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What is a proton pump inhibitor?

A proton pump inhibitor is a type of medication that can be used to relieve the symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux. Common symptoms of reflux include heartburn (a burning sensation felt behind the breastbone) as well as regurgitation, which is when your stomach contents flow back up into throat or mouth. 

For mild symptoms that only occur occasionally, changes to diet and lifestyle are usually enough to get relief. For more troublesome symptoms however, medication may be needed. PPIs are considered one of the most effective medications for relieving symptoms of reflux.

How do proton pump inhibitors work?

A proton pump is a type of enzyme found in the lining of the stomach, which is responsible for secreting gastric acid. Gastric acid causes the discomfort of heartburn when it is refluxed into the oesophagus.

A proton pump inhibitor – as the name suggests – relieves acid reflux by binding to and blocking these proton pumps, essentially stopping them from producing as much gastric acid. The stomach therefore becomes less acidic, which helps reduce the symptoms of heartburn and also allows your oesophagus to heal from any inflammation. 

Once a PPI acts on a proton pump, the binding is irreversible and acid secretion will only be restored when new proton pumps are created. This means that the beneficial effects of PPIs are usually long-lasting.

What is the correct proton pump inhibitor dosage?

PPIs are usually taken once a day, however your doctor may recommend a different dosing regimen based on your specific needs. 

It’s also recommended to take it consistently at about the same time each day, whenever your symptoms are worse. Keeping a regular time for taking your PPI may help you remember to take it. 

Be aware that PPIs may take a few days to act on all proton pumps and reach their full effect. Over-the-counter PPIs should also not be taken for more than 2 weeks, unless otherwise advised by your doctor.

Antacids vs PPIs

Are you wondering what’s the difference between antacids and proton pump inhibitors? While PPIs stop gastric acid from being made and released, an antacid simply neutralises the acid that has already been released into the stomach. Both work to make the stomach contents less acidic, but the main difference is that the PPI acts on gastric acid at the source of its production.  

All information presented is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist see your health professional.


Article published January 1, 2021