Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Asthma GERD Connection

Acid reflux or GERD is very common in adults over age 40 but actually anyone can get it even infants. Studies have shown that approximately 75% of asthma patients also suffer from GERD.

GERD can result in permanent injury to the esophagus or can cause pre-cancerous changes in the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus). It also seems to be one of the major risk factors for cancer of the esophagus (adenocarcinoma), a cancer that is becoming more and more commonplace among Americans.

What are the symptoms of GERD.

GERD (acid reflux) can cause a real nasty coughing spell and it in turn can produce asthma symptoms. This condition is more than just heartburn, although that is the most common symptom. GERD is the chronic backward flow of stomach acids into the esophagus. It may worsen your asthma symptoms. Unfortunately however some asthma medications may worsen GERD symptoms.

Few factors connecting GERD and asthma are the absence of an allergic component, adult onset asthma, nocturnal cough, obesity, poor response to asthma therapy, and asthma attacks after heartburn or regurgitation.

How does GERD cause asthma?

Some theories for the causal connection between GERD and asthma are: Acid leaking from the lower esophagus (the “food tube” leading from the mouth to the stomach) stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs through the gastrointestinal tract. 

This leads to stomach acid going up out of the stomach, into the esophagus The acid, once in esophagus, can be disrupted into small particles and become airborne, when it can then be inhaled Once inhaled, the acid particles can then trigger receptors (nerves) in the airways and set off asthma attacks

How can I tell if I have GERD?

GERD should be a suspected contributing factor in asthma if the asthma is resistant to treatment, if the asthma symptoms get worse after a meal or exercise, at night, after lying down, and if the patient first develops asthma in adulthood.

Although doctors do not fully understand the connection between GERD and asthma, they have found that treating a patient’s GERD symptoms will often relieve asthma symptoms as well. 

The lack of knowledge about the exact relationship between GERD and asthma can make it difficult for your doctor to decide on the right diagnosis and proper medication.

But it is not all people who have both GERD and asthma will experience asthma attacks . In some people, treating their GERD with the newer antacid medications will lead to resolution of asthma symptoms. 

Many people in fact almost 100% of them who suffer GERD and asthma, chronically hyperventilate.