Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition in which stomach acid moves up into the esophagus. Most people associate GERD or acid reflux with a burning sensation in the chest. While heartburn is a common symptom of GERD, another surprisingly common symptom is a chronic cough.
What Causes GERD?
GERD happens when there is a problem with your lower esophageal sphincter. Normally, this part of your body tightens in order to prevent stomach acid from coming up into your throat. However, in people with GERD, the esophageal sphincter is weakened and allows stomach contents to move up, causing irritation and a variety of symptoms.
GERD can cause a whole host of different symptoms, including:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
- Chronic cough
Acid Reflux Makes You Cough
Some reports have indicated that 25% or more of chronic cough cases may be associated with GERD. Typically, it is a dry, hacking cough, producing no mucus. It’s considered chronic if it lasts longer than eight weeks. For some people, their cough can get worse at night, especially when they lie down to go to bed. GERD can also worsen asthma for people who have the condition, leading to additional coughing fits.
Treating a GERD Cough
If you have a chronic cough that isn’t responding to rest or any other at-home treatments, make an appointment with an ENT to be evaluated. Many different conditions, including allergies or postnasal drip, can cause similar symptoms.
If it’s determined that your cough is caused by GERD, managing your acid reflux through lifestyle changes and other factors should help resolve your symptoms.
One of the most important things you can do to manage GERD is to change your diet. While not everyone has the same food triggers, foods that are high in fat, fried, spicy or citrusy are known to cause symptoms. Additionally, drinks containing caffeine, alcohol or carbonation should be limited or completely removed to see if your symptoms improve. Instead, opt for leafy greens, lean proteins and high-fiber foods the next time you’re at the grocery store or visiting the Eagleview Farmers Market in Exton.
Other treatment options include:
- Eating smaller meals more slowly
- Quitting smoking if you do
- Elevating the head of your bed
- Sleeping on your left side
- Avoiding lying down for three hours after you eat
If lifestyle remedies alone aren’t enough, your doctor can prescribe medication such as a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
For more questions or to schedule an appointment to have your chronic cough evaluated, call Pinnacle ENT today.