Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where stomach contents travel back up the esophagus towards the throat. Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects the airways.
GERD and asthma may trigger each other due to the connection between the esophagus, stomach, and airways, as well as side effects of certain asthma medications.
This article discusses the link between GERD and asthma, treatment for both conditions, and when to contact a doctor.
People with asthma may have an increased risk of developing GERD, and GERD may worsen asthma. GERD and asthma may have a link due to the following:
- Nerves in the lower esophagus connect to nerves in the lungs, which means GERD symptoms may trigger asthma symptoms.
- Small particles from acid reflux can enter the airways and aggravate asthma symptoms.
- Muscles at the base of the esophagus can relax during an asthma flare, causing contents from the stomach to flow back up towards the throat.
- Some asthma medications, such as quick-relief inhalers, may also trigger GERD.
The esophagus is a tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Nerves in the lower part of the esophagus connect to nerves in the lungs, which means acid reflux can trigger symptoms of asthma.
The vagal nerve connects the brain to the stomach and affects multiple organs in the body. Acid reflux triggers the vagal nerve, which causes the lungs to become more sensitive to asthma triggers, such as irritants or allergens.
As contents from the stomach and stomach acid travel back up the esophagus, small particles of acid can also get into the airways. This can trigger asthma symptoms, such as chest tightness.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), people who have asthma have a higher risk of GERD.
At the lower end of the esophagus, there are a group of muscles called the esophageal sphincter.
When the esophageal sphincter closes, the muscles prevent stomach acid or contents from traveling back up towards the throat.
During an asthma flare-up, pressure changes occur inside the chest and abdomen. This causes the esophageal sphincter to relax, which can cause stomach acid or contents to travel back into the esophagus.
Some asthma medications, such as theophylline, may also worsen acid reflux. The overuse of quick-relief inhaler medications, such as albuterol, can also trigger GERD. This is because albuterol also relaxes the esophageal sphincter.
Symptoms of GERD can include:
- acid reflux
- unpleasant taste in the mouth
- chest pain
- difficulty swallowing
- chronic cough
- hoarse voice, sore throat, or problems with the mouth or throat
- excess saliva
- inflamed gums
- bad breath
People who have both asthma and GERD may find that treating GERD can help to reduce their asthma symptoms and use of asthma medication.
If a person has symptoms of …….