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Over-the-counter antacid tablets, which are typically chewable or effervescent, contain calcium, magnesium, and aluminum salts that quickly neutralize stomach acid.

Though convenient, cheap, and relatively safe, antacids are not meant to be taken multiple times per day for days on end. Chronic use can create problems, such as constipation or diarrhea.

These drugs can also interact dangerously with other medications. People taking calcium or those with high blood pressure should be cautious about regular antacid use.

Others may seek relief from reflux with H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Both medications are available over the counter or by prescription, and both reduce the body’s production of stomach acid.

Although PPIs are useful for treating peptic ulcers, they are also commonly prescribed for long-term use for GERD — yet they weren’t meant to be used this way.

“The FDA recommends PPI use for four to eight weeks, but many people take them daily for years,” explains functional nutritionist Jesse Haas, CNS, LN.

Long-term use of acid blockers can lead to other uncomfortable digestive symptoms, like bloat. “PPIs and other types of acid blockers change the pH of your stomach from acid to alkaline, turning it into a nice, friendly place for bacteria to settle and multiply — and produce lots of bloat-causing hydrogen and methane gas,” explains integrative gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD. “If you’ve been taking ­acid-suppressing drugs for more than a few months, it could be the reason you’re bloated.”

Seeking a quick fix makes sense: GERD and reflux are uncomfortable. But if you can figure out the root cause, treating that is the best bet for long-term relief.

This was excerpted from “5 Ways to Manage Acid Reflux Without Medication” which was published in the March 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Stephanie Soucheray

Stephanie Soucheray is a health journalist based in St. Paul, Minn.

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