OTC Woes: Acid Reflux Treatment Problems
Acid reflux is one of the most common health problems affecting Americans, with as many as one in three US adults experiencing symptoms of heartburn or regurgitation at least once a month. Life with acid reflux is really no secret for many of these people. In fact, there are a lot of celebrities who are open about their experiences with acid reflux disease, including television personalities like Rosie O’Donnell and professional athletes like John Elway.
Despite how common it is, there is actually a lot that people don’t tend to realize about acid reflux disease. For example, those who are experiencing acid reflux more than a few times a month are likely have a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Rather than look at the issue as something chronic and serious, a lot of heartburn sufferers go to over the counter medications that promise to ease the symptoms for a short period of time. Not only are these over the counter medications not always effective, their long-term use can actually be harmful to your health.
Over The Counter Anti-Reflux Medications
There are two primary types of OTC anti-reflux medications. This includes antacids and PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors. Antacids are the go-to after dinner chew that is supposed to ease the pain that comes after a spicy or fatty mistake at mealtime. These pills are entirely reactionary. They do not work until heartburn is already starting, and are not effective at preventing heartburn.
Proton pump inhibitors reduce or eliminate the symptoms of acid reflux by blocking the stomach’s production of acid, thereby reducing the ability of stomach acid to enter the esophagus. These medications often work somewhat effectively, but there is a problem here. Read the label of any PPI and you’ll see a warning not to use the medication for a period longer than 14 days. Prolonged use of PPIs can result in some severe side effects, including decreased calcium absorption which is connected with bone fractures, heart issues and even increased risk for pneumonia.
Rather than turn to over the counter quick-solutions for long term acid reflux relief, the smarter choice is to seek true medical help. Since OTC medications don’t actually cure acid reflux disease, the symptoms will continue to bother you and acid will continue wearing down the esophagus. One study out of the University of Pittsburg found that patients using OTC medications to treat acid reflux were at a 60 percent increased risk for the pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that only develops after chronic acid reflux damage in the esophagus.
The absolute best way to treat acid reflux disease is to correct the problem, and this is done through minimally or non-invasive surgical procedures. OTC medications might seem great for a quick fix, but they are not a long term solution to heartburn woes.