Top Treatments for Heartburn

Treatment Usually Involves Both Lifestyle Changes and Medication

If you have chronic heartburn, it's important to be knowledgeable about how to best treat it. Untreated acid reflux may lead to complications like esophageal cancer.

Listed below are the eight most often used treatments for acid reflux. Of course, it's important that you discuss any treatment options with your doctor first. 


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As part of your acid reflux treatment, your doctor will most likely suggest one or more lifestyle changes either before considering a medication or in combination with a medication, like a H2 blocker or a proton pump inhibitor

For the vast majority of those with heartburn, the most important lifestyle modification is weight loss (if overweight or obese). Rapid weight gain too can be a trigger for heartburn. Stopping smoking and limiting or abstaining from alcohol is also often helpful. 



There has been some debate as to whether food can cause or trigger heartburn. While it's difficult to prove scientifically, many people with heartburn link their symptoms to one or more specific foods or drinks, especially chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, citrus, and carbonated drinks. Therefore, it is important that people with heartburn eliminate or limit these foods and drinks from their diets. That being said, you should do this under the care of their doctor to ensure you are not being too restrictive.



H2 blockers, like proton pump inhibitors, decrease the amount of acid in the stomach, but through a different mechanism. They begin working within an hour of taking it. Sometimes a doctor may recommend an H2 blocker for long-term treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). H2 blockers are also used to treat other acid-related conditions like peptic ulcer disease



Anatacids are available over-the-counter and are not as strong as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors. That being said, when used properly, antacids can be useful in relieving the occasional heartburn and indigestion. Still, it is much better if you prevent the heartburn from occurring in the first place, rather than treating the heartburn after it happens.



Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a group of medications that prevent the release of acid in the stomach and intestines. Doctors prescribe PPIs to treat people with heartburn (acid reflux), ulcers of the stomach or intestine, or excess stomach acid (Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome). Some proton pump inhibitors are available over-the-counter whereas others are available by prescription only. Adhering to the prescribed dose and taking your PPI at the right time (30 to 60 minutes prior to a meal) is crucial to it working properly.



For some people with chronic acid reflux, they want an alternate, natural way of treating their heartburn, especially if they have been on medication for some time. These options range from folk and homeopathic remedies to healthy diets and lifestyle changes.



A surgical option for the treatment of GERD is laparoscopic fundoplication, which involves constructing a new "valve" between the esophagus and the stomach by wrapping the upper portion of the stomach (the fundus) around the lowest port of the esophagus. 



The Stretta procedure is an approved technique for gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults who have had symptoms for six months or more, are not receiving any or only partial benefit from traditional GERD medications (like proton pump inhibitors), and have declined surgery or are not surgical candidates. 

This procedure is performed during an upper endoscopy and entails using radiofrequency energy delivered to the muscle of lower esophageal sphincter and gastric cardia (uppermost part of the stomach).  



Katz PO, Gerson LB, Vela MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol 2013;108:308-28.

Triadafilopoulos G. Stretta: A valable endoscopic treatment modality for gastroesophageal reflux disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jun 28;20(24):7730-38.