Research shows a significant connection between asthma and heartburn (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux). In fact, results of these studies show that up to 60-80% adults and 50-60% children with asthma also complain of heartburn, compared with 10% of the general population. The link has been recognized for more than 2,000 years but has not been appreciated until recently. Treating acid reflux helps better control of asthma as well as rhinosinusitis, hence, one of the important aspect of treatment of asthma and rhinosinusitis is to maintain good control of heartburn symptoms. How does acid reflux affect asthma?

  • Refluxed acid from the stomach can be aspirated into the lungs, causing cough and shortness of breath.
  • This also may make asthmatics more sensitive to outside conditions such as air pollution, cigarette smoke, and cold air.

How does asthma affect acid reflux?

  • Some asthma medications may trigger GERD symptoms. Theophylline and oral bronchodilators may reduce the lower esophageal sphincter pressure and trigger acid reflux symptoms. However, most inhaled bronchodilators used in the U.S. do not cause this problem. Theophylline is not used commonly to treat asthma with the advent of more effective medications.

How can you control acid reflux and asthma? Working with your allergist and gastroenterologist is important. Compliance with medications prescribed for both acid reflux and asthma is important. It is also essential to control your exposure to asthma and heartburn triggers. Your allergist can help determine those triggers for you. Following are some of the simple steps to help with acid reflux:

  • Sleep with your head and shoulder on an incline.
  • Eat at least two to three hours before lying down.
  • Avoid foods that are known to lead to heartburn like spicy foods, coffee, citrus fruit and juices.
  • Eliminate late-night snacking.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Avoid alcohol.