When it comes to the digestive system, there are plenty of of myths and misconceptions. Here, we present five:

1. Heartburn is a disease. Heartburn, in fact, is not a disease. Rather, it is the main symptom for adults who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a disease. Additionally, people often get confused about what heartburn actually is. It is a burning pain that starts in the lower part of the mid-chest, behind the breastbone, or in the mid-abdomen and radiates backward to the neck. Another important note: having heartburn once or twice a week is normal.

2. Indigestion is heartburn. Heartburn is sometimes called acid indigestion (because of the reflux of acid into the esophagus), but indigestion is different. Indigestion is a term used to describe any of four feelings:

  • Overly full during a meal
  • Overly full after a meal
  • Epigastric pain
  • Epigastric burning

3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is dangerous. IBS does not harm the intestines, does not lead to cancer, is not related to Crohn's disease, and is not related to ulcerative colitis. Actually it is very common, though more so in women than men. People with it can be bothered by things that pose no threat to others (stress, gas, medicine, alcohol, large meals), but many of the symptoms can be controlled with medication and dietary changes.

 4. Continual bathroom trips = diarrhea. Not necessarily. Relieving yourself on the toilet three times a day could be a sign of diarrhea, but only if your stools are loose and watery. If they're not, it may be a sign that you're getting the proper amount of fiber--which the average American does not.

5. Constipation is rare in America. This myth isn't even close to being true. Americans visit their doctors to talk about constipation over 2.5 million times per year (most of these visits are made by women and adults ages 65 and older), making it the most common gastrointestinal complaint. Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less than 3 times a week.