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Check if you have Acid Reflux

The main symptoms of acid reflux are:

Heartburn – a burning sensation in the middle of your chest.
An unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid.

You may also have:

A cough or hiccups that keep coming back
Bad breath
A hoarse voice
Bloating & feeling sick

Your symptoms will probably be worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There's often no obvious reason why.


Sometimes it’s caused or made worse by:

Being overweight
Stress & anxiety
Certain food & drink such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
Some medicines such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen)

Consult your GP if you have:

Persistent heartburn (acid reflux, often at night) for three weeks or more
Persistent indigestion for three weeks or more
Persistent hiccups or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
Difficulty or pain in swallowing food
Unexplained weight loss

What method can be used in managing symptoms?

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs reduce the amount of acid made by your stomach. They are commonly used to treat acid reflux and ulcers of the stomach and part of the gut called the duodenum. Most people who take a PPI do not develop any side-effects.

They should be taken once daily and may take a few days to have full effect. Over the counter PPIs can be used for up to two weeks.

How do PPIs work?

PPIs stop cells in the lining of the stomach producing too much acid. By decreasing the amount of acid, they can also help to reduce acid reflux-related symptoms such as heartburn.

Who should not take PPIs?

PPIs may not be suitable for some people - for example, people with certain liver problems. Breastfeeding or pregnant mums should avoid them apart from omeprazole which is deemed to be suitable. A full list of individuals who should not take a PPI is included with the information leaflet that comes in the medicine packet. If you are prescribed or buy a PPI, read this to be sure you are safe to take it.



Common types of antacids

Ingredients to look for include:

• Aluminium hydroxide
• Magnesium carbonate
• Magnesium trisilicate
• Magnesium hydroxide
• Calcium carbonate
• Sodium bicarbonate

Some antacids also contain other medicines, such as an alginate (which coats your gullet with a protective layer) and simethicone (which reduces flatulence). They should be taken once daily and may take a few days to have full effect.

How and when to take antacids

Check the instructions on the packet or leaflet to see how much antacid to take and how often.

Antacids should be used when you have symptoms or think you will get them soon – for most people, the best time to take them is with or soon after meals, and just before going to bed.

Side effects of antacids

Antacids do not usually have many side effects if they’re only taken occasionally and at the recommended dose.

But sometimes they can cause:
• Diarrhoea or constipation
• Flatulence (wind)
• Stomach cramps
• Feeling sick or vomiting

These should pass once you stop taking the medicine.


Support for quitting smoking

Quitting smoking is always a good idea, but the prospect of easing your reflux symptoms are an added incentive. Smokers who have heartburn are likely to find their symptoms improve when they stop smoking.

While minimising your chances of heartburn sounds great, the likelihood is you may struggle to drop cigarettes using will power alone. Most people need a helping hand to take the first step towards reducing smoking-related heartburn.

  • 20 Minutes after quitting Blood pressure returns to a normal level
  • 8 Hours after quitting Carbon Monoxide in the bloodstream is cut in half
  • 3 Days after quitting The ability to breathe is easier
  • 2 Months after quitting Circulation improves and lung function increases up to 30%
  • 1 Year after quitting The risk of a heart attack is reduced by half
  • 5 Years after quitting The risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker
  • 10 Years after quitting The risk of lung cancer is reduced to that of a non-smoker
  • 15 Years after quitting The risk of a heart attack is reduced to that of a non-smoker

Going Smoke Free

There is plenty of NHS support available to go smoke free.

Many people try to quit smoking with willpower alone, but it’s much easier with the right expert support and treatments.

Expert Support

Your local Stop Smoking Service will give you free expert support and advice, including what prescription medicines might be right for you. Getting help from a trained stop smoking adviser can give you the best chance of quitting for good. Your local pharmacist and your GP can also give you advice and support to help you quit.

While these services cannot offer face-to-face support during the coronavirus outbreak, they can still support you in your quit attempt via phone or video calls, apps, daily email support and Facebook messenger.

Smoking and your Health

Health effects of second-hand smoking:

Making the home, workplace and car smoke free is really important for preventing ill health and aggravating existing illness e.g. heartburn symptoms.

A YouGov COVID tracker shows that people who live in households that include children are 50% more likely to report being exposed to second-hand smoke since lockdown compared to those without children (10% compared with 6%). A further 12% of smokers who live with children report they are smoking indoors more than they did before lockdown.

Effects of smoking on heartburn:

Be aware how some things can get worse before they get better.

Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your mental health and physical health.


Within a day or so of your last cigarette, your appetite will increase initially. As you know from above over-eating can aggravate smoking-related heart burn.

Weight gain

It's possible for people to put on weight after stopping, but there are many things a person can do to help reduce this if it's of concern.

There's evidence to suggest that increasing physical activity can reduce cravings. What sort of exercises do you enjoy doing?

What sort of healthy foods do you enjoy eating that help with minimising any potential weight gain?

Being overweight is one of the triggers for heartburn so keeping a healthy weight will certainly have many additional benefits.

Community Pharmacy Support:

Community pharmacy teams are not only experts on medicines, how they work and what conditions they treat. Some pharmacies can offer important public health services like stop smoking, weight management, vaccine schemes (including flu, pneumonia, covid 19). They can also offer advice on minor ailments like heartburn and decide whether you need to see a doctor.