Jul 3, 2012
By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
Sometimes when you give boys in their early adolescents sharp knives and tell them to stab and slash things, the day goes surprisingly well. The boys were gleefully stabbing the soft undersides, ripping them open and dumping the contents all over my parking space. A few weekends ago the McQueen boys, their parents and a bunch of other people helped me de-sandbag my cottage at Crescent Cove. Ripping open the sandbags was oddly cathartic. Up until that weekend, I could empty about one super- sandbag per day by myself. With a bunch of people helping, we did over twenty super-sandbags in an afternoon. Remember in October 2009, when Stephen Harper surprised the audience at the National Arts Council Gala by appearing on stage with world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma? Then the Prime Minister, played the piano and sang the Beatles song, Little Help from My Friends. I was floored by performance. Just like I was floored by how wonderful a little help from my friends got rid of sandbags so quickly. Many hands really do make light work.
Food is usually my friend too. Okay, my beer belly says we are more than just friends. And, I love hot, spicy food. Hot,spicy food doesnt always love me. Some times it gives me heart burn. You know that uncomfortable burning feeling behind your breast bone. What can be done to quench the fire?
Firstly, symptoms of heartburn happen to virtually everyone at some point in their life. If heart burn symptoms are infrequent and dont last long, they are not associated with an increase risk of serious disease. There are some warning flags for when you should see your doctor: severe abdominal pain, pain on the side of your abdomen that persists in one spot, unexplained weight loss of more than 7 lbs in the past six months, new feelings of shortness of breath or chronic tiredness, difficult or painful swallowing, persistent vomiting, coughing up blood, or black tarry stools. If you have any of these symptoms with your heartburn, see your doctor.
So how can we prevent heartburn? Big meals can lead to heart burn, so lets cancel big summer family BBQs! Well, cancelling big BBQs would work, but wouldnt be very unpopular. So instead, try eating smaller more frequent meals, eat low fat foods with lots of fiber, reduce alcohol consumption, avoid lying down right after meals, and lose some weight. Well, if youre like me at a BBQ I eat a huge meal with lots of fat, drink alcohol and coffee and then immediately lie down on the couch (and just forget about losing weight during BBQ season). Okay, maybe prevention is harder than we thought. What about treating the heartburn once it has started?
Without a prescription, we have antacids and H2 receptor blockers. Antacids with names like Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Diovan etc all work on mild heart burn. They go into your stomach and neutralize stomach acid. So you feel relief quite quickly, but the relief may not last very long. If you find one you like, use it. There are a couple of cautions, though. If you need antacids more than 3 times a week, or have been using them longer than 6 months in a row, see your doctor. The other problem can be different medications. Antacids bind up other medications that are in the stomach at the same time. If you are on prescription medications, ask you pharmacist if they are safe to take with antacids.
H2 receptor blockers have names like cimetidine, ranitidine, or famotidine. H2 receptor blockers go to a special histamine receptors and prevent them from getting turned on. This stops the stomach from making as much acid. They are reasonably fast and last a long time. They are quite safe and you can usually get relief from 1 or 2 pills in a day. In fact, until recently 150 mg of ranitidine used to be available only by prescription. Now you can buy it over the counter. Again, though, if you are using your acid blocker more than 3 times a week or for more than 6 months in a row, see your doctor.
So even if spicy foods arent always nice to you, relax. Even if losing weight and giving up BBQing seems impossible, dont worry. When all else fails, acid reducing and acid blocking medications will always be your friends and give you a little help.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
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