Five heartburn myths and remedies that help

30 January 2023 dot 4-minute read
Healthy Body Heartburn Live Well Listicle Illnesses and diseases
Occasional heartburn is common, but eating habits can help provide relief (Credit:
If you've ever felt an uncomfortable or painful burning feeling in the chest, you may have experienced heartburn or acid reflux.
Contrary to its name, heartburn doesn't involve the heart, even if the burning sensation is in the chest. Instead, it occurs when food or stomach acid rises into your oesophagus (also known as reflux).

Five myths about heartburn

Many assume too much stomach acid causes heartburn. But your stomach naturally has acid to help with the breakdown of food. The culprit is the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
This valve at the lower end of your oesophagus protects against stomach acid. But when the sphincter doesn't close fully, stomach acid can backflow into your throat, causing a burning sensation.
What are some heartburn myths

Myth 1: Heartburn means you have GERD

Heartburn is sometimes used synonymously to mean Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) because heartburn is one of GERD's symptoms. It is possible to have GERD without experiencing heartburn. Instead, the GERD symptoms are tightness in the throat and chest, issues with swallowing, bad breath or dry cough.

Myth 2: Peppermint can soothe heartburn

While peppermint has been known to soothe stomach aches, it may not be the best remedy for heartburn. Peppermint can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acids to leak back into the oesophagus and may worsen symptoms of heartburn. Go for chamomile or ginger tea to soothe your digestive tract instead.

Myth 3: Milk can relieve heartburn

Can milk neutralise stomach acids to prevent heartburn? (Credit:
Drinking milk is often believed to help neutralise the acid in your stomach. But high-fat dairy products like whole milk can weaken the oesophageal sphincter. Choose skim or non-fat milk and low-fat yoghurt to avoid heartburn.

Myth 4: Heartburn only happens after eating

Consuming huge meals can stretch the stomach and cause swelling or bloating, putting pressure on the LES. However, overeating is not the only trigger of heartburn.
Workouts such as leg-ups or sit-ups can lead to heartburn due to the pressure these motions place on your stomach.
Heartburn affects many pregnant women. The hormonal changes can relax the LES and the uterus more frequently and send the stomach's acidic contents to flow back up to the oesophagus. The added pressure on the stomach from the growing uterus can also cause heartburn.

Myth 5: Only medication can treat heartburn

Antacids are the most popular medicine for heartburn, but lifestyle and healthy diet changes offer the best chance for long-term relief.
You should also know that certain medications can cause acid reflux. Talk to your doctor if you notice heartburn symptoms when taking antibiotics, high blood pressure medication or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Your physician will tell you if prescription drugs need to be taken with food to relieve heartburn. Do not stop taking medications without talking to your doctor.

Simple steps to relieve heartburn

If you suspect your daily coffee triggers heartburn, try reducing serving size or consuming fewer cups if you have more than two a day. (Credit:
Chronic heartburn can damage the oesophageal lining, which can cause problems in the future. With a few tweaks to daily habits, you can fight heartburn and help minimise the risk of GERD.

1. Be aware of trigger foods and drinks

If you suffer from heartburn, opt for foods rich in fibre, such as carrots, whole grains and sweet potatoes. Snack on more alkaline (and less citrusy) fruits like bananas and melons.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends steering clear of fatty and fried foods if you suffer from acid reflux. Eat and drink the following moderately to avoid heartburn:
  • fried and fatty foods
  • spicy foods
  • spicy foods
  • chocolate
  • citrus fruits like lemons and oranges
  • vegetables like onions, broccoli and tomatoes
  • full-fat dairy products
  • tomatoes and tomato sauces
  • alcohol
  • caffeine and carbonated drinks

2. Relieve pressure on your stomach

Pressure on the stomach can make you more prone to acid reflux, and there are many ways this happens, from eating large meals, wearing too-tight clothing, and lying down within three to four hours after eating.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity can lead to heartburn when the extra weight in the belly pushes the stomach and its contents into the oesophagus. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, losing the extra pounds may help reduce reflux symptoms.

4. Sleep with your head raised

Lying down with your head higher than your stomach can help prevent stomach acid from backflowing into your oesophagus. You can elevate the head of your bed using blocks, books or a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress. Raise your head about six inches (15 centimetres) when you sleep.

5. Stop smoking

Smoking is known to be harmful in many ways. An early study in the Journal of Digestive Diseases and Sciences shows that cigarette chemicals can weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, making you more prone to heartburn.

When is heartburn serious?

If your symptoms include a squeezing, pressure-like feeling on your chest, see your doctor immediately (Credit:
You can find effective relief for occasional heartburn with a few tweaks to your daily habits. If your heartburn isn't going away or worsens, seek medical help. See your doctor immediately if your symptoms include a squeezing, crushing, pressure-like feeling in your chest.
Fighting heartburn can minimise your risk for more serious conditions over time. In addition, having a medical protection plan in place can further protect you from unexpected medical expenses and insulate you from rising healthcare costs. Have you experienced heartburn? Save this article to keep our tips fresh in your mind.
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MedlinePlus. Reviewed 2021. Heartburn [online]  [Accessed on 6 September 2022]
Oesophageal & Gastric Cancer Charity. What's the link between dairy and acid reflux? [online]  [Accessed on 7 September 2022]
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013. Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. [online]  [Accessed on 7 September 2022]
John Hopkins Medicine. GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn) [online]  [Accessed on 7 September 2022]
StatPearls. Updated 2022. Physiology, Lower Esophageal Sphincter [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
BMC Family Practice. 2021. Head of bed elevation to relieve gastroesophageal reflux symptoms: a systematic review. [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Reduce Heartburn by Burning Calories. [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
Mount Sinai Health Library Peppermint. [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Diet Changes for GERD. [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 1996. Effects of transdermal nicotine on lower esophageal sphincter and esophageal motility. [online]  [Accessed on 8 September 2022]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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