The Heartburn-Asthma Connection

It may be difficult for patients to digest, but their chronic heartburn could be a catalyst for asthma.

“We have seen folks who don’t have asthma at all and suddenly the reflux becomes such a problem that they start having asthma symptoms,” says Dr. Sagar Naik, who is a pulmonologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

An estimated 75% of patients with hard to treat asthma also have GERD. Too frequent to be coincidental, doctors conclude the two are connected.

“We have never realized this before. But gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is basically heart burn acid from the stomach coming up the food pipe, spilling up the throat sometimes spilling into the lungs, can cause a tremendous amount of aggravation to asthma-like symptoms,” says Dr. Naik.

The exact relationship is unclear, but several indicators lead doctors to suspect a GERD-related asthma. One is when asthma first appears in adulthood, another is when asthma symptoms get worse after a meal or lying down, and lastly, if the asthma doesn’t respond to standard treatments.

“So treating the gastroesophageal reflux disease is very important in order to get good control of your asthma. Avoiding acidic foods: coffee, orange juice, taking simple pills to reduce gastro acidity, not laying down flat after having a heavy meal,” says Dr. Naik.

People with asthma who also have long standing acid reflux, should consider adding a gastroenterologist to their treatment team. It may prevent heartburn from taking their breath away.

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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.


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