What Is GERD, And Why Does It Affect My Asthma?

GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a medical condition related to the regurgitation of stomach acid. GERD is very common and is typically manifested as heartburn and indigestion, including a sour taste in the mouth. We all produce acid in our stomach to assist in digestion of the food we eat. The lining to the stomach is unharmed by the presence of acid. When acid refluxes (flows backwards) from the stomach into the esophagus, which is the body’s swallowing tube, the vocal cords may become irritated.

Hoarseness and a cough similar to throat clearing may ensue. Finally, any acid reaching the uppermost respiratory passages can cause cough and wheeze, similar symptoms to those of asthma. GERD not only mimics asthma symptoms, but also is thought to worsen stable asthma. Nighttime reflux due to GERD can, for instance, contribute to increasing nocturnal asthma symptoms. The good news is that GERD is highly treatable.

First-line treatment consists of straightforward dietary and lifestyle modifications, as well as medication to reduce the stomach’s acid production. Sometimes measures as simple as avoiding carbonated beverages, alcohol, caffeine, fried and highly seasoned foods; eating frequent, smaller meals; and not eating for 3 hours before bed-time will do wonders for reflux symptoms. Better reflux control may lead to improved asthma control and to reduced asthma symptoms.