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10 Heartburn Myths You Should Know the Truth About

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Updated October 05, 2009

Myth #1: "I cause my heartburn."
There are many lifestyle habits and certain foods and beverages that can worsen your heartburn symptoms. However, heartburn is a medical condition with biological causes. Even with changes in lifestyle and eating habits, the condition is still there, and you may still experience heartburn. This fact makes itself known the first time you try eating that spicy food again.

Myth #2: "Heartburn can be cured with a bland diet."
A bland diet isn't bad for heartburn sufferers. In fact, it may make them feel better. But the bland diet alone will not cure heartburn caused by Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Myth #3: "Heartburn is only caused by excess acid."
The amount of acid in the stomach of a GERD sufferer is usually normal. The problem comes from the fact that the acid is in the wrong location. Instead of staying in the stomach, it moves into the esophagus. So why do physicians give you medication to reduce stomach acid when excess acid isn't the problem? This is because there is a lack of drugs that effectively treat the underlying factors that cause the acid reflux.

Myth #4: "Acid reflux only causes problems in my esophagus."
While heartburn caused by acid reflux into the esophagus is the most well-known symptom of GERD, it isn't the only effect on the body. Another important conditions that may be caused by, or worsened by, acid reflux is asthma. Recent studies indicate that not only can GERD cause or exacerbate asthma, but that asthma and asthma medications may in return cause or aggravate GERD. Individuals may also experience hoarseness caused by irritation from acid reflux into the throat or around the vocal cords, or a chronic cough and sore throats.

Myth #5: "Heartburn is caused by stress."
While stress can worsen heartburn, it is rare for it to be the cause of heartburn. But extreme physical stress, such as that experienced by individuals gravely ill or severely injured, can cause ulcers to develop that's accompanied by heartburn.

Myth #6: "Nothing can be done to help my heartburn."
You can help your heartburn. Treatment can include prescription medication, over the counter remedies, lifestyle and diet changes. For further information, you can read Preventing Heartburn and Safe Foods and Foods to Avoid. You can also keep a Heartburn Record to find out what might be triggering your heartburn.

Myth #7: "I feel worse when I eat certain foods because they are acidic."
Some acidic foods, such as orange juice, do cause problems for GERD sufferers, but it isn't because of the acid content. Even nonacidic orange juice causes problems for them. Since some foods do cause heartburn for GERD sufferers, so it's important to keep a food log or diary to find out what foods trigger your heartburn.

Myth #8: "Nighttime heartburn sufferers must sleep sitting up."
A study conducted by the Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia found that sleeping on you left side is the best way to avoid nighttime heartburn. Sleeping on your right side may increase your heartburn symptoms because the acid takes longer to clear out of your esophagus when you lay on your right side. While sleeping on your back can allow acid to slip back into your esophagus more often, sleeping with your head elevated, such as on a wedge pillow, will allow gravity to keep the acid in your stomach.

Myth #9: "If I take a medication to suppress stomach acid, I won't be able to digest my food."
While our bodies produce acid to help digest food, other substances in the stomach also help to break down the food. These are called enzymes. And even if you take a medication, such as proton pump inhibitors, that works to significantly reduce the production of acid, enough acid is still produced to aid in normal food digestion.

Myth #10: "Heartburn isn't a serious condition."
While heartburn is common, with nearly 60 million American adults suffering from heartburn at least once a month, it is certainly not something to be taken lightly. Chronic heartburn can have a serious impact on an individual's life. It can be a symptom of a more serious condition, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Also, if chronic heartburn isn't treated, it can lead to serious complications, including Barrett's esophagus , erosive esophagitis, esophageal strictures, and even esophageal cancer.

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