At the base of your stomach is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When you eat, your lower esophageal sphincter opens to allow food to pass through into your stomach. If your LES doesn’t close all the way or it opens too frequently, stomach acid can move into your esophagus. This is called acid reflux. Despite its prevalence in western society, there are a myriad of myths when it comes to understanding, diagnosing, or treating your acid reflux. Below, we’ll bust a few of the most common myths about acid reflux.
Myth 1: Acid Reflux Is No Big Deal
One of the biggest myths concerning acid reflux is that it is normal and something to be tolerated. While that can be the case sometimes with situational reflux, such as having an acid reflux episode after consuming a huge meal, chronic acid reflux that occurs multiple times a week is not normal, and is often an indicator of a more serious condition called GERD. Although chronic reflux may seem like simply a nuisance, if left untreated it could increase your risk of other serious conditions like ulcers or esophageal cancer.
Myth 2: Reflux And Heartburn Are The Same Thing
It’s a common error for people to mistakenly use the terms heartburn and acid reflux interchangeably. While heartburn and reflux can go hand in hand at times, at the end of the day they’re still different issues. Heartburn is a symptom and how most of us experience or feel acid reflux, but it’s not inherently reflux. In many cases the presence of heartburn may suggest that a person has acid reflux, but the two can occur independently of one another. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid rises back up into the esophagus. This can be accompanied by heartburn, or simply occur on its own with no additional symptoms.
Myth 3: Medication Will Cure Acid Reflux
There are a variety of different treatment options for acid reflux, ranging from lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and avoiding trigger foods to medications and even surgery. Many people make the mistake of believing that over the counter or prescription medication (usually called a proton pump inhibitors or PPIs) can “cure” their acid reflux, but these medications simply treat the symptoms, not necessarily the root cause. It’s also important to understand and recognize the side effects of PPIs, which aren’t meant for long-term use and can have some negative health impacts on people who take them. Those who experience more than 2 bouts of acid reflux weekly may be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and will require surgery to correct the underlying cause of their acid reflux.
Myth 4: Only Unhealthy People Have Acid Reflux
It’s a common thought that you must be a smoker, overweight, or overall unhealthy to have acid reflux. However, even healthy individuals can experience chronic reflux if they suffer from GERD. Although many habits associated with an unhealthy lifestyle do increase your risk of developing GERD, the condition is caused by a physical abnormality with the lower esophageal sphincter, and it can occur in patients of any age, gender, and ethnicity regardless of their overall health.
Now that you have a more accurate picture of your acid reflux, you can be on your way to treating it! Don’t wait—if you’re looking for a reflux doctor in Tampa, call the specialists at Tampa Bay Reflux Center today!