Myths About Heartburn Debunked

Elevate the head of your bed to reduce the chance of heartburn at night.

TRUE! Elevating the head of the bed can be an effective therapy, as shown in some studies. The head of the bed can be elevated by plastic or wooden bed risers that support bedposts or legs, or a therapeutic bed wedge pillow. The height of the elevation is critical and must be at least 6 to 8 inches to be at least minimally effective to stop the backflow of gastric fluids. Some innerspring mattresses do not work well when inclined and can cause back problems; some people prefer foam mattresses. Some practitioners use higher degrees of incline than provided by the commonly suggested 6 to 8 inches and claim greater success. Sleeping on the left side also has been shown to reduce nighttime reflux episodes.

Drink cream or milk for a heartburn remedy.

MYTH. Your mother or grandmother might have recommended this remedy, but they weren't privy to the latest scientific findings. Doctors do not recommend drinking milk to reduce heartburn, as it has been proven that milk temporarily reduces the symptoms only to later increase acid production by the stomach, which can cause more heartburn.

After-dinner mints offer a soothing way to drift off to sleep.

MYTH. Mints on the pillow are generally not a good way to ensure a peaceful night for heartburn sufferers. In fact, bedtime mints combine three common heartburn triggers—chocolate, mint, and lying down—making them more likely to bring on heartburn than pleasant dreams for some sufferers.

My heartburn is my fault.

MYTH. Too many heartburn sufferers believe they are entirely to blame for these painful flare ups. While it is true that certain lifestyle habits and the foods and beverages you eat and drink can aggravate your heartburn symptoms, many people make significant lifestyle changes to fight heartburn but still experience heartburn. Heartburn is a medical condition with real biological causes, and heartburn sufferers need not compound their discomfort with shame and guilt.

Heartburn is a fact of life that I can't completely control.

TRUE, but people with heartburn don't need to suffer in silence. Changes in diet and lifestyle as well as a fast-growing range of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can provide relief for most sufferers. Surgery or newer nonsurgical techniques may be appropriate heartburn treatment options for some.

Heartburn is just a minor, trivial complaint.

MYTH. Heartburn is common, but it is not trivial! In fact, frequent heartburn can severely impact the productivity, daily activities, and quality of life of those who experience it. In addition, persistent heartburn could be a symptom of a more serious condition called GERD, which, if left untreated, can cause or contribute to a wide range of problems such as ulcers of the esophagus, asthma, and chronic cough. These complications may be avoided with proper monitoring from a physician. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing any of these conditions.

Heartburn is a heart condition.

MYTH. Heartburn is caused by acidic fluid from the stomach washing up into the esophagus, or the swallowing tube. It is not caused by a heart condition. The discomfort of heartburn is often a burning sensation directly beneath the breastbone, causing some people to immediately think it’s related to the heart, although it is not. The discomfort is often accompanied by burping, or symptoms of bloating or gas. Sometimes an acid taste occurs in the mouth. Heartburn symptoms often are worse after eating a large meal, using tobacco, or consuming alcohol or caffeine, and tend to improve after taking antacids. These symptoms are not indicative of or consistent with a heart condition.

I have to live with my heartburn.

MYTH. Many people don't believe that heartburn can actually be blocked, but some OTC medications can actually stop heartburn, as well as provide complete symptom relief. H2 blockers reduce acid for up to 12 hours. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), like Prilosec OTC, more effectively inhibit acid production and, for many, effectively treat frequent heartburn symptoms for 24 hours with one daily pill.*

If I take a drug to suppress acid, I won't be able to digest my food.

MYTH. Our bodies produce acid that helps break down food in the stomach and kills harmful bacteria. Acid works together with other substances in the stomach called enzymes to break down food. Even OTC proton pump inhibitors, which work directly on active acid pumps to significantly inhibit acid production, allow enough acid to be produced so that normal food digestion occurs.

†IQVIA ProVoiceTM Survey Jan 2005 – Mar 2021.

*Zero heartburn is possible with Prilosec OTC. Not for immediate relief. Take one pill per day as directed to treat frequent heartburn. May take 1 to 4 days for full effect. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor. Use as directed.

**PG Calculation based in part on Buying Households reported by the Nielsen Company through its Homescan Panel service in the US for Prilosec OTC for the period of 8/31/03 through 6/25/16