Many think that GERD is the same thing as heartburn or acid reflux. However, rather than simply a byproduct of prolonged acid reflux, there’s now evidence that GERD is tied to rising inflammation levels. This inflammation usually stems from poor gut health. It can trigger the immune system to attack the body’s own tissue. In other words, it seems true that untreated acid reflux can contribute to GERD as it progresses and causes damage to the esophagus. But, other lifestyle and dietary factors also seem to come into play.