If you think your consistent coughing could be related to a digestive disorder, you may be right! Over 25% of chronic coughing could be related to acid reflux or GERD.

Alongside a host of other issues caused by acid reflux, a chronic cough can make your life more challenging. Left untreated, your GERD can cause concerns ranging from lost sleep to serious health concerns like cancer.

Here we discuss the differences between heartburn and GERD, and which one may be contributing to your esophageal issues. We also give you some possible treatments for acid reflux and coughing. Read along to find out!

Acid Reflux and Heartburn

If you’ve used the terms acid reflux and heartburn interchangeably, you’re not necessarily wrong. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux.

Acid reflux is a chronic digestive disease where the acid from your stomach travels up into your esophagus, causing irritation to your throat’s lining. Muscle fibers known as your Lower Esophageal Sphincter, are supposed to close tightly to prevent this back-flow of bile. There are many reasons your LES may be malfunctioning, and when it isn’t working properly you feel the effects of acid reflux.

Acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week begins to go by a different diagnosis: GERD. GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and is the medical term used for chronic acid reflux.

Heartburn is a highly noticeable symptom of acid reflux and GERD because of the signature fiery feeling in your chest. Not long after eating, people affected by these digestive diseases feel a burning sensation in their chest and may also have a sour taste in their mouths.

Neither GERD nor acid reflux are heartburn. GERD is the disease while heartburn is simply a symptom.

Is GERD Why I’m Coughing?

If you are experiencing heartburn, routine laryngitis, or any of the other common symptoms of GERD alongside coughing, yes, GERD could be the culprit. When stomach bile and acid travel back up the food pipe and past the lower and upper esophageal sphincters, it causes damage to both the throat and larynx.

This can cause a type of reflux known as Laryngeal Pharyngeal Reflux. These sufferers could experience a multitude of symptoms, from becoming hoarse and coughing to completely losing their voice.

GERD cough is often known as a dry cough that doesn’t produce any mucus. It can be caused by micro-aspirations that let tiny droplets of acid into the voice box.

This cough often comes after a meal or when you’re lying down. For that reason, people who suffer from GERD’s coughing symptoms have issues with interrupted sleep.

If heartburn isn’t present, it can become more difficult to diagnose GERD as the reason because there are many other allergies and conditions that have coughing as a common symptom. Your doctor may rule out other contributors first or could perform a 24-hour pH probe or MII-pH test.

It’s important to know that many people who suffer from chronic coughing due to GERD don’t always have other digestive symptoms. You don’t have to experience heartburn to have an acid issue, but it is common.

Causes of GERD and