Pros and Cons of Heartburn Medication
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a progressive condition that can cause serious health problems, but reflux medications carry their own risks.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 15 million Americans experience acid reflux on a daily basis. Although acid neutralizers and acid reducers can provide relief for heartburn sufferers, it’s important to understand the potential side effects and benefits of these medications.
Benefits of Reflux Medicine
Acid neutralizers like Tums, Rolaids and Alka-Seltzer can soothe mild GERD caused by heartburn trigger foods. The active ingredient in these acid neutralizers is calcium carbonate, an essential mineral.
However, for more advanced GERD, acid reducers can help. Acid reducers suppress acid production allowing the esophagus to heal. There are two types of acid reducers: H2 histamine blockers (like Zantac, Pepcid, Axid and Tagamet) and proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid).
Acid Reflux Medicine Benefits Include:
• Quick relief
• Low cost
• Over-the-counter availability
• Generic options
Potential Risks of Acid Reflux Medicine
Acid neutralizers carry little risk, but studies show suppressing gastric acid production with acid reducers can have serious side effects. Extended use of proton pump inhibitors is associated malabsorption of magnesium and calcium and increased risk of:
• Clostridium difficile (C. diff.)
• Escherichia coli (E. coli)
• Kidney failure and kidney disease
• Hip fractures
• Stomach cancer
Call a Gastroenterologist
If you suffer from daily heartburn, it’s time to get help from a professional. Your chronic GERD requires prompt attention, and acid reducers are only deemed safe for a two-week course of treatment. Click here and enter your zip code in the orange box to find a specialist in your area.