Are asthma and acid reflux related?


Many people have asthma, and many are also affected by acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Research has shown that GERD is more common in patients with asthma, and can worsen asthma symptoms. GERD has actually been identified as an underlying reason for more difficult-to-treat asthma.


Reflux can cause or contribute to asthma in a few ways. One way is via stomach acid leaking back into the esophagus, which eventually leads to the lung tissue producing more mucus and the small airways constricting. This can produce more asthma symptoms. Another possible way is that the stomach contents or acid being leaked out from the stomach can actually enter the lungs, which is a process called aspiration. This can cause irritation to the airways, causing or worsening asthma symptoms.


GERD can affect anyone, or any age. Sometimes, the symptoms are very noticeable and can consist of heartburn, regurgitation, sour taste in the mouth, frequent burping. Sometimes, GERD can be “silent” and not seem to cause any symptoms. Other times, GERD can cause other symptoms such as worsening asthma, hoarseness, or coughing.


The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) estimates that as many as 89% of all asthmatics can be affected by GERD at some time.  It is important to work with your asthma specialist to determine if GERD could be a contributing cause to your symptoms, and how to treat your GERD. Various diets, medications, and lifestyle modifications can help. Sometimes, patients will need to see a gastroenterologist for help with diagnosis and further treatment.