Despite what it's called, heartburn—or that burning feeling in your chest—has nothing to do with your heart.
Here are four key facts about heartburn from John Pandolfino, M.D., of Northwestern University.
1. Many diseases can cause heartburn.
Acid reflux is not always the cause. One disease that can cause heartburn is achalasia, a rare disorder that makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into your stomach. Another is eosinophilic esophagitis. That's an allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus.
2. Regular heartburn does not lead to cancer.
Most people who experience occasional, mild heartburn will not develop esophageal cancer. If you have heartburn regularly for 10 or 15 years, for example, there is a very small chance that it could lead to cancer. Always talk to your doctor if you experience regular symptoms and please don't wait, as endoscopy can assess your risk.
3. Not all foods trigger heartburn.
There's a difference between what makes you more likely to experience heartburn and what triggers heartburn. Fatty foods, for example, lower your anti-reflux barrier, which can increase your chances of heartburn. Acidic foods may trigger heartburn the moment they hit your esophagus. Avoiding heartburn triggers will help stop heartburn.
4. Significant weight loss is not necessary to ease heartburn.
Some people experience heartburn after gaining weight. However, significant weight loss—such as 50 or 60 pounds—isn't necessary to stop heartburn. Losing the 5 or 10 pounds you gained and returning to your baseline weight will help heartburn disappear.