4 Surprising Heartburn Facts

4 Surprising Heartburn Facts

Heartburn's simple, right? Eat too much (like five trips at the all-you-can-eat buffet), or eat the wrong things (like Uncle Joe's "inferno" chicken wings), and you're in trouble. So you slip an antacid, and you're good to go.

But there's actually a lot more to heartburn than that. For example, did you know that a chronic cough could be heartburn-related? Or that the pain medications you take may bring on the burn? Or that there's a little-known heartburn remedy in the candy aisle?

Check out these four surprising facts about heartburn:

1. Triggers come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps you've heard that you should avoid the spicy foods, the chocolate, the colas, the acid-laden tomato-based dishes. But lesser-known triggers may be hiding in the medicine cabinet—medications that could weaken your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and cause stomach contents to creep back up into your esophagus. One common culprit: over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin. Another: antihistamines, be they over-the-counter or prescription. Others: birth control pills and antispasmodics. Talk to your doctor if you think medications may be contributing to your heartburn.

2. Remedies don't have to come from the medicine cabinet. Antacids and other heartburn medications are certainly one good option for soothing—or preventing—the burn. But here are some other simple tricks to try:

  • Chew gum for 30 minutes after a meal. Chewing gum stimulates swallowing, which reduces the acid reflux that often occurs after eating. Choose sugar-free varieties—and no mint. Mint can bring on heartburn.
  • Cut the salt and fat, and up the fiber. Consuming less total fat and salt and more fiber may help reduce acid-reflux symptoms.
  • Stick with the tried and true. With all the heartburn advice out there, stick with strategies backed by the best evidence. Two proven heartburn beaters: losing weight (dropping as little as 10 percent of your body weight can relieve heartburn symptoms) and elevating the head of your bed for sleep. Start the journey to a slimmer you today.

3. Heartburn goes beyond the burn: cough, tickle, teeth. Frequent or severe reflux, called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), not only may irritate your esophagus but also may contribute to sinusitis, coughing, hoarseness, asthma, bad breath, gum inflammation and erosion of your tooth enamel. The acidic reflux can irritate or damage just about any surface with which it comes into contact.

4. Your family tree may affect you. Does Dad pop antacids like candy? Does your sister feel the burn after every latte? Genetics may account for up to 43 percent of your susceptibility to heartburn. But no matter what the cause—chili fries, a pain pill or taking after Dad—you have options for staying heartburn free.

Stop painful heartburn symptoms today.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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