Proton Pump Inhibitors

What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors And How Do They Work?

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may be diagnosed with GERD if you experience acid reflux more than twice a week. Proton pump inhibitors can help to reduce the symptoms of GERD and prevent complications from arising.

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, or opens at inappropriate times, allowing the contents of the stomach to rise up into the esophagus. This reflux can be very painful because the stomach acid creates a burning sensation in the soft lining of the esophagus, which you may feel as heartburn, acid indigestion, or burning in the back of the throat. Other symptoms of GERD include a dry cough, trouble swallowing, or symptoms similar to asthma.

Why Are PPIs Recommended For GERD?

Proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of stomach acid. This means that when the stomach contents are released into the esophagus, less irritation is caused to the delicate esophageal lining. You will experience less heartburn and burning in your throat as a result.

Repeated gastroesophageal reflux can cause damage to the esophagus, leading to inflammation, ulcers or bleeding. Proton pump inhibitors help to prevent these GERD complications by reducing the acidity of the stomach contents. If you already have damage to your esophagus due to GERD, your doctor might recommend that you take proton pump inhibitors to give your esophagus chance to heal.

How Do PPIs Work?

Gastric acid is produced by cells in the wall of the stomach. PPIs block this production by binding to enzymes in these cells to prevent them from releasing hydrogen ions (protons) into the stomach. The mechanism that produces stomach acid is known as the gastric proton pump, which is why PPIs are referred to as proton pump inhibitors.

Once you stop taking proton pump inhibitors, acid production will return to normal levels, as the deactivated enzymes are continuously replaced by new ones. A gastroenterologist can advise you about long-term options to manage GERD symptoms, which may include taking PPIs continuously, changing your diet or lifestyle, or having surgery to strengthen the valve that keeps stomach contents contained within the stomach.

How to Take PPIs for GERD

If your gastroenterologist prescribes PPIs to relieve GERD, he or she will give you advice on how to take them. You should follow these instructions carefully. PPIs are most effective when taken before food. If you are taking only one pill per day, you will usually be advised to take it 30 minutes before your first meal. If this dosage does not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may advise you to take another pill before your evening meal.

Some proton pump inhibitor drugs are available without a prescription. However, you should speak to your health care provider before starting a new medication regime.  The team of doctors at Gastroenterology Associates has the most experienced, the largest team of board-certified gastroenterologists in the region.

Specialization and board certification in gastroenterology means that your digestive health is being managed by the most aptly suited physician, and GERD or acid reflux disease should certainly be addressed by an experienced gastroenterologist.  Call the Gastroenterology Associates to schedule an appointment and evaluation of your acid reflux symptoms for proper treatment, possibly with a PPI.