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Indigestion is more complicated than you think 

August 2008

Indigestion is more complicated than you think 


Hardly surprising, but a new survey has revealed that 89% of people don’t know the difference between antacids, alginates and H2 antagonists. I think the biggest surprise is that it appears 11% of people do know what all these words mean – evidently they are general names for the most common type of remedies for heartburn and indigestion.

Indigestion TabletsAccording to new research by Zantac 75 Relief, around four million adults in the UK suffer from the uncomfortable symptoms of excess stomach acid every week. Just as important is that fact that it appears many people could be prolonging their suffering unnecessarily by not treating the problem with the most appropriate remedy.


Clearly, heartburn and indigestion is a very common problem and many people find excellent relief by using over the counter remedies. The trouble with this, though, is knowing which remedy might be best as there are just so many brands to choose from.

There are in fact just four main types of treatments available for stomach problems caused by excess acid. These are: antacids, alginates, H2 antagonists and proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s). All of these remedies treat the condition in very different ways and according to experts it‘s important to match the severity of symptoms to the right medication to ensure the problem is relieved quickly and effectively without under or over treating.


Probably the one most of us are familiar with is antacid. Alkaline in nature, antacids work by neutralising excess acid in the stomach. This treatment is suitable for mild heartburn and indigestion.

Another remedy is Alginate. This forms a foam layer on top of the stomach contents to block excess gastric acid rising into the oesophagus. If you have to restrict your sodium intake, this may not be appropriate for you.

The hugely medical  sounding H2 antagonist works at the root cause of indigestion and heartburn by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach.

Finally, for severe heartburn and indigestion, there is the Proton Pump Inhibitor.

This works by shutting down the system responsible for producing stomach acid known as the “proton pump”, hence the name of this remedy.

Gastroenterologist Dr John de Caestecker from Leicester Hospital comments;

 ‘It is important that indigestion and heartburn sufferers match the severity and frequency of their symptoms to the right remedy to ensure maximum effect. For example, taking an antacid for severe recurring indigestion is like treating a deep wound with a plaster. It is inefficient and inconvenient to take antacids frequently or for long periods of time to keep symptoms at bay.’’

Pharmacists should be able to advise you on the different remedies and the one most suitable for your symptoms; but as always, if you are suffering from what you believe to be severe indigestion and it doesn’t go away, consult your GP.



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