4 GERD Myths Pharmacists Can Debunk

Despite how common gastroesophageal reflux disease is among patients, there are a few unfounded beliefs surrounding its symptoms, severity, and treatment.

Despite how common gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is among patients, there are a few unfounded beliefs surrounding its symptoms, severity, and treatment.

Here are a few myths that pharmacists should keep in mind when evaluating GERD patients and explain why they are not true.

1. GERD isn’t a serious condition.

GERD, which affects around 20% of Americans, can lead to complications if the esophagus has chronic inflammation and is left untreated.

Patients may experience a narrowing of the esophagus (making it more difficult to swallow) or they may develop an open sore in the esophagus, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which is a condition that results in changes to the tissue that lines the lower esophagus.

Florida Hospital Celebration’s James C. Rosser Jr, MD, told Prescription Health that GERD can lead to the fastest-growing cancer in the United States: esophageal cancer.

2. Heartburn is the only sign of GERD.

There’s more to GERD than heartburn. Other symptoms of GERD may include dry cough, sinus problems, or asthma.

As many as 60% of asthma patients in the United States may have asthma because of acid reflux, according to Dr. Rosser.

3. Diet doesn’t matter a great deal.

Diet greatly affects GERD recovery. Foods beneficial to healing GERD patients include soy milk, manuka honey, chamomile tea, bananas, and oatmeal.

Pharmacists should advise patients to avoid foods like chocolate, coffee, alcohol, fatty foods, and canned foods.

“Canned foods are terrible. You know why? Because in order to extend the shelf life, they have a lot of acid in the canned foods,” Dr. Rosser said.

4. GERD only affects adults.

Adults aren’t the only ones who experience GERD. Babies and children can, too.

The most common symptoms in children aged 12 years and older is regular heartburn in the middle of the chest, behind the breastbone, or in the middle of the abdomen, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. For children younger than 12 years with GERD, heartburn may not be present.

Other symptoms may include bad breath, nausea, pain in the chest, problems swallowing, and wearing away of the teeth.