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Hold the heartburn on Thanksgiving

Consumer Reports News: November 25, 2009 03:38 PM

For many people, the Thanksgiving feast means overindulging, which can lead to a bout of indigestion and heartburn. But the easiest way to manage heartburn is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep your belly jolly this turkey day by trying these simple steps:

  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Eat fewer fatty foods
  • Go easy on spicy foods
  • Give up smoking

If your heartburn is still bothering you, adjusting your bed may help soothe your stomach at night. Raise the head of your bed using wooden blocks, so that your head is higher than your feet. One small study found this helped ease heartburn symptoms.

A longer range strategy is losing weight if you need to, which may give you another reason to hold back on that second helping of stuffing during Thanksgiving.

If the diet changes don’t bring relief, then it may time to try a medicine. Your first and best bet is to try an inexpensive over-the-counter antacid like Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums, or acid-reducing drugs called H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR), and ranitidine (Zantac 75, Zantac 150). All of those products are available without a prescription as low-cost generics.

If your heartburn persists and you experience it twice a week or more for weeks or months on end, then you should see a doctor because you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This is a serious condition that can cause damage to your esophagus, if left untreated. The good news is that drugs called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, can help keep GERD under control. In our Best Buy Drug report, we recommend two over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors as your best first option if you have been diagnosed with GERD:

•   Prilosec OTC
•   Generic omeprazole OTC

Another option might be the nonprescription version of Prevacid, called Prevacid 24HR, which recently hit store shelves earlier this month.

All of these are just as effective and safe as more expensive PPIs but remember, if you are having an acute bout of heartburn on Thanksgiving day, a PPI should not be what you reach for first.  In most cases, an antacid or an acid-reducing H2 blocker is all you need.

—Steve Mitchell, associate editor, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs

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