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Seven Surprising Heartburn Facts

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid starts moving around where it’s not supposed to go, namely into your esophagus.1 When everything is going hunky dory, stomach acid stays put in the stomach. But for a number of different reasons it can back up into esophagus where it causes pain and irritation. Occasional heartburn, while quite unpleasant, is treatable with products such as Tums Ultra 100. However, there are some heartburn facts that may help you avoid the sensation in the first place. If you experience heartburn, you should get acquainted with these seven surprising facts about heartburn.

1. Medications can cause heartburn. Some medications and dietary supplements that are helpful for other conditions can have the side effect of irritating the lining of your esophagus and causing heartburn. (Some can even increase the severity of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).2) Talk to your doctor if you experience these side effects.

These medicines are beneficial but may contribute to  heartburn. 2


Irritate your esophagus

Increase acid reflux and worsen GERD

  • Iron supplements
  • Quinidine
  • Pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Potassium supplements
  • Antibiotics like tetracycline and clindamycin
  • Bisphosphonates taken orally, such as alendronate, ibandronate, and risedronate
  • Anticholinergics, such as oxybutynin, prescribed for overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Calcium channel blockers, statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and nitrates used for high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Narcotics (opioids), such as codeine, and those containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen
  • Progesterone
  • Sedatives or tranquilizers, including benzodiazepines such as diazepam and temazepam
  • Theophylline

2. You might have a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia is a type of hernia where the upper part of your stomach bulges through the diaphragm, the large muscle that separates your chest cavity and abdominal area.3 Small hiatal hernias don’t usually cause any signs or symptoms.3 You may not even know you have one unless a doctor happens upon it while looking for something else. However, larger hiatal hernia can cause a number of symptoms; one of which is heartburn.3

3. Your clothing may be too tight. One of our more surprising heartburn facts is that the clothing you wear may have an impact on your heartburn. Tight clothing around your stomach area such as a belt, waistband, or pantyhose can increase the pressure on your stomach and force stomach acid into the esophagus.4 If you are experiencing heartburn, it may be a signal to loosen that belt. Check out some other surprising ways you may be able to reduce heartburn.

4. Peppermint can cause heartburn. Peppermint is an herb that is used in all sorts of products such as gum, toothpaste, tea, and more. It is often used to soothe an upset stomach and a number of other medicinal uses. This is because peppermint has a cooling and numbing effect.5 But peppermint can relax the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus to the point where it can lead to heartburn.5

5. Secondhand smoke may be the culprit. A surprising fact about heartburn: secondhand smoke causes heartburn. This is good to note if you are regularly around smokers. Perhaps you are exposed to smoking at your job or maybe in the home. While smoking itself puts you at higher risk for GERD, so does inhaling secondhand smoke on a regular basis.6

6. Sleeping position affects heartburn. Gravity does a lot of work to help keep stomach acid where it belongs throughout the course of the day. When you lay down, however, your body’s positioning changes and so does the effect gravity has on you. The stomach is a curved organ, so its contents are not evenly distributed across the left and right sides of your body. When you sleep on your right side, the stomach acid is more in line with the esophagus than it is generally. However, if you roll over onto your left side, your stomach acid has a more difficult pathway to the esophagus.7 Rolling onto your left side may help to alleviate heartburn and give you a better night’s sleep.

7. Heartburn can feel like a heart attack. The sensation of severe heartburn can closely mimic those of angina or a heart attack. If you’re not sure whether it’s heartburn or your heart, seek medical attention right away.

These surprising facts about heartburn will help you better navigate the world around you, but in and of themselves these heartburn facts likely won’t alleviate all of your symptoms.

Find out how Tums works to neutralize stomach acid in seconds.


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  1. Heartburn. Mayo Clinic.
  2. GERD: Can certain medications make it worse?. Mayo Clinic.
  3. Hiatal Hernia. Mayo Clinic.
  4. GERD: Controling Heartburn by Changing Your Habits. Michigan Medicine.
  5. Peppermint. Mount Sinai.
  6. Acid Reflux in Adults. Hunt Regional healthcare.
  7. Is Heartburn Keeping You Up At Night?. GI Society.
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