Heartburn and Reflux For Dummies

by Carol Ann Rinzler with Ken DeVault, MD



About the Author

Carol Ann Rinzler is a noted authority on health and nutrition and holds an MA from Columbia University. She writes a weekly nutrition column for the New York Daily News and is the author of more than 20 health-related books including Nutrition For Dummies, Controlling Cholesterol For Dummies, Weight Loss Kit For Dummies, and the highly acclaimed Estrogen and Breast Cancer: A Warning to Women. Rinzler lives in New York with her husband, wine writer Perry Luntz, and their amiable cat, Kat.

About the Contributor and Medical Consultant

Ken DeVault, MD is a Professor of Medicine and has been active in research and education in the area of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) for over 20 years. Dr. DeVault conducts research on topics that include the acute and chronic treatment of gastroesophageal reflux, Barrett’s Esophagus, and esophageal motility. He has a particular interest in esophageal diseases in an aging population. Publishing extensively since the late 1980s, Dr. DeVault has written over 150 book chapters, abstracts, editorials, and original articles. He is the co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology’s Guideline Statement on GERD, which is now in its third edition.

Dr. DeVault received his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and his medical degree from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University and completed a combined clinical and research fellowship at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA. He is a Trustee and Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology and serves on committees of the American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, and American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.



For my husband, Perry Luntz.


Author’s Acknowledgments

This new project of Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies has given me the opportunity to work with yet another group of thoroughly pleasant professionals at the For Dummies group at Wiley Publishing, Inc. Acquisitions Editor Natasha Graf was a joy to work with as were Project Editor Mike Baker and Copy Editor Chad Sievers. I’m truly indebted to Ken DeVault for his careful and valuable comments on the medical aspects of this book. One is lucky indeed to find such as skillful contributor. I also thank Robert Rakel for serving as the technical reviewer. I also am grateful to the National Heartburn Alliance for their help during this project.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register/.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Mike Baker

Acquisitions Editor: Natasha Graf

Copy Editor: Chad Sievers

Technical Reviewer: Robert Rakel, MD

Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Assistants: Courtney Allen, Elizabeth Rea

Cover Photos: © PHOTOTAKE Inc./Alamy

Cartoons: Rich Tennant, www.the5thwave.com


Project Coordinator: Maridee Ennis

Layout and Graphics: Andrea Dahl, Denny Hager, Stephanie D. Jumper, Brent Savage, Jacque Schneider, Janet Seib, Mary Gillot Virgin

Special Art: Kathryn Born

Proofreaders: Andy Hollandbeck, Carl Pierce, Dwight Ramsey, Brian Walls, TECHBOOKS Production Services

Indexer: TECHBOOKS Production Services

Special Help

Christina Guthrie, Natalie F. Harris, Laura Miller

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Brice Gosnell, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Naming Your Pain

