Avoiding holiday heartburn: Is Zantac safe to take?

HEALTHLINE: Is it safe to take Zantac to prevent Thanksgiving Day heartburn?

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For folks who suffer from heartburn, too much fried turkey might come with a side of regret. Many were caught off guard by the recent recall of the popular over-the-counter drug Zantac, so we asked an acid reflux surgeon for his recommendations.

Dr. Mark Hausmann at Our Lady of the Lake said he believes Zantac and similar drugs are still safe.

“There are a few versions of Zantac that had some trace elements of possible carcinogens,” he explained. “The pharmacies have been overcautious about pulling the Zantacs, so the ones on the shelves are OK.”

But with so many options at the pharmacy, which medicines work best?

Zantac and Pepcid are known as H2 blockers. They move quickly and are said to be more effective at night while you sleep.

Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and work better during the day. Those should be taken for several days before they’re fully effective.

For immediate relief of occasional heartburn, Hausmann suggests sticking with antacids like Alka-Seltzer and tums. But what if your symptoms are more severe?

“If you're someone who tends to wake up in the middle of the night from heartburn, the medicines don't work great for that,” Hausmann explained. “Or if the medicines work adequately and you just don't want to be on long-term medications, that's when you want to look for alternatives to the medical management.”

Reflux disease happens where the esophagus meets the stomach. The muscle there can become weak and allow stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus. Doctors have several options to fix it.

One of the newest is a magnetic ring called Linx that's placed around the muscle. It allows food to go down while keeping acid from going up.

Another procedure called Stretta uses a scope and radiofrequency waves to stimulate the muscle to grow.

Hausmann recommends lifestyle changes before going those routes. That includes avoiding fatty foods, large portions, and late-night meals.

Certain foods and drinks like pepper, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chocolate, red wine, peppermint, citrus fruits, and caffeine can also trigger heartburn.

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