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What heartburn medications are available?

Antacids: Since heartburn is caused by acid from the stomach, one of the simplest ways to relieve the discomfort is to neutralise the acid with an antacid. Antacids usually contain a mixture of magnesium and aluminium salts, calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate. Those containing high amounts of sodium may not be suitable for pregnant women or those on a sodium restricted diet, such as people with high blood pressure or heart disease. Antacids are available as

tablets that can be sucked or chewed and liquids. The choice is down to personal preference, but liquids may work faster and tablets may have a longer lasting effect. Antacids can reduce the absorption of certain other medicines from the gut, so if you are taking any other medicines you should always check with your pharmacist before taking an antacid at the same time.

Alginates: Some antacid products, eg Gaviscon, also contain sodium alginate. Sodium alginate is a substance that forms a ‘raft’ that floats on top of the stomach contents. The raft prevents stomach acid from passing back into the food pipe and protects the food pipe from the acid. Products containing alginates are particularly useful for heartburn caused by pressure on the stomach, such as during pregnancy. They are also available as tablets and liquid.

H2 antagonists: H2 antagonists include medicines such as cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatadine and famotidine. All of these can now be bought from pharmacies by adults over 16 years of age. They work by blocking histamine receptors in the stomach, which prevent the cells in the stomach from producing too much acid. This type of medicine may not be suitable for people with liver or kidney problems. They should only be used for a maximum of two weeks without consulting your doctor. Cimetidine has the potential to interact with various medicines, both bought and prescribed, so you should always check with your pharmacist before taking it with any of your existing medicines.

More information on heartburn

What is heartburn? - Heartburn (pyrosis) is a painful burning sensation in the chest caused by gastroesophageal reflux (backflow from the stomach irritating the esophagus).
What causes heartburn? - Heartburn is caused by stomach acids entering the esophageus (the food tube from the mouth to stomach) and burning the sides.
What are the risk factors for heartburn? - Risk factors for heartburn include hiatus hernia, obesity, pregnancy, large meal portions, and lying down.
What're heartburn symptoms? - Heartburn is a pain behind the breast bone, often described as burning in quality. Pain from the heart is also felt in the chest.
Is heartburn ever serious? - Severe heartburn can result in injury to the lower esophagus that requires treatment. Heartburn could be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
How to relieve heartburn? - The patient needs to take following measures to control and relieve heatburn. Avoid lying down right after eating and within two to three hours of bedtime.
What heartburn medications are available? - One of the simplest ways to relieve heartburn is to neutralise the acid with an antacid. H2 antagonists include medicines such as cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatadine and famotidine. 
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