With so many different tummy problems, it is not surprising that there are many different kinds of treatments. And like salsa, they come mild, medium and extra-strength.
Symptom relief for most tummy troubles usually starts with changes in lifestyle and food choices. Next come inexpensive over-the-counter (OTC) treatments. When heavy-duty help is needed, most docs turn to prescription (RX) drugs.
Though OTC and RX remedies vary in potency, they are called “gastric modifiers” because they reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. No matter the cause of GI distress, changes in diet and lifestyle (see page 6) are the best starting place. For those needing additional help, here’s a brief introduction to the drugs your doctor may recommend for GERD and heartburn. (Ask your doctor about the remedies listed for diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, most of which are less likely to interact with HIV drugs.)
Antacids are available OTC and are the quickest-acting group of drugs, but they don’t provide long- term relief. Calcium-based antacids and those with aluminum hydroxide can interact with some HIV meds and H2 blockers, so use caution. Those with sodium bicarbonate work quickly but are not recommended for those on a low salt diet.
H2 blockers, or H2 receptor antagonists, are used to treat mild, periodic heartburn. Most can be purchased OTC as generics. H2 blockers take longer to work—30 minutes to an hour—but are valued because they can ease heartburn for 6 to 12 hours. A few stronger H2 blockers are also available by prescription but they are the same as the OTC versions, just at higher doses.
Most Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are prescription drugs that are used to treat more serious and prolonged heartburn and GERD, and to help heal ulcers, generally in people who have had severe problems for at least three months despite treatment with other drugs. A number of these have interactions with HIV meds.