Summer health: tips to stop frequent heartburn

Story Image

Summertime barbecues provide plenty of fun but also increase the likelihood of heartburn. | ARA Content

Summer is here, which means it’s time to pack your bags for vacation, dust off your beach umbrella and fire up the grill. Unfortunately many people will not only feel the summer heat outside with friends, but also inside their chest. Summer is prime time for heartburn.

Barbecue season is the time of the year when people experience frequent heartburn symptoms the most, according to a recent survey by Wakefield Research for P&G, which brings you Prilosec OTC. The survey revealed that many frequent heartburn sufferers — those who experience heartburn two or more days per week — are not treating symptoms as effectively as possible, and there is a general lack of understanding about heartburn and available treatments.

One of the top misconceptions is that all over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn treatments are the same. Although frequent heartburn symptoms can be reduced with antacids or H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are indicated specifically for frequent heartburn. There are important differences among the available therapies:

* PPIs treat frequent heartburn by shutting down many of the acid pumps in the stomach and stopping symptoms before they start. Effects can last 24 hours.

* Histamine2 (H2) blockers partially block production of acid in the stomach. The effect of H2 blockers generally lasts six to 12 hours.

* Antacids neutralize existing stomach acid and provide relatively rapid but short-term relief of heartburn symptoms lasting one to three hours.

Two myths many believe are that drinking milk can help relieve symptoms and that weight gain has no impact on frequent heartburn. In actuality, a glass of milk increases one’s acid production (like any food) and maintaining a healthy weight is one key to treating heartburn.

Dr. Su Sachar, gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, says that sufferers do not have to accept frequent heartburn as “normal.”

“One way to treat frequent heartburn is to take a medication that can help block the acid that causes heartburn, so you don’t get it in the first place,” Dr. Sachar observed.

People can take measures to avoid heartburn symptoms this summer. Dr. Sachar offers these three tips for those suffering from frequent heartburn:

* Get educated. One of the best defenses is to arm yourself with information. With all the over-the-counter medications available, my patients are often overwhelmed and don’t know what is right for them. Additionally, people often fall prey to the common myth that experiencing symptoms daily is normal, without realizing there are treatments available. The more you know about frequent heartburn, the better you will be able to treat it.

* Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you. Dr. Sachar recommends over-the-counter PPIs, like Prilosec OTC because it’s possible with just one pill a day to block the acid and stop heartburn before it starts for a full 24 hours of zero heartburn. It’s possible while taking Prilosec OTC. Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every four months unless directed by a doctor. Not for immediate relief.

* Quit smoking. Smoking relaxes the valve at the top of your stomach, allowing excess stomach acid to reflux into your esophagus.

ARA Content