Allergies can be a big issue for many people dealing with acid reflux disease. Separate from food allergies, seasonal allergies can also play a role in exacerbating the symptoms of acid reflux. Over the years I have talked with many acid reflux patients, adults and parents of acid reflux kids, and they all report similar issues.
The effects of allergies
One of the ways that seasonal allergies can aggravate acid reflux disease is the pressure from coughing or sneezing. This pressure can temporarily weaken the LES and allow stomach contents to splash into the esophagus.
Sinus drainage from unchecked allergies can also increase stomach discomfort. In addition, postnasal drip causes a lot of air swallowing, which will distend the stomach and can lead to reflux. In order to get the added acid reflux pain under control, suffers also need to get the drainage, sneezing and coughing under control.
What to do
While there are many ways to treat allergies, each individual patient will need to find what treatment, or combination of treatment, provides the best results for them. Working hand in hand with an allergist, especially when you allergies are severe, can be beneficial.
The first line of defense in the seasonal allergy arsenal is generally the use of antihistamines. Medications like Zyrtec, Claritin, Benadryl and others provide a way to damper the reaction the body has to the histamines produced by allergies. These medications can help many people deal with their allergies without any further treatments.
If you do need antihistamines in the pollen season, remember that they can dehydrate and cause constipation. The latter is also a huge reflux trigger. Be sure to drink plenty of water and gradually increase your fiber intake to counteract any unpleasant side effects. You don’t want to trade one reflux trigger for another.
Steroid, saline and antihistamine nasal sprays can also help some allergy sufferers find relief. Steroid sprays reduce inflammation, antihistamine sprays act locally to reduce the reactions and saline is often a good choice to clean any pollen or triggers from the sinuses after exposure. One or more of these things may also be suggested by your allergist. Along with these treatments, allergy shots may be considered for those with more severe cases of seasonal allergies.
In addition to saline rinses, there are other natural ways to help lessen allergies. Depending on what your triggers are things like dust mite covers for pillows and mattresses, HEPA filters to clean the air at home or work and HEPA vacuums to clean your home can be helpful in mitigating some of the culprits.
Shower after spending time outdoors, especially before you hit the sack at the end of the day. Sleeping with pollen, which loves to stick to your hair and clothing, will definitely make your symptoms worse.
Hopefully one or more of these ideas will help you to lessen your allergies and the reflux that is triggered by them.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist 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.