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Take a preventive game strategy on heartburn relief

Woman experiencing heart burn

DALLAS – Jan. 30, 2019 – Spicy, fatty, greasy food and excess alcohol may sound like a typical Super Bowl spread, but it also can be the recipe for heartburn. For decades, taking antacids after people already were experiencing heartburn was the only therapy available. Prevention is now emphasized, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center digestive experts.

“If you know you’re going to eat something that ordinarily gives you heartburn, there are medications you can take before eating that food that might help,” says Dr. Deepak Agrawal, a digestive specialist at UT Southwestern.

You can try to avoid foods that cause heartburn – cheesy, greasy, and fat-laden foods such as pizza, chili, wings, burgers, and nachos loaded with cheese. “Fats promote heartburn. For example, they relax the sphincter in the lower esophagus and make it easier for acid to reflux into the esophagus,” Dr. Agrawal says.

If you know you’ll be indulging, try an 2 blocker, which slows the production of stomach acid. They are generally available over the counter.

“Most people suffering from heartburn will occasionally get it,” says Dr. Agrawal, who specializes in gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). “Those are the people who really benefit from this medication. You can take one of those pills a half hour before a meal, and you may be able to prevent the heartburn.”

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are other common medications used to decrease acid production. Examples include pantoprazole, omeprazole, esomeprazole, and rabeprazole. PPIs can take longer to reach their full effect and may not work as well if taken just as needed compared with taking them daily, Dr. Agrawal says.

Dr. Deepak Agrawal

Antacids, on the other hand, act like a sponge to soak up the excess stomach acid, but they don’t prevent the stomach from creating more acid, like H2 blockers. It may help to take some antacid tablets to soak up acid currently being produced and take an H2 receptor blocker to slow the stomach from producing further acid. Eating certain types of foods or drinking milk in an attempt to reduce stomach acid generally doesn’t work, he says.

“Most of the foods that we eat buffer acid, but they also stimulate the stomach to produce acid later. That’s why we don’t recommend them as treatment,” Dr. Agrawal says.

If you are experiencing heartburn every day, have difficulty swallowing, or notice that stools are becoming black, you should see a gastroenterologist, he says.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.4 million outpatient visits a year.