By. Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.
If you frequently feel a burning sensation in your chest, especially after eating or when lying down, then you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Affecting roughly 20% of Americans, GERD is a chronic condition where stomach acid persistently flows back up your esophagus and into your mouth.
Frequent heartburn and trouble swallowing are common symptoms of GERD. However, acid reflux can also produce asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing and tightness in the chest. The acid causes your airways to swell and makes breathing difficult, which can trigger an attack if you have asthma.
Similarly, asthma worsens GERD as well. The lungs swell during an asthma attack, putting pressure on the stomach muscles and allowing stomach acid to flow back up the esophagus.
Not many people are aware of the connection between GERD and asthma. However, this link is a critical consideration, given that around 80% of people with asthma experience GERD symptoms. So, let's discuss how GERD triggers asthma and vice versa and how to treat both conditions effectively.
How Does GERD Trigger Asthma?
Let's first delve into the link between your esophagus and lungs. The esophagus is where food and liquids travel from your mouth to the stomach. During acid reflux, vagal nerves in the lower esophagus cause the lungs to tighten as a defense mechanism, making breathing difficult and often painful.
Stomach acid or gastric juice—a mixture of hydrochloric acid, lipase, and pepsin—that travels up the esophagus and throat could also flow down airways and irritate the respiratory system, triggering asthma symptoms. Even if gastric juice doesn't directly contact your lungs, its high acidity might damage your throat and airways, leading to persistent breathing difficulties and coughs.
How Does Asthma Trigger GERD?
Asthmatic people have a higher risk of contracting GERD, with the esophageal sphincter playing a critical role in this risk factor. This muscle between the esophagus and stomach prevents food and acid from going back up.
Since asthma attacks cause pressure changes inside the chest and abdomen, the result is more frequent reflux. Theophylline, quick-relief inhalers (albuterol), and other asthma medications may also trigger GERD by loosening the sphincter.
How to Treat GERD
Now that we understand how asthma and GERD occur together and worsen each other's symptoms, knowing how to treat them effectively is essential to avoiding chronic respiratory and esophageal damage, like esophagitis.
1. Don't overeat
The stomach distends with large quantities of food for long periods, making it more difficult to close the esophageal sphincter. As a result, the muscle can't keep food and acid down, causing acid reflux. So, avoid overeating—consume just the right amount of food and stop when you start feeling full. Small, frequent meals instead of big ones keep your food and stomach acid down.
2. Avoid lying down immediately after eating
The food you eat may go back up if you lie down immediately after eating, resulting in heartburn during sleep. Wait for a couple of hours to give your stomach time to empty before resting horizontally to minimize reflux and possibly choking on acid and food.
3. Steer clear of heartburn-inducing food
Certain food and drinks typically induce reflux. These include spicy food, fried dishes, carbonated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, and coffee. By avoiding them, you can help your body manage stomach acid better.
Even meat can trigger heartburn because of its high-fat content, although you don't have to eliminate it suddenly from your diet. Simply reducing the serving amount goes a long way in managing GERD symptoms.
4. Take heartburn medication
There are many over-the-counter and prescription treatments for acid reflux and GERD. However, they can induce harmful side effects—including headaches, diarrhea, and nausea—especially with long-term use. You could take the natural route and opt for homeopathic medication, such as Forces of Nature's Heartburn & Acid Reflux Relief, for fast action against heartburn, indigestion, and stomach upset.
How to Treat Asthma
Given that GERD and asthma typically go together, it also helps to treat asthma symptoms when they occur to avoid triggering acid reflux. Let's discuss some methods on how to treat asthma effectively.
1. Minimize asthma triggers
An excellent way to control asthma is to reduce exposure to triggers, including dust, pollen, humidity, dander, and mold. Make it a habit to clean and decontaminate your home to prevent dust accumulation and mold growth. You could also buy a humidifier or dehumidifier to optimize your living area's climate and wear face masks to keep triggers away, especially outdoors.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercises, especially those focusing on lung health, improve your respiratory system and reduce asthma attacks. However, remember that strenuous exercise may also trigger asthma, so start with warmups and limit activity to low-impact ones, like breathing exercises. When breathing becomes difficult, stop exercising immediately and cool down to relax.
3. Reduce stress
Stress from work, financial issues, or sudden events that stimulate a person's fight-or-flight response is a common asthma trigger. As such, it's crucial to manage environmental stressors. Asthma medications, including prednisone, can help calm you down, but it usually causes mood swings and exacerbates anxiety.
Fortunately, natural anti-anxiety treatments have zero side effects, such as Forces of Nature's Calm Mood Stress Relief and Sleep Well Remedy, which relieve stress and promote refreshing rest without any harmful consequences.
Live Better with Homeopathy
Living with GERD or asthma is challenging enough on its own, but the fact that these two conditions often occur together can further damage your quality of life. However, you don't have to endure for long. You can effectively manage one or both conditions with proper exercise, diet, and natural medication to alleviate the symptoms.
You can trust Forces of Nature to help manage GERD and asthma naturally. Our USDA Certified Organic and FDA-Registered homeopathic medicine helps treat chronic acid reflux and symptoms associated with asthma, so you can live worry-free.