The common, treatable condition fueling your asthma

When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. That’s why any tool, trick or remedy that can help you breathe better is more valuable than gold… especially if you have asthma.

Wheezing, panting, chest pressure, constant respiratory infections. Asthma makes you dang uncomfortable. And for most asthma sufferers, this discomfort is a lifelong burden. Sometimes, it even gets worse with age.

But what if there was a common, treatable health issue making your asthma worse than it has to be?

That would be pretty exciting, right? Because it would mean there’s a simple way to improve your asthma… or maybe even get rid of it altogether.

Well, I have good news. There could be a common condition fueling your asthma. And if you get it under control, you could be breathing much easier in the years to come.

Is acid reflux behind your asthma?

Dr. Alexei Gonzalez Estrada, a Mayo Clinic allergy and immunology specialist, says heartburn could be fueling your asthma symptoms. Here’s why he thinks so…

Asthma is caused by inflammation in your airway. And a lot of doctors believe that when you have acid reflux, the acid from your stomach goes all the way up your throat and enters your airway, causing inflammation and irritation. So, it stands to reason then that acid reflux could be worsening the inflammation causing your asthma.

Is there research to back this theory up?

Well, there’s research connecting asthma and the chronic form of acid reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Depending on what study you look at, anywhere from a modest 30 percent to an astounding 80 percent of people with asthma also have GERD. Animal studies and a few clinical trials also show that acid in the esophagus can cause bronchial spasms like the kind asthma sufferers deal with.

Now, you’re probably thinking… but I don’t have acid reflux symptoms. Wouldn’t I know if I had it?

A lot of people have obvious symptoms. But some people have silent GERD, which doesn’t cause the typical acid reflux symptoms. So, if you have asthma, it’s worth checking whether the stealthy symptoms of silent GERD are sneaking past you.

Do you have silent GERD?

Silent GERD is super tricky to detect, because it doesn’t come with that burning feeling we all associate with acid reflux. Instead, if you have silent GERD, you may have:

  • A feeling that something is caught in the back of your throat
  • Hoarseness
  • An ongoing urge to clear your throat
  • An unexplained cough
  • A bitter taste in your mouth or throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Irritated vocal cords
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Trouble breathing

It’s easy to write these symptoms off as allergies or some other minor ailment. But don’t. Especially if you have asthma. If you go to your doctor, he or she can test you for GERD. Once you know you have GERD, you can take steps to treat it, and hopefully improve your asthma symptoms while you’re at it.

Natural options for acid reflux relief

If you do have acid reflux, there are plenty of effective home remedies you can use to treat it. The first place you’ll want to start is your diet. Pay attention to what foods trigger your acid reflux. It can be helpful to keep a food diary to track your reactions to different foods. In general, GERD tends to be triggered by the following foods:

  • Meat
  • Fatty and oily foods
  • Salty foods
  • Dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Acidic foods and drinks, like tomato sauce and orange juice

Luckily, a 2013 study found that there are also foods that get rid of GERD, including:

  • Lean sources of protein like fish, nuts and legumes
  • Carbohydrate-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Foods that are high in vitamin C, like potatoes
  • Fruits like berries, apples, melons, peaches, citrus fruits and tomatoes…even though some of them are acidic
  • Eggs

Two of the most popular natural remedies for immediate GERD relief are apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Next time you have acid reflux, mix two tablespoons of apple cider in a glass of water (you can add honey to make it more palatable if you want), and drink it down. Or you can add a ½ teaspoon of baking soda to a four-ounce glass of water, and drink it. Don’t do both at the same time. Pick one or the other. If you combine these remedies with a few strategic diet changes, you could be on the fast track to less GERD and better breathing.

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Sources:

  1. Why antacids—not your inhaler—may be the key to treating your asthma — MedicalXpress. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  2. Asthma — Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  3. G. Mastronarde, et al. “Is There a Relationship Between GERD and Asthma?” — Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Jun 2012; 8(6): 401–403.
  4. Asthma and acid reflux: Are they linked? — Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  5. Pulmonary manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease — Annals of Thoracic Medicine 2009; 4(3): 115–123.
  6. What is silent reflux and what can I do about it? — Medical News Today. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
  7. What to eat and avoid if you have GERD — Medical News Today. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.