Is your Acid Reflux Contributing to Difficult to Control Asthma?

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Approximately 25 million people in the United States currently suffer from asthma, according to figures from the the Centers for Disease Control. Of that population, as many as 5 percent of cases are classified as, "difficult to control."Even with my family of five (containing four asthmatics), we had always obtained great control from a proper asthma action plan and asthma medications.

Until recently.There are several reasons for poor asthma control, buhat caused the most issues for our daughter's control was her acid reflux disease. Some of the reasons that the link between asthma and acid reflux disease can be confusing is because they appear to exacerbate each other. Research from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America even shows that for many others, there are several reasons for a relationship between asthma and acid reflux disease.

Our daughter had dealt with acid reflux disease in early childhood, but had been off of all medications for years with no apparent issues. We had no idea that what was brewing underneath for her was going to result in months of attempting to get her asthma under control. In hindsight, she had exhibited some early symptoms of a flare up of acid reflux such as sour breath, sore throat, picky eating among other things.

Unfortunately we chalked those up to the normal things any kid would deal with and not a sign of acid reflux flaring it's ugly head. That was a HUGE mistake on our part.

Here are some of the reasons the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America report acid reflux and asthma may begin to exacerbate each other, and will continue to if left untreated:

  • Asthma medications may aggravate acid reflux disease by lowering the pressure in the LES.

  • Refluxed stomach contents can enter the lungs- called aspiration. This further irritates the airway and increases asthma symptoms.

  • Asthma's coughing causes more acid reflux by lowering the pressure in the LES.

  • Nerve reflexes that close the airway, produce mucous and cause breathing issues may be triggered by acid reflux.

These conditions can become a vicious cycle of miserable symptoms! That is why if you suffer from both acid reflux disease and asthma, both conditions must be treated concurrently to provide the best relief of symptoms.

Once our daughter's asthma medications were increased and she was placed back on acid reflux medications, her symptoms began to improve.

Remember, for proper asthma control it is important to develop an asthma action plan, follow your physician's instructions with regard to medications, and remove any additional asthma triggers as warranted. To relieve the burn and reduce asthma flare ups from acid reflux disease, it is important to discuss acid reducing medications with your physician, loose weight if overweight, elevate the head of the bed at night and remove any food that may be triggering your acid reflux. If you are a smoker, both conditions will benefit from kicking the butts.

While it can definitely be a pain to deal with both of these conditions at the same time with proper treatment most people can find good control of their asthma and acid reflux disease.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.