Acid Reflux And Asthma


Do you have both acid reflux and asthma? Heartburn can cause asthma because tiny particles of stomach acid trigger an asthmatic response. Sometimes it's the other way around, when your medication for asthma worsens your heartburn. 

Asthmatic lungs are hypersensitive to stimuli.  As soon as they are triggered, they react by swelling and narrowing. Breathing cold air, exercise or allergens can be enough to cause an excessive reaction.


Acid Reflux And Heartburn

Stomach content leaves your stomach and moves up to your throat and finally arrives at the back of your mouth. Small particles of stomach content 'evaporate' and become airborne. With every inspiration, you inhale them into your lungs and sinuses.  'Micro-aspiration' of stomach acid irritates your respiratory system and causes asthma.


What Happens During An Asthma Attack?

Your airway tract narrows and obstructs your breathing:

  • Your smooth muscles contract inside the branches (bronchi) of your smaller airways. This reduces the diameter of your respiratory tract.
  • Your lungs' mucous membrance swells. The swelling narrows your airways a bit more. It also produces more mucus that normal. That is why you start coughing and wheezing.

You perceive this airflow obstruction as shortness of breath. Try to breathe through drinking straw while pinching your nose and you know what an asthma attack feels like.

A severely restricted airflow can become dangerous . Acute attacks are mainly caused by allergic reactions. Quick-relief drugs, such as bronchodilators, can save your life during an asthma attack.

Acid reflux causes milder forms of asthma because stomach acid doesn't provoke any acute allergic reactions. It is more likely to cause chronic lung irritation and frequent coughing.



Asthma Medication Causes Acid Reflux

To treat asthma, your doctor prescribes medication. There is an interesting relationship between acid reflux and asthma medication.

Two kinds of drugs exist for treating asthma:

  • Quick relief drugs (Ventolin) to open your lungs airways if you feel short of breath. 
  • Long-acting openers and steroid inhalers (pulmicort, symbicort). These are anti-inflammatory drugs that make your lungs less sensitive to triggers like cold air, dust, allergens.


Medication that is designed to 'open' your airways works on the smooth muscle tissue inside your lungs.

Unfortunately, your stomach valve is a smooth muscle too and experiences the same relaxing effect as the circular muscles inside your lungs. That is how your asthma medication can cause acid reflux.

If you suffer from both asthma and acid reflux, inhaled steroids will be the first choice of treatment. If taken daily, they are able to control asthma and don't have any adverse effect on the stomach valve.


Acid Reflux Causes Sinusitis

Acid reflux can be responsible for causing sinusitis. Micro-aspiration of stomach content can cause both asthma and sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an inflammation inside your nose cavities. Inhaled particles enter your nose and sinuses. The tissue inside your nose and sinuses, called mucosa, reacts and gets swollen.

Secretion increases and your nose starts dripping. The swollen nasal mucusa builds up pressure inside your sinuses and gives you headaches.


Acid Reflux And Asthma: Two Sides Of The Same Coin?

If you have to much histamine dwelling your blood, it causes both acid reflux and asthma. Histamine stimulates acid production in your stomach and causes swelling in your lungs. If you are histamine intolerant, you need to change your diet to stop both conditions.

Recent investigation shows that acid reflux and allergies are linked. Histamine release is triggered by pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines. These cytokines play a role in the development of acid reflux, asthma and allergies. 

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