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Different Types of Heartburn Medications
Whether you suffer from occasional or frequent heartburn, you have probably heard of the three main types of medications designed to fight the problem: antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Here’s some information on how these medications work and why PPIs are considered by many to be dangerous.
PPIs (including Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec) are also meant for people suffering from severe heartburn. They work by slowing the proton pumps of certain stomach cells, reducing their ability to pump acid into the stomach. The pump removes non-acidic potassium ions from the stomach and replaces them with acidic hydrogen ions. PPIs tend to take longer to work than H2 blockers, but they work for a longer time period (anywhere from 24 hours to three days compared to about 12 hours).
The Dangers of PPIs
Unfortunately, PPIs have been linked to severe kidney problems such as chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. CNN reported that, according to a study conducted by the American Society of Nephrology, patients who took PPIs were at a much higher risk of developing kidney problems than those who took H2 blockers. PPI users, according to the study, were 28 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease and 96 percent more likely to suffer from kidney failure.
PPIs have grown substantially in popularity in recent years even though there are far safer alternatives available. While PPIs are associated with serious kidney problems, there has been no link established between alternatives such as antacids and H2 blockers and renal system complications.
- Antacids – An antacid is the mildest form of heartburn medication, available over the counter and typically in chewable form. Brands include Rolaids, Tums and others. They help to neutralize acid in the stomach by increasing the secretion of mucus and bicarbonate. Antacids usually contain a combination of calcium, aluminum and magnesium and are recommended for occasional, minor heartburn.
- H2 Blockers – H2 blockers are designed for people who have more severe, frequent episodes of heartburn. The “H” stands for histamine receptors, which are found in stomach cells. Histamine 2 is a specific acid stimulant that can lead to prolonged bouts of heartburn. H2 blockers, as the name implies, block the signals that tell the stomach to produce acid. Brand names include Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac.