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How Do I Choose the Best Acid Reflux Treatment?

By D. Poupon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Your best acid reflux treatment might actually be the prevention of the common causes of acid reflux through simple lifestyle changes. When prevention is not possible or effective, a number of over the counter and prescription medications are available to treat your acid reflux symptoms. Severe acid reflux can cause a host of medical problems and may require surgery, so if your acid reflux is not responding to over the counter medicine and lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor.

In order to select the best acid reflux treatment out of prevention, medication, or surgery, you should understand the three basic treatment strategies. Preventative treatments seek to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. The second strategy is to keep your stomach acid in your stomach. The final treatment strategy is to strengthen the lower esophagus sphincter muscle.

In order to reduce the amount of acid that is regurgitated in your esophagus, you need to reduce the acidity in your stomach. You can avoid acidic foods or foods that are hard to digest such as fruit juices, alcohol, or chocolate. Minty, fatty or spicy foods can also cause problems. You can dilute the amount of acid in your stomach by drinking lots of water or chewing gum to produce extra saliva. You can neutralize the acid using antacids. Finally, you can use medications such as H2 blockers Zantac 75® and Pepcid A® which block stomach acid production.

Another set of acid reflux treatment approaches involve keeping stomach acid in your stomach. You may try to reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) by eating smaller meals and losing weight. Foaming agent medications like Gaviscon® create a layer of foam that floats on top of food creating a physical barrier that blocks acid from entering your esophagus. Gravity is your best ally, so you should avoid lying down or bending over for three or four hours after eating. You might also consider sleeping either propped up on pillows or in a chair, or raising the head of your bed a couple inches by sticking blocks of wood under its feet. 

Consider investing in acid reflux wedge pillows, as many offer adjustable designs that allow you to find the specific angle that keeps you comfortable while keeping your esophagus upright. They are more stable than piles of rounded pillows, which helps prevent slipping off in the middle of the night. It would help if you also looked for other comfort and convenience features, such as memory foam, cooling gel, removable covers, or additional width for active sleepers.

The final category of acid reflux treatments attempt to strengthen the lower esophagus sphincter. Medicines called prokinetics may help strengthen the sphincter muscle. If all else fails, fundoplication surgery is available, where the stomach is wrapped around the sphincter, reinforcing it.

If acid reflux symptoms such as a burning sensation in your chest or a sour taste in your mouth only occur after eating a big meal, then they are easily treatable. In order to prevent acid reflux, don’t eat or drink too much and don’t wear clothes that are tight around the middle. If you do indulge, do not lie down or exercise for a few hours after eating, or sleep sitting up or propped up on pillows. Antacids may provide you with effective immediate relief, but their effects are temporary.

If you have heartburn or regurgitations more than twice a week and other acid reflux treatment has not helped, you may have gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux syndrome. With silent GERD, you do not have heartburn but you do have other symptoms of acid reflux and asthma like symptoms such as wheezing and coughing. Your doctor will recommend treatments for GERD which may include prescription medicines and eventually surgery.

It is common to see some level of acid reflux in babies. If your child seems uncomfortable when feeding or spitting up, you might want to talk with your peditrician. You might also try smaller, more frequent feedings. If you are breast feeding, avoid acid producing foods. Frequent burpings and holding your baby upright after feedings might help reduce discomfort.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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