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Recurrent Heartburn
March 2001

Q. I have recurrent heartburn for the past month. My doctor has prescribed Premicid for me to take, but I am worried about possible side effects or damage to my liver. I have been taking Xantac 75 (over the counter) with fair results, but I don't like having to take this all the time either. I have cut out offending foods, stopped eating after 6 p.m. and prop up the head of my bed at night. I am scheduled for a Barium x-ray, but what else can I do for relief in the meantime? I am 42 years old and otherwise in good health.

A. Heartburn is usually caused by one of two things. Most common is a condition where the acid in the stomach travels up into the esophagus. This is commonly called ?reflux' or by its technical term, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). The treatment of GERD is multifold. One is to use medication to decrease the acid production; this is what your doctor has suggested for you and what the Zantac does. Each patient responds differently to these medications, and you will need to find one that works best for you. Other things that can be done to decrease the symptoms are to decrease offending foods (for example, alcohol oftentimes makes this worse), to lose weight, stop smoking, to not wear tight fitting clothes, and elevate the head of the bed.

Another cause of these symptoms is an ulcer or gastritis. These symptoms are also relieved by the same medications that treat GERD. In addition, when the condition is chronic your doctor will likely do a test to see if there's a bacteria causing the symptoms, in which case antibiotic therapy can be helpful.

You can learn about GERD at:

http://www.gerd.com/

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