5 Myths You Should Know About Heartburn

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Atul Maini a board-certified general surgeon and a fellow of American College of Surgeons, is the medical director of the new Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health. 
Atul Maini a board-certified general surgeon and a fellow of American College of Surgeons, is the medical director of the new Heartburn Center at St. Joseph’s Health.

Heartburn is more than simply inconvenient. Many people consider the condition as only an irritant or something that taking two Tums can solve. Because of this, the symptoms can later worsen. Heartburn is a burning pain in your chest, just behind your breastbone. It’s a condition that is more prevalent than people think.

“Heartburn affects one in five adults, and can make life miserable,” said Atul Maini, medical director and surgeon at The Heartburn Center in Syracuse. “It’s not just what types of food we tend to eat, but also how much food we eat and when we eat it. All of these behaviors have a negative impact on our digestive system, and often cause uncomfortable flare ups of heartburn.”

Maini discusses five myths about heartburns.

1. Heartburn isn’t a serious condition

Maini often hears that and it is a concerning thought because he knows that heartburn is absolutely serious. Heartburn can be connected with other issues in the body such as a hiatal hernia, which is diagnosed when the stomach moves up into the chest through the opening in the diaphragm.

“If that is ignored, there are cases where it can easily morph into esophagus problems and cause cancer,” said Maini. “It is very dangerous to just ignore the feeling or say it will just pass, especially it happens repeatedly.”

2. Acid reflux is nothing to worry about either

People often complain about the burning in their chest from the condition, where acidic gastric fluid is regurgitated into the esophagus, causing heartburn. Maini said there are patients who talk about the fact they can feel acid coming back into their mouths when they lay down.

“Reflux is one of the fastest growing disease in the United States,” said Maini, who added that the Heartburn Center is the first dedicated and comprehensive heartburn treatment center in the greater Syracuse region. “Until now, patients who suffer from heartburn may have gone to their primary care physicians or a gastroenterologist for treatment, or they may have tried to self-medicate with over-the-counter remedies that may not solve the underlying problem or may cause some serious side effects.”

3. Medication is the only way to treat it

There’s no harm in popping a Prilosec or whatever over-the-counter drug you can find for your heartburn, right? Wrong. Too often people self-medicate in an attempt to quickly find comfort for their heartburn. Medication should only be taken in short intervals.

You can help your heartburn. Treatment can include prescription medication, over-the-counter remedies, lifestyle and diet changes.

“There are too many people who are using short-term medication as their long-term medical care,” said Maini. “You could be doing more damage than you think to essential gastrointestinal parts of your body.”

4.Heartburn is only the result of poor eating habits

Random eating habits, the most common reason behind heartburn, is not the sole reason. Heartburn actually happens when you have a problem with your lower esophageal sphincter. As a result, the stomach acids move upward.

“While we always recommend eating right in general for overall health, eating the wrong foods are not always directly causing your heartburn,” he added. “This is one of the reasons why we recommend seeing a gastroenterologist because there could be necessary tests you need to take to determine what is causing your particular problem.”

5. There are no good surgical options for heartburn

Maini said The Heartburn Center offers some of the latest technology for treatment options, including the LINX implant procedure, which is placed at the bottom of the esophagus to help strengthen the valve between the esophagus and stomach, and stop acid from backing up into the esophagus as easily. The implant is about the size of a quarter, inserted through minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, and most patients are able to return to normal eating and activity within a couple of days.

The LINX device consists of a series of titanium beads, each containing a magnetic core connected with independent titanium wires that allows the expansion of the wires. This design preserves the ability to belch, vomit, and is removable — which allows for future treatment options, such as fundoplication.

“This is a cutting-edge surgery that can make all the difference in the world for people who have gastrointestinal issues,” Maini added.