Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, also referred to as acid reflux, is a physiological condition that causes the regurgitation of the stomach content into the esophagus and throat. Acid reflux is very common and may occur due to inappropriate diet, stress and unhealthy lifestyle. Some people are frequently confronted with acid reflux and in time they can develop serious complications. Physiological abnormalities seem to be the main cause for acid reflux (weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter, uncontrolled contractions of the sphincter, low pressure at the bottom of the esophagus due to abnormal positioning of the sphincter, etc). People who suffer from acid reflux as a consequence of physiological abnormalities can only overcome their condition through the means of ongoing medical treatment for acid reflux or surgery.
Surgery is a good way of overcoming the condition, but it is not appropriate for all patients. Surgery is recommended only in the chronic forms of acid reflux and for most patients, oral medical treatments for acid reflux provide satisfactory results. Combined with an appropriate diet, most treatments for acid reflux can ameliorate the condition within days.
The most common treatments for acid reflux consist of antacids, histamine antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, pro-motility drugs and foam barriers.
Antacids quickly neutralize the excess of gastric acid inside the stomach. Prescribed in most treatments for acid reflux, antacids are usually very efficient in controlling the levels of digestive fluids. Although antacids provide quick results, their effects are only temporary. The treatments for acid reflux that consist only of antacids can’t control the secretion of stomach acid for more than a few hours. In order to maximize their effect and extend the duration of their action, antacids should be taken after every meal. Antacids are safe, easy to use and can be found in any drugstore. In the treatment for acid reflux, it is best to associate antacids with other medications that provide long-term effects (histamine antagonists).
Histamine antagonists have a longer effect than antacid medications and they are very reliable in the treatment for acid reflux. Among the histamine antagonists available in pharmacies, the most popular are: cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), nizatidine (Axid), and famotidine, (Pepcid).
Proton pump inhibitors should be taken a few hours before meals. Proton pump inhibitors commonly prescribed in the treatment for acid reflux are omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium).
Pro-motility drugs and foam barriers are not very popular in the treatment for acid reflux. Pro-motility drugs are experimental drugs and can be released only with medical prescription. They normalize the activity of the esophageal sphincter and increase the pressure at the lower end of the esophagus.
Foam barriers are tablets that transform into foam when they reach the stomach. The foam acts like a barrier against the digestive fluids, protecting the esophagus from being flooded with gastric acid. The tablets also contain substances that control the levels of gastric acid produced by the stomach.