A diagnosis of acid reflux can come as a surprise to some who did not associate their symptoms as reflux-related. While the main symptom of acid reflux is burning in the chest (heartburn), there are other less typical signs that you might have acid reflux.
You have a chronic cough. Acid reflux disease is considered a frequent cause of chronic cough. Coughing is our bodies’ way of clearing anything that is interfering with our breathing (i.e. refluxed stomach contents or acid).
You have asthma. If you have asthma, you are more likely to have acid reflux disease (Harding, 2013). There are multiple reasons, one of which is that some of the medications used in the treatment of asthma can make reflux worse.
You have frequent night awakenings, even for brief periods of time. For many, reflux is worse at night, mostly because once you lay down; gravity is no longer working to control your acid reflux symptoms.
You do not have much of an appetite, especially in the morning. Poh and colleagues (2010) looked at 39 individuals with acid reflux disease and found that the reflux symptoms many thought they were having at night, were actually occurring just after awakening in the morning.
Your symptoms come and go. Reflux comes in waves. This can be very confusing to those experiencing, caring for or treating acid reflux disease.
You often feel thirsty. When reflux is at its worst, some will want to drink excessively. This is our bodies’ way of clearing the refluxed material from the esophagus.
You burp frequently. Some who have acid reflux disease burp often and have excessive gas.
You have bad breath. There is clear evidence between the association of gastroesophageal reflux disease and bad breath (Strutch, 2008).
You have excessive tooth decay. There is more tooth wear on average with those who report acid reflux symptoms. Some believe it has to do with the lack of buffering capacity of the saliva of those who experience reflux.
You want to eat frequently. While some with acid reflux have a reduced appetite, others with acid reflux feel like they constantly want to eat something to “settle” their stomachs.
While none of these conditions alone will be a sure sign you have reflux, it is important to note that many who have acid reflux disease experience one or more of these symptoms.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.