How Do PPIs Work?

03. 31. 2014

If you suffer from chronic heartburn, reflux or other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), medication is probably your first step towards finding long-term relief. Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are among the most commonly used drugs to treat stomach and digestive problems. Available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms, PPIs are effective in treating GERD symptoms and other conditions, such as esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus.

PPIs work by blocking the production of stomach acid. The stomach is lined with parietal cells, which secrete gastric acid. This digestive fluid aids in killing bacteria, absorbing nutrients and breaking down food for digestion. Although gastric acid is both helpful and necessary for proper digestion, it is also the culprit behind acid reflux.  

When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is relaxed, stomach acid is able to creep back into the esophagus, causing that burning sensation associated with reflux. PPIs neutralize enzymes within some of the parietal cells, inhibiting production of gastric acid. With less acid present in the stomach, you are less likely to experience reflux.

Unlike antacids, which act immediately and deliver short-term results, PPIs provide extended relief from GERD symptoms. PPI drugs may take days to reach full effectiveness, so they should not be used to treat the sudden onset of heartburn. PPIs should be taken at the same time daily and always on an empty stomach (Source:

Although PPIs are generally safe, over-the-counter products should not be taken any longer than 14 days. If symptoms persist, see your doctor to determine if further testing is needed. There may be an underlying cause for your heartburn that requires further investigation.  


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