Health Beat: 'GERD' nerd! 5 acid reflux myths

Health Beat: 'GERD' nerd! 5 acid reflux myths

Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn, but what you think is heartburn could be a lot more.

Heartburn is just one type and one symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which is a digestive condition that happens when stomach acid flows back into your food pipe.

Here are five myths and some truths about it:

Myth #1:  GERD is not serious.

Dr. James Rosser, a surgeon at Hospital Celebration, said it actually can develop into a deadly disease.   

"It can lead to the fastest growing cancer in America: esophageal cancer," he explained.

Myth #2: Heartburn is the only sign.

In fact, Rosser said a dry cough, sinus problems, and even asthma can be symptoms. 

"Up to 60 percent of the patients in this country with asthma are theorized to be caused by acid reflux," Rosser said.

Myth #3: Medicine will take care of it.

You might believe medicine will cure or relieve it, but Rosser said the truth is drugs alone cure less than half of patients.

Myth #4:  It doesn't matter what you eat.

Some think diet doesn't make a difference when dealing with GERD, but that's wrong, said Rosser.  Soy milk, manuka honey, chamomile tea, bananas, and oatmeal can reduce symptoms, however, stay away from chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, and canned foods. 

"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," explained Rosser.        

Myth #5:   GERD affects only adults.

Kids, even babies, can have reflux, said Rosser, adding that no matter what your age is, there's help. 

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

Also, he said many people don't know the side-effects of common heartburn medications. Some can cause pneumonia, diarrhea and bone fractures and are even associated with a dangerous infection known as C-DIFF. For some patients, Rosser said, surgery may be a safer and better option.

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