Can gabapentin be used for the treatment of GERD?

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Page last updated: 24/09/2022

In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “Can gabapentin be used for the treatment of GERD?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. 

This blog will cover the beneficial effects of gabapentin for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. We will also discuss what GERD is and how it can be triggered.

Can gabapentin be used for the treatment of GERD?

No, gabapentin is not used for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but it may relieve some of the symptoms associated with GERD. However, more research is needed to determine the right dosage, safety, and efficacy of gabapentin for GERD. 

Gabapentin is not an easy medication and it is not tolerated well by people. It is associated with a number of side effects, one of which include heartburn and acid reflux. 

This raises a question regarding the safety of gabapentin in GERD as the drug induced acid reflux can exacerbate the symptoms associated with GERD. 

Although the drug itself does not possess anticholinergic effects which cause malfunctioning of esophageal sphincter muscle, which is the main cause of GERD. 

What are the symptoms associated with GERD? 

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is an entire medical condition in itself. It is not just a case of increased acidity after you eat spicy food or have an upset stomach, it’s actually a disease. It is caused when prolonged acid reflux damages the sphincter of the oesophagus. 

Can gabapentin be used for the treatment of GERD?

This allows the acid to reach your throat and cause disturbing side effects which include:

  • Damage to esophageal mucosa
  • Swelling or pain in throat 
  • Burning sensation in mouth, throat, chest and stomach. 
  • Inability to digest food
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Blisters in mouth
  • Lump-in-throat feeling
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Highly acidic vomiting, which further damages the upper gastrointestinal tract. 

GERD, as you can see from the side effects, is a disturbing condition. Experts believe that it can attack a certain variety of individuals more often as compared to other people. These people are also more susceptible to gabapentin-induced increased stomach acidity. These people include:

  • People who are obese are more likely to suffer from this condition. Several studies suggest excess belly fat can result in GERD like symptoms. 
  • People living with underlying conditions like hiatal hernia. 
  • Pregnant women 
  • People who have prolonged gastric emptying time
  • Smoking
  • Heavily spiced and oily food
  • Overeating, which leads to higher gastric acid production in order to digest the excess amount of food.

Is there anything that can help you control the symptoms associated with GERD?

There are a few things that may help you relieve some of the symptoms associated with GERD while you are being treated with gabapentin:

Visit your healthcare professional 

First thing’s first, tell your doctor about your side effects. It is extremely important to discuss if it’s okay to continue using gabapentin. If your side effects decrease the quality of your life, it simply means you need to change your medication or reduce the dose. 

Gabapentin is meant to be taken daily and for a couple of months, depending on your condition. If it’s not comfortable, it can’t be tolerated well. Yes, it will produce side effects, but these side effects begin to subside within a few weeks of your treatment. 

If your side effects persist, it means gabapentin is not the right choice of medication for you. 

Avoid taking gabapentin on an empty stomach 

If you suffer from gabapentin induced GERD like side effects, it is important to make sure you don’t take your med on an empty stomach. The drug itself increases the acid content of the stomach because of the nature of its formulation. 

Without food, it directly affects gastric mucosa, which is the protective membrane lining your stomach. Make sure you eat something before taking your gabapentin or try taking it with meals. 

Don’t eat too much carbs

Some researchers suspected that undigested carbs may cause bacterial overgrowth and increased pressure inside the abdomen, which could contribute to acid reflux. Having high amounts of undigested carbs in your stomach can cause flatulence and bloating. 

Avoid bad eating habits 

Do not eat heavy meals 3 hours before bedtime. When you lie down on bed, the process of digestion gets slower. So you need to digest your food before you go to sleep. 

Avoid eating large portions of food. You can try having smaller, more frequent meals. Large meals can put a burden on your stomach and it releases more and more acid to help digest the food. 

Avoid drinking carbonated beverages 

Studies have observed that regular consumption of carbonated or fizzy beverages, including soft drinks, club soda, and seltzer, could be linked to a higher risk of gastric esophageal reflux. 

One study found that carbonated soft drinks can worsen certain acid reflux symptoms, like heartburn, fullness, and burning sensation in your throat. 

This is because carbonated beverages make your burp more, that can increase the amount of acid escaping your stomach and irritating your oesophagus, throat and mouth. 

Walk a mile after dinner

Studies suggest that going for a short walk after dinner can help your body to produce more digestive enzymes and makes your stomach absorb the nutrients from your food. 

It improves your digestion and reduces bloating, acid reflux, constipation and provides relaxation from several other gastrointestinal problems. 

Add natural probiotics to your diet

Milk and yoghurt are considered natural probiotics. They are well known to provide relief from gastric acidity. Yoghurt contains lactobacillus, also known as ‘good bacteria’. This good bacteria can improve your digestion and can manage excessive acid secretion in your stomach. 

Cut back on spicy foods

Heavily spiced food is your biggest enemy when it comes to coping with gastric acid reflux. Spicy food can mess up your stomach and is the most common cause of acid reflux in people who add high amounts of spices in their foods. Make sure you cut back on spicy food, at least for a while. 

Try Over-the-counter acid reducers 

You can also try OTC medications to help relieve the symptoms of GERD. Make sure you ask for your doctor’s approval first to rule out any drug interaction. 

Antacids are widely used to relieve heartburn. They are alkaline in nature and once inside your stomach, they neutralise gastric acid. Examples include Aluminium hydroxide gel (Alternagel), calcium carbonate (Alka-Seltzer), gaviscon, pepto-Bismol etc. 

Histamine-2-blockers are also used to relieve heartburn. These OTC meds inhibit the production of gastric acid. Examples include cimetidine, famotidine, rimantadine, zantac 360 and nizatidine etc. 

Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs are also used to inhibit stomach acid secretion. These meds are used worldwide to treat heartburn and indigestion. Examples include lansoprazole (Prevacid), esomeprazole (Nexium), and omeprazole (Risek)

What other medications can exacerbate the symptoms associated with GERD?

There are several other medications that can make your GERD even more unbearable. These include:

  • Antibiotics are well known for upsetting your stomach. They can kill natural gut microflora and make your GERD much worse. 
  • Supplements to replenish iron reserves 
  • Antimalarial agents
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Anticholinergic drugs
  • Antihypertensives, like calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. 
  • Controlled substances including narcotic analgesics, amphetamines, ecstasy etc. 
  • Certain hormones like progesterone. 
  • Sedatives and hypnotics
  • Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples include sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, etc.

What conditions are approved to be treated with gabapentin?

is used to treat the following health conditions:

Convulsions 

Gabapentin is used for the prevention and treatment of partial seizures. It can also be used in children above 3 years of age and in elderly patients as well. It may not suit some people, but overall it is considered a very good medication in order to relieve some epileptic symptoms. 

Nerve pain associated with shingles

Shingles is associated with terrible nerve pain that can be controlled by gabapentin. It is caused by the chickenpox virus that can stay dormant in you for a long, long time. 

Restless Leg syndrome 

Gabapentin can also be used for the treatment, prevention and management of Restless leg syndrome. It manages the excessive and involuntary movements associated with this condition by controlling the excessive neuronal activity in your brain. 

Anxiety

Gabapentin is also used to treat anxiety because of its inhibitory mechanism of action. It is a GABA analog, as stated earlier, and can mimic the actions of this inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed the relationship between GERD and gabapentin. Gabapentin may be used for the treatment of some of the symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

However, more research is needed to determine the right dosage, safety, and efficacy of gabapentin for GERD. Gabapentin is itself associated with side effects like heartburn and acid reflux. This can worsen the symptoms associated with GERD. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

FAQs: Gabapentin and gerd

Can gabapentin cause acid reflux?

Yes, gabapentin can cause acid reflux. It is considered one of the most commonly reported side effects of gabapentin and it can be managed. However, some case studies revealed an extreme heartburn, which led to the discontinuation of treatment with this medication. There’s one thing to bear in mind that the effects of every medicine are unique to every individual. 

What medications should be avoided with GERD?

  • Antibiotics 
  • Supplements to replenish iron reserves 
  • Antimalarial agents
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Anticholinergic drugs
  • Antihypertensives, like calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. 
  • Controlled substances including narcotic analgesics, amphetamines, ecstasy etc. 
  • Certain hormones like progesterone. 
  • Sedatives and hypnotics
  • Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples include sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, etc.

Which painkiller is best for GERD?

Acetaminophen is the safest painkiller to be used in GERD. Other painkillers like NSAIDS can significantly cause damage and increase your acid reflux. These meds are well known for producing stomach ulcers when used excessively.

Is it difficult to get off gabapentin?

It can be difficult to get off gabapentin because it might produce dependence, especially in people who have been taking this medication for a long time now. It is advised to not stop this medication abruptly. Sudden withdrawal can lead to the relapse of epileptic seizures and you can also suffer from tremors and other psychological symptoms. 

Why should you not take gabapentin?

Gabapentin is associated with a number of side effects and some people may not be able to tolerate this medication at all. These include:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 

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