There are different categories of treatment and their uses and explanations are listed below.
Generally, patients should start with antacids and then make their way down the list if treatment does not control their symptoms.
1. Antacids – the first line treatment. These help neutralise stomach acid to relieve symptoms. The effects usually last for 2-3 hours. Examples of antacids include Rennie, Enos, Andrews Salts, and Tums. They contain ingredients like calcium carbonate, which neutralizes stomach acid, but too much calcium taken regularly can make acid reflux worse. Only be for occasional or infrequent use.
2. Alginates – neutralize and form a layer on the top of stomach acid, which prevents upward movement. Are available in tablet and liquid forms. Liquids act quicker but are more inconvenient to carry around. Usually, these last no more than 3-4 hours.
Alginates are made up of calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate or aluminum salts. Too much calcium taken frequently can cause stomach acid to worsen, so should only be used infrequently. Excessive magnesium salts can cause diarrhoea and too much aluminum salts can cause constipation.
Always check with pharmacist, as alginates can interact with other medication. Examples include Gaviscon, Gaviscon Advance, and Peptac.
3. H2 Receptor Antagonists – available as tablets. They reduce the production of stomach acid and were initially introduced on prescription, before being available to buy from pharmacies. They start to work in as little as 30 minutes and their effects can last for up to 12 hours. They are well tolerated and side effects are rare. They can include diarrhoea, tiredness, rashes, and constipation. Examples include Ranitidine, Zantac, Gavilast, Cimetidine, and Pepcid AC.
4. Proton Pump Inhibitors – or PPIs for short, are the latest medicine for controlling acid reflux and other stomach symptoms. They work by reducing the stomach acid, but are more effective and last longer. Effects can be seen up to 17 hours after the dose is taken. They come in tablet or capsule forms, be should be swallowed whole (Losec Tablets can be crushed if needed). PPIs are very well tolerated, with low incidence of side effects. Usually, unwanted effects include diarrhoea, constipation, drowsiness. Examples include Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, Losec, Nexium, and Pantoloc.