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How do I Choose the Best GERD Medications?

By Sarah Kay Moll
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common cause of heartburn and nausea that occurs after eating. Finding the best GERD medications is a process of trial and error, where a person sometimes must try several medications to find which works best with the fewest side effects. Over-the-counter medications are often enough to treat GERD, but if they are not effective, physicians can prescribe stronger GERD medications.

When a person eats, the esophagus carries the food from the throat to the stomach. GERD is a condition where the esophagus does not close properly, allowing food, liquid, and stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus, causing inflammation and irritation. This irritation is what causes heartburn. GERD, if untreated, can cause permanent damage to the esophagus.

Some GERD medications, such as antacids, relieve the symptoms of GERD quickly, however, they do not help the inflammation to heal, so the condition will continue to worsen. The best GERD medications both decrease the production of stomach acid and allow the esophagus to heal. These medications are called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and are available over the counter. To choose the best medication, people will often try two or more PPIs to see which has the least side effects.

If over-the-counter medications do not work, a physician can prescribe stronger medications. Finding the best prescription GERD medications is a process that a physician can help with. A physician may prescribe strong proton pump inhibitors or other types of medications that also reduce stomach acid. If medications are not effective, surgery is another possible treatment option.

The most common side effects people experience with PPIs are nausea and headaches. People with severe or persistent GERD may have to take PPIs regularly for a long period of time. If the PPI treatment is stopped, the GERD symptoms may return. There are some concerns about long-term use of PPIs, however, more research needs to be done to verify these concerns.

The best GERD medications are more effective when used in combination with lifestyle changes. Smoking can cause GERD or make it worse, so quitting smoking is an important step in treating GERD. Obesity can also exacerbate GERD, so it is important to maintain a healthy weight. Different foods may trigger heartburn and other symptoms in different people, so it’s important to identify which foods cause symptoms and avoid those foods. Some common trigger foods include spicy or fatty foods or alcohol.

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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