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Up to 44 percent of Americans experience frequent bouts of heartburn. If you're among them, look no further for relief. Heartburn is a painful condition caused by stomach acids seeping upward into the esophagus. Anyone who has experienced this burning sensation knows that it's not a pleasant feeling! If you're suffering from heartburn now, you may find instant relief with an over-the-counter antacid, like Tums. Anatacids work by neutralizing acid in the stomach, so that when the acid enters the esophagus, it will be weaker, and therefore, less painful. Antacids work rapidly, but they don't last for long. If you need to take antacids more than several times a month, or don't experience relief using them, your doctor may recommend you try a different medication, such as histamine-2, or H2, blockers. Histamine is a chemical in the body that stimulates acid secretion. H2-blockers stop the histamine from binding to acid-secreting cells, thereby hindering acid production. Most H2-blockers are available over-the-counter in low doses, although some require a prescription for higher concentrations. H2-blockers, like Zantac and Axid, last longer than antacids, but they also take longer to absorb into the body. Sometimes an hour is needed to feel the effects. For this reason, you may want to try an OTC medication that combines an antacid and an H2-blocker, so you get the quick onset of action combined with sustained relief. If neither antacids nor H2-blockers ease your heartburn symptoms, your doctor may recommend prescription drugs called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, like Nexium and Prevacid. Acid is released from cells in the stomach by a mechanism known as a proton pump. PPIs block the pump from releasing acid, effectively stopping heartburn before it starts. Both H2-blockers and PPIs are preventative medications, meaning that they work best if taken about an hour before a big, or potentially problematic, meal is consumed. Sometimes, combining medications with lifestyle modifications can be so effective that heartburn doesn't return. Avoiding foods that are known to cause heartburn, like chocolate, peppermint, spice, citrus products, tomato products, alcohol and caffeine, is the easiest way to prevent heartburn from occurring. In addition to avoiding problem foods, eating smaller meals may help to prevent the condition. Or, try using gravity to your advantage. Avoid lying down for 3 hours after meals, as this prevents stomach contents from traveling backwards to your esophagus. If nighttime heartburn has you tossing and turning, you may benefit from propping your head up with a pillow, You can also try sleeping on your left side. Your esophagus starts on the right side of your body, so this prevents food in your stomach from pressing on the opening and leading to reflux. Because being overweight puts excess pressure on the stomach, obese people more often suffer from heartburn. So just losing a small amount of weight can ease painful symptoms. While heartburn is never welcome, a variety of lifestyle modifications can help you put out the fire. And please: Remember to see your doctor if you have chronic heartburn or pain that resists treatment.