Esomeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor – you might have heard it referred to as a PPI. This means that it blocks the function of some pumps within cells of the stomach, and causes them to secrete less acid. The esomeprazole found in Nexium® 24HR affects parietal cells in the stomach wall. These cells normally secrete hydrochloric acid – a major ingredient of stomach acid – as well as other substances that are needed to digest food. By reducing the amount of acid that the stomach produces, PPIs help relieve frequent heartburn.
You might have heard of antacids – they are over-the-counter medications that are also used to relieve heartburn symptoms, but are different to PPIs like esomeprazole. Antacids neutralise stomach acid, while esomeprazole reduces acid production. Antacids are taken in response to flare-ups as needed and provide short-duration of relief from symptoms of heartburn. They work for up to three hours, and frequent heartburn sufferers often need to take multiple daily doses to keep their symptoms at bay.