Best Heartburn Medicine? Cheapest One That Works
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I need help with acid reflux. I have battled it for seven years, and until recently I have used Prilosec, but it has stopped working for me. I tried AcipHex and Protonix but didn’t feel well when taking them. Now I’m on Prevacid. Is it OK to take indefinitely? I wonder about Nexium. My doctor told me to take any acid reducer that works. What do you consider the best long-term medicine? — F.H.
ANSWER: Acid reflux, heartburn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are different names for the same thing — the upward splashing of stomach acid and digestive juices into the esophagus, the long tube that brings food from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus can’t handle those corrosive juices, and the result is burning pain.
Can you identify any food or drink that brings on your symptoms? If you can, eliminate it. Potential troublemakers are fatty foods, fried foods, spearmint, peppermint, chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruit and caffeine. You prevent nighttime heartburn by putting 6-inch blocks under the bedposts at the head of your bed. In that position, gravity keeps stomach acid in the stomach. Weight reduction almost always lessens symptoms.
I like your doctor’s approach. Use the cheapest medicine that keeps you free of pain. Antacids often can fit the bill: Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta, Maalox and the many others. The most effective medicines are those called proton pump inhibitors: Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix and AcipHex, some of which are available without a prescription. They practically turn off acid production. Some doctors like to have their patients stop use after a year to see if symptoms remit. If they do, so much the better. Less expensive are Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac and Axid, which cut back on acid production and are obtainable without prescription.
One downside of indefinite use of proton pump inhibitors is the possibility of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Acid is needed to absorb it. The same goes for iron, calcium and magnesium.
The booklet on heartburn (GERD) explains this common condition in great detail, along with its treatments. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 501W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My wife is a healthy 66-year-old woman. The problem is that she wakes up at night, screams for a second and then goes back to sleep. The following day, sometimes she remembers, but sometimes not.
This has been going on for two to three years. She uses no medicines. What could this be? — J.V.
ANSWER: It could be what’s called sleep terror. It’s more often seen in childhood, but occasionally adults have it. You describe it perfectly. The person suddenly wakens and screams in what appears to be panic. Then she or he returns to sleep. Most have no memory of the event the following day, and don’t recall a frightening dream. If this doesn’t interfere with her normal functioning, she doesn’t need to pursue it.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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