GERD Nerd: Acid Reflux Myths

Published 05/30 2013 04:42PM

Updated 05/30 2013 04:45PM

Millions of Americans suffer from GERD, a chronic digestive disease that happens when stomach acid flows back into your food pipe.

A lot of people know the condition causes heartburn, but there's a lot more to it.

Here are five common myths.

It can strike suddenly.

Wayne Vanek has acid reflux and says, "Chest pain and I got to the place where I almost thought I was having a heart attack."

Chronic heartburn, known as GERD, affects more than 21 million Americans, but there are a lot of myths out there.

The first: It's not serious. 

Doctor James Rosser says it can actually develop into a deadly disease.

Dr. Rosser says, "It can lead to the fastest growing cancer in America: esophageal cancer." 

Another myth: Heartburn is the only sign.

In fact a dry cough, sinus problems and even asthma are also symptoms.

Dr. Rosser: "Up to sixty percent of the patients in this country with asthma are theorized to be caused by acid reflux." 

You might believe medicine will take care of it, but Doctor Rosser says the truth is drugs alone cure less than half of patients.  Some think diet doesn't make a difference when dealing with GERD, but they're wrong!

Soy milk, manuka honey, chamomile tea, bananas and oatmeal can reduce symptoms.  Stay away from chocolate, caffiene, alcohol, fatty foods and canned foods.

Dr. Rosser: "Canned foods are terrible, and you know why? Because in order to extend the shelf life, they have a lot of acid in the canned foods." 

The last myth: GERD only affects adults.  Kids, even babies can have reflux, but Doctor Rosser says no matter what your age there's help!

Dr. Rosser: "You don't have to settle being miserable. That would be my take-away."

Doctor Rosser says many people are also unaware of the side effects of common heartburn medications.

Some can cause pneumonia, diarrhea, bone fractures and are even associated with a dangerous infection known as C-DIFF.

He says, for some patients, surgery may be a safer and better option.

BACKGROUND: One in ten Americans experiences heartburn symptoms at least once a week. Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in the chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Many people, including pregnant women, suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD. Recent studies show that GERD in infants and children is more common than previously recognized and may produce recurrent vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems. (SOURCE:


COMMON HEARTBURN TRIGGERS: The specific triggers for heartburn differ from person to person. A number of foods and drinks can cause heartburn; some common triggers are:


Alcohol, particularly red wine

Black pepper, garlic, raw onions, and other spicy foods


Citrus fruits and products, such as oranges and orange juice

Coffee and caffeinated drinks, including tea and soda



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