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide to help neutralize the acid in your stomach. They can provide fast, short-term relief and do not have lasting harmful side effects if taken as directed. Follow dosage recommendations though because high levels of calcium carbonate in the body can cause constipation, nausea, mood changes or even heart rate changes. But acid neutralizers are considered safe when taken properly and are often used for calcium supplementation as well as heartburn relief.
H-2 Blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
H-2 blockers like Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid reduce the production of stomach acid. They are effective in treating peptic ulcers and reflux in people who have heartburn a few times per month but are not intended for everyday use. Some research suggests that overuse of H-2 blockers can cause headaches, constipation and nausea, but their long-term use has not been extensively studied.
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Prevacid, Prilosec or Nexium are stronger than H-2 blockers and work by blocking acid-producing cells in the lining of the stomach. They provide lasting relief from symptoms of GERD and are available without a prescription.
While PPIs are helpful in managing severe heartburn, they are not recommended for more than a 14-day treatment. Recent studies show that overuse of PPIs can be harmful to your health and should not be used long-term. Side effects of proton pump inhibitors include infections, bone fractures and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Research has even connecting extended PPI drug use to increased risk of stomach cancer.
Are you trying to manage your heartburn symptoms on your own? It might be time to call a gastroenterologist. Your doctor can diagnose your symptoms and help you begin an effective treatment plan. There also may be some lifestyle changes and diet modifications that can jump-start the healing process, so make an appointment today.