7 Myths About Acid Reflux

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Allison Firestone on September 16, 2021
  • senior woman coughing in hand
    Acid Reflux Myths and Facts
    Over 15 million Americans have reported dealing with acid reflux on a daily basis. But even though it’s a common ailment, there are many myths and misconceptions about acid reflux causes, symptoms and treatments. If you or someone you know is suffering from this unpleasant condition, make sure you’re informed about the following seven common acid reflux myths—and the real facts behind them—to ensure you’re doing all you can to manage the condition.
  • illustration of stomach acid backing up into esophagus, concept of acid reflux
    Myth No. 1: Reflux is just a nuisance.
    Reflux occurs when acid flows from your stomach back up into your esophagus, causing burning and sometimes even vomiting—and it’s something you should take seriously. Chronic, untreated acid reflux has been linked to an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer and other serious conditions, like ulcers and a narrowing of the esophagus. If your symptoms occur twice a week or more, bring it up to your doctor to determine if you need treatment.
  • male-holding-large-stomach
    Myth No. 2: If you’ve never had reflux, you’re in the clear.
    Actually, you’re more likely to experience the condition later in life, as common acid reflux causes include aging, pregnancy and weight gain. With age, your digestion process slows, making you more likely to experience the unpleasant regurgitation of stomach acid back into your esophagus. With pregnancy, hormones temporarily relax the connection between your esophagus and stomach. If you notice symptoms all of the sudden, check with your doctor to see what might be the cause and how best to treat it.
  • Chips and Salsa
    Myth No. 3: Only spicy foods cause acid reflux.
    True, spicy salsa can cause burning for some, but foods that cause acid reflux actually vary person to person. Rich, greasy or fatty foods—like bacon—are common triggers, as are coffee (caffeinated or not) and alcohol. For some, the trigger is related to non-food lifestyle factors, such as smoking, asthma, diabetes, and connective tissue disorders. Start tracking when you experience acid reflux so you can identify trends and determine your most common triggers.
  • Mature woman sitting on bed reading information on pill bottle
    Myth No. 4: Medication is the only treatment option.
    You may be able to manage acid reflux and its symptoms through lifestyle changes. Both excess weight and tight-fitting clothing put pressure on your abdomen, which can cause reflux. Maintaining a healthy weight and wearing looser clothes can help reduce this risk. Learning and avoiding trigger foods, quitting smoking, eating smaller meals, and avoiding lying down for at least three hours after meals (to keep gravity on your side) can all help prevent reflux.
  • holding oral tablets
    Myth No. 5: Popping an antacid makes reflux go away.
    You may need to try a few different medications to figure out what works for you. For some people, popping an antacid to neutralize stomach acid just before eating is effective. For others, over-the-counter medication, taken on a daily basis, eliminates symptoms by reducing acid production. For those with more severe reflux, doctors may prescribe medication that also heals the esophagus or even recommend surgery to strengthen the esophagus.
  • Senior man resting in bed
    Myth No. 6: Reflux is unrelated to sleep.
    Even if you’ve timed your last meal to take place the recommended three hours before bed, going to sleep can still trigger acid reflux since moving into a lying-down position makes acid more prone to slip back into your esophagus. If this is the case, try propping up your upper body with pillows, so your head raised is 6 to 9 inches. Some research also suggests that lying on your left side—as opposed to your right—may ease symptoms, too.
  • Woman relaxing on sofa
    Myth No. 7: Natural remedies don’t work for reflux.
    While there isn’t extensive research proving natural remedies work as well as traditional medical interventions, many people find temporary relief through alternative solutions. Ginger in all forms can neutralize acid; try ginger chew candies (available at most health food stores) or ginger tea to see if this is the case for you. Other alternative options include relaxation therapy and acupuncture. Always check with your doctor to before exploring any alternative remedies to ensure they don’t interfere with your current treatments.
Get the Facts Behind These 7 Common Acid Reflux Myths
Allison Firestone
  1. Acid Reflux. American College of Gastroenterology. http://patients.gi.org/topics/acid-reflux/  
  2. Acupuncture for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Journal of Gastroenterology. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00535-006-1773-6?LI=true
  3. Are Lifestyle Measures Effective in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease? Archives of Internal Medicine. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Seth_Crockett/publication/7097774_Are_Lifestyle_Measures_Effect...
  4. Diseases and Conditions: GERD. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/definition/con-20025201
  5. Jamie A. Koufman. Laryngopharyngeal Reflux and Voice Disorders. In Diagnosis and Treatment of Voice Disorders (Eds. John S. Rubin, Robert T. Sataloff, Gwen S. Korovin). Page 467. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=CZQ1BwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA457&dq=ginger+and+acid+reflux&ots=BIicgm3Kki&sig=7FJEi55j1LRJKR76ZgqHhGf4SZc#v=onepage&q=ginger&f=false
  6. Relaxation Training Reduces Symptom Reports and Acid Exposure in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gastroenterology. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0016508594900612
  7. Risk of Oesophageal Cancer in Barrett’s Oesophagus and Gastro-oespohageal Reflux. BMJ. http://gut.bmj.com/content/53/8/1070.short
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Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 16
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.