Chapter 1: Picturing Heartburn and Reflux

Meeting Your Heartburn

Pinning the Tail on the Heartburn Donkey

Looking for Help in All the Right Places

Chapter 2: Tracking Your Digestive Tract

Defining Digestion

Testing the Protectors

Examining the LES

Chapter 3: Cataloging the Symptoms and Hazards of Heartburn, Reflux, and GERD

Tracking the Symptoms

Calculating Long-Term Consequences

Chapter 4: Rating Your Reflux Risk

Picturing People with Heartburn

Factoring In the Family

Rendering a Gender Bias

Mentioning Medical Risks

Weighing Weight’s Weight on Reflux

Pinpointing Problem Eaters

Adding Up Your Own Reflux Risk

Part II : Eating Your Way to Relief

Chapter 5: Meeting Your Nutrition Needs

Measuring Nutrition

Beginning with the Big Guys

Investigating Vitamins

Mining the Minerals

Supplementing the Info

Chapter 6: Fine-Tuning Your Diet

Enjoying Food

Explaining How Food and Drink Can Cause Heartburn

Naming the Guilty Parties

Making Meals Safer

Choosing the Safest Cooking Technique

Chapter 7: Reviewing Home Remedies, Alternative Approaches, and Herbal Healers

Grading Granny’s Goodies

Looking for Alternatives

Evaluating Herbal Medicine

Linking Other Alternative Approaches to Heartburn/Reflux

Part III : Treating Your Middle

Chapter 8: Finding the Right Doctor

Deciding When to See the Doctor

Sorting Through the Heartburn Specialists

Choosing a Doctor

Going to the Doctor with Your History in Hand

Chapter 9: Examining Your Esophagus and Testing Your Tummy

Picking Potential Patients

Assessing Your Acidity

Measuring Your Muscle Strength

Studying Your Stomach

Evaluating Your Esophagus

Chapter 10: Prescribing Relief

Noting the Cost of Heartburn Help

Aiming for Neutrality with Antacids

Blocking the Burn

Slowing the Pump

Interesting Interacting

Chapter 11: Avoiding Problem Pills

Pinpointing Potential Problems

Naming Medicines That Loosen the LES

Targeting Traffic Stoppers

Listing Irritating Drugs and Supplements

Naming Medical Conditions That May Make Meds Stick

Minimizing the Heartburn Effects of Essential Medicines

Chapter 12: Exploring Surgical Options

Nominating Candidates for Heartburn Surgery

Setting a Surgical Schedule

Cutting and Pasting: Fundoplication

Meeting the Morning After

Reaching Home Base

Balancing Risks and Benefits

Peering into the Reflux Crystal Ball

Part IV : Creating a Comfortable Lifestyle

Chapter 13: Building a Better Body

Answering Question Numero Uno: Who’s Overweight?

Choosing a Healthful Weight Control Program

Working Off Your Reflux

Chapter 14: Healing Heartburn with Healthy Habits

Snuffing Out Heartburn

Toasting the Pain-Free Life

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Chapter 15: Stressing Stress Relief

Stressing the Importance of Stress

Activating Your Adrenals

Linking Stress to Heartburn

Unlocking Your Stomach from Your Stress

Chapter 16: Fashioning (and Furnishing) a Comfortable Life

Burning Your Bra and Loosening Your Belt

Looking Good, Feeling Fine

Finding Furniture That Fights Heartburn

Part V : Meeting the Special Cases

Chapter 17: Handling the Heartburn of Pregnancy

Are All Pregnant Women at Risk for Reflux?

Avoiding Unnecessary Tests

Determining Safe Remedies

De-Linking Your Lifestyle from Your Reflux

Chapter 18: Finding Heartburn in Infants and Children

Naming What’s Making Your Child Cry

Diagnosing Reflux in Children

Treating Children with Reflux

Chapter 19: Taking Aim at Senior Heartburn

Aging into Heartburn

Identifying the Risk Factors in Older Folk

Diagnosing Heartburn in Older Patients

Treating Senior Heartburn

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 20: Ten or So Heartburn and Reflux Myths

Heartburn Is Common, So It’s Nothing to Worry About

Heartburn and Reflux Inevitably Lead to Cancer

Only Overweight People, Drinkers, and Chiliheads Get Heartburn and Reflux

Smoking a Cigarette After Eating Prevents Heartburn

Heartburn Is an Inevitable Part of Growing Older

OTC Antacids Aren’t Real Medicine

Taking Prescription Heartburn and Reflux Drugs Makes Digesting Food More Difficult

Having Nighttime Heartburn Means You Should Sleep Sitting Up

Love Coffee? Got Heartburn? Switch to Decaf

To Avoid Heartburn After Eating, Relax

Having Heartburn during Pregnancy Means Giving Birth to a Hairy Baby

Heartburn Is Connected to the Heart

Chapter 21: Ten Heartburn Web Sites

The National Heartburn Alliance

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders


GERD Information Center

The American Gastroenterological Association

The American College of Gastroenterology

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE)

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

American Academy of Family Physicians

The American Dietetic Association

The Food and Drug Administration

Chapter 22: Ten Sometimes Painful, Often Annoying, but Almost Never Fatal Digestive Disorders



Constipation and Diarrhea

Gas (Flatulence)

Globus Sensation



Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)



Heartburn is a pain. When you have heartburn, eating the food you like best, working at top speed, or enjoying activities with your family, friends, and significant others can be difficult. That’s the bad news.

But heartburn can be helped. You have all sorts of options: Carefully editing your diet, eating smaller meals, loosening your belt, or working with your doctor to find effective medicine can help you to eat the foods you like, work at top speed, and yes, enjoy extracurricular activities with family, friends, and significant others. That’s the good news.

The great news is that Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies spells it all out.

About This Book

Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies isn’t a medical textbook, so you don’t have to go to medical school or be a science wiz in order to get through it. Instead, the book aims to give you — in an easily digestible form — the information that you need to make sensible choices about how to handle that annoying pain in your middle.

More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn every year, but that doesn’t mean they’re all experts on the subject. For readers who know absolutely nothing about heartburn except that it hurts, I offer basic definitions and explanations in this book. For those of you who know more than a little about heartburn, this book is both a refresher course and a guide to the latest skinny on reflux. For everyone, this book is packed with nuggets of fascinating stuff like the biography of the man who invented heartburn surgery and a quiz on movies about babies. (In the chapter on infants with heartburn, of course.)

My goal is to help you recognize and treat a condition that may range from simply annoying to unpleasantly painful to potentially hazardous to your overall health. Giving you the ammo you need to soothe your aching middle and prevent future complications means laying out the facts and then sticking in a bit of air (like that movie quiz) so you can take a deep breath and move on to even more facts — like how to live a happy, healthy life even if Mother Nature tosses heartburn in your path.

This book is a great guide to understanding and handling heartburn, reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). But you don’t have to stop here. I provide you with all kinds of additional sources for assistance that you can use your phone, modem, and mail carrier to access.

Please note that the material in this book is for your information only. When it comes to medical advice, your most certain guide is your doctor, the person most familiar with your health and your medical needs. In addition, except where specifically noted, the material in this book applies to adults.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate your way through this book, I use the following conventions:

bullet Italic is used for emphasis and to highlight new words or terms that are defined.

bullet Boldfaced text is used to indicate keywords in bulleted lists or the action part of numbered steps.

bullet Monofont is used for Web addresses.

One more thing: I provide you with tons of Web sites in this book that you can use to get even more information on various heartburn-related topics. But, nowadays, Web addresses seem to have the shelf life of freshly baked bread. They can be great one day and stale the next. So, if you happen to find a specific address in this book that they’ve changed on us, I suggest scaling it back by going to the main site — the part of the address that ends in .com, .org, or .edu — and snooping around a bit.

What You’re Not to Read

Yes, you read that right. You don’t have to read every single word I’ve written here. Some small parts of this title are fun and informative but not necessarily vital to your understanding of heartburn.

bullet Text in sidebars: Sidebars, which look like text enclosed in a shaded gray box, appear here and there throughout the book. I like them, and I think you will too, but your functional knowledge of heartburn won’t be adversely affected should you walk on by.

bullet Anything accompanied by a Technical Stuff icon: This info is good (really good) but not critical to getting a handle on heartburn.

bullet The barcodes on the back of the book: I’m not sure who put those there, but I know that I didn’t. So, you have my permission not to read them.

Foolish Assumptions

Every book is written with a particular reader in mind, and this one is no different. As I wrote it, I made the following basic assumptions about who you are and why you plunked down your hard-earned cash for a 300+ page book about heartburn.

bullet You don’t have a medical degree, but you’ve decided it would be smart to know more about why you hurt.

bullet You’ve changed your diet and tried all the antiheartburn drugs you can get without a prescription, and now you think it’s time to figure out where to go for serious advice.

bullet You want basic information about heartburn, the people who treat it, and the medicines that relieve it.

bullet You’ve been recently diagnosed with heartburn or acid reflux disease or think you may have it.

How This Book Is Organized

The following is a brief summary of each part in Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies. You can use this information as a “quick pick” guide to check out what you want to read first.

Part I: Naming Your Pain

In Chapter 1, I give you an overview of practically everything you need to know about heartburn, including stats on how many of your fellow citizens are in the Heartburn Boat with you. Chapter 2 presents a really clear guide to your digestive organs — including the ones that hurt when heartburn hits. In Chapter 3, I list heartburn’s symptoms and (sorry about this) the potential consequences. And I reserve Chapter 4 for naming names — telling you who’s at risk, and why.

Part II: Eating Your Way to Relief

I start this part by covering nutrition in Chapter 5, telling you everything you need to know about the nutrients that enable your body to run in tip-top condition. Then, in Chapter 6, I help you adapt your diet to give you essential nutrients while avoiding reflux. Finally, Chapter 7 is a really interesting compilation of home remedies (including some foods) for heartburn. (For your amusement, I include some curiosities, such as an old-time herbal recipe for a heartburn cure, which is so yucky that when you read it, you’ll see that this remedy is definitely something that you shouldn’t try on your own!)

Part III: Treating Your Middle

Chapter 8 is a straightforward guide to finding and working with doctors for heartburn relief. Chapter 9 lists the tests that the doctor is likely to suggest to pinpoint the source of your tummy troubles. Chapter 10 is a catalog of heartburn medicines, and Chapter 11 gives you a catalog of drugs that can actually give you heartburn. Chapter 12 (snip, snip) explains surgical remedies for heartburn.

Part IV: Creating a Comfortable Lifestyle

Chapter 13 tells you how to make your body strong and supple, which certainly sounds nice, in relation to your quest to conquer heartburn. In Chapter 14, I talk about how to deal with unhealthy habits such as smoking. Chapter 15 lays out stratagems for avoiding stress. Chapter 16 tells you how to furnish your home and clothe your body without triggering heartburn.

Part V: Meeting the Special Cases

Heartburn isn’t a one-size-fits-all condition. Some folks, in special circumstances, have special problems that require special solutions. Chapter 17 discusses the special risks and remedies for heartburn during pregnancy. Chapter 18 examines the littlest heartburn sufferers: infants and children. Chapter 19 approaches heartburn among the aging.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

In true For Dummies fashion, I get out my top-ten lists for this part. Chapter 20 debunks heartburn myths, some of which you may still believe are true. In Chapter 21, I provide a list of really reliable Web sites for people with digestive disorders. And Chapter 22 lists common digestive conditions you probably don’t have — but should know about, just in case they pop up in your future. Or in the life of someone near and dear to you.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are a useful For Dummies way to catch your attention and highlight information. They come in various shapes and forms.


When you see this guy, the accompanying text is solid, hands-on information that you can put to work.


This fabulous piece of art accompanies info that I don’t want you to forget.


This icon alerts you to issues or occurrences that may prove harmful to your health or throw you a curveball in the battle against heartburn.


Though the info accompanying this icon is utterly fascinating, it’s not necessarily critical to your understanding of the topic at hand. Feel free to skip it if you want.


Though you need to run all things health and heartburn related by your doctor, this icon reminds you when the waters are especially choppy or murky and a doctor’s guidance is especially critical.

Where to Go from Here

One of the best things (among many) about a For Dummies book is that each chapter is a self-contained unit. You don’t have to start at Chapter 1 and work through the rest of the book in order. And you don’t have to read it cover to cover to benefit from the information. You can dive right in anywhere and be certain of finding everything you need to know about the subject at hand. Splash!

Part I

Naming Your Pain

In this part . . .

To start healing the burn, you need to know the basic facts about heartburn, reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, a real mouthful that’s usually abbreviated as GERD. This part defines heartburn, explains the workings of your digestive tract, lists the symptoms and consequences, and tells you who’s at risk.