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Five ways to avoid heartburn without drugs and what to do if you cannot

Heartburn and Gastro-esophegial reflux disease (GERD) can be awful conditions that are quite common.  More than four in 10 Americans (44 percent) reported experiencing heartburn at least once a month and almost 20 percent experienced it at least once a week.  How do you treat heartburn?  If possible, avoid drugs. According to Consumer Reports, many people with heartburn do not need drugs. You can often avoid heartburn in these five ways:
  1. Be careful about what you eat and drink.  Many foods and drinks can trigger heartburn, including alcohol, oranges, onions, coffee, spicy foods and chocolate. If you are getting heartburn after you eat, isolate the foods that are causing it and try not to eat them.  Or, eat smaller amounts of them.  And wait a couple of hours after you eat them to go to sleep.
  2. Quit smoking.
  3. Stay fit and lose excess weight.
  4. Wear loose clothes and don’t tighten your belt as much.
  5. Raise the head of your bed six or eight inches and get a good night’s sleep.

Try antacids like Rolaids and Tums or, if those don’t work, try an H2 blocker like Pepcid AC or Zantac.

If you are suffering from heartburn twice a week or more for many weeks and need stronger drugs, try to take the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time.  Often proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), like Prevacid and Nexium, are not necessary, and they are expensive.  You want to avoid them because in high doses, over a long period of time they can lead to a higher risk of bone fracture, muscle spasms, irregular heartbeats and severe diarrhea.

Studies also suggest that PPIs might also increase people’s risk of dementia.

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