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Rapid Relief for Heartburn Sufferers?

Do you need help for heartburn?

Up to 50 million Americans suffer some form of acid reflux.

Now, a study from Yale says zinc salts may offer quick relief to painful and potentially dangerous heartburn without the side-effects of the popular medications used to treat it now.

CBS News Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared details about the findings with "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill.

Ashton noted it's important to mention the study's limitations as well the good news it seems to contain.

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In this case, she said, the study has "a lot of limitations" because it only looked at 12 people.

"It is far away from coming to a theater near you in terms of being able to go to a drugstore, buy this element, zinc, as a treatment for your heartburn," Ashton said. "But the good news is that there is the potential for more research that may show that this actually is very helpful for heartburn."

For some people, heartburn is really debilitating. Current treatments always carry side effects.

Ashton points zinc was found to be quick, effective and largely safe and free of those side effects.

"Right now, if are you suffering from heartburn, the first thing a doctor will tell you is to modify your lifestyle. Behavioral changes are really the first line," she explained. "After that, you can go to over-the-counter antacids or ... blockers, and if those don't work, then to reduce the acid secretion, a doctor may write a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor or a PPI. But again, every time you take a medication, it's risk-benefit. You have to factor in cost, side effect, all of those."

In addition to lifestyle changes, heartburn sufferers should watch for triggers, which include foods high in caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, acidic or fried or fatty foods.

How do you know if it's chronic problem?

"Self-medication and self-treatment and diagnosis is a big problem for any disease. You don't want to ignore heartburn. It can potentially lead to serious, even precancerous or cancerous changes in the esophagus," Ashton explained.

"If you are suffering from heartburn more than twice a week, over-the-counter, lifestyle containing are not working, you really want to see a doctor. Maybe in the future, something as simple as zinc might give you some relief," she added.