What is omeprazole?
Have you been prescribed omeprazole, or know someone who has? Echo's very own Chief Pharmacist, Alistair Murray, has the facts.
What is omeprazole used for?
Omeprazole is a medicine that helps to lower excess stomach acid.
Indigestion and acid reflux
Too much stomach acid can irritate the lining of the stomach leading to indigestion symptoms. If the contents of the stomach bubble back up towards your throat and mouth (something called acid reflux) then the acid irritation can cause heartburn. Omeprazole can reduce the amount of stomach acid that would be able to cause any irritation in these situations.
Prolonged irritation by stomach acid may increase the chance of stomach ulcers developing. And continued exposure to stomach acid can stop the ulcers from healing and may even make them worse. Omeprazole allows ulcers to heal by reducing exposure to acid and can also play a part in preventing ulcers from forming if there is a risk of this happening.
Omeprazole and alcohol/food
It’s OK to drink alcohol in moderation when you’re taking omeprazole. Alcohol can increase the amount of stomach acid your body makes, so too much alcohol can irritate your stomach and lead to your underlying symptoms getting worse.
Food that’s rich and very oily or spicy can lead to your symptoms getting worse so try to avoid meals like this. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can also help.
Omeprazole and pregnancy
Omeprazole is usually safe for most women to use during pregnancy, although it’s always best to first try and control symptoms with changes to your lifestyle. Discuss with your doctor if you’re already taking omeprazole when you find out you’re pregnant. It’s common for women who are pregnant to experience indigestion and acid reflux during their pregnancy and the doctor will often try alternative treatments like low-sodium antacids before opting for omeprazole.
Omeprazole common side effects
Most people who take omeprazole won’t have any side effects. If you are affected by the following side effects, here are some ideas about how to cope:
- Headaches - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Headaches should usually go away after the first week of taking omeprazole. Talk to your doctor if they last longer than a week or are severe.
- Feeling sick - try taking omeprazole with or after a meal or snack. It may also help if you don't eat rich or spicy food.
- being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea - drink plenty of water by having small frequent sips to avoid dehydration. Signs of dehydration include peeing less than usual or having strong-smelling pee. Do not take any other medicines to treat diarrhoea or vomiting without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor.
- Stomach pain - try to rest and relax. It can help to eat and drink slowly and have smaller and more frequent meals. Putting a heat pad or covered hot water bottle on your stomach may also help. If you are in a lot of pain, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
- constipation - get more fibre into your diet, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals, and drink plenty of water. Try to exercise, for example, by going for a daily walk or run. If this doesn't help, talk to your pharmacist or doctor
- Wind - steer clear of foods that cause wind, like pulses, lentils, beans and onions. It might also help to eat smaller and more frequent meals, eat and drink slowly, and exercise regularly. Some pharmacy remedies, such as simethicone, may relieve symptoms of wind.
If you'd like to learn more about omeprazole, the NHS has a wealth of information that you can read here or check out our never miss a does YouTube series!
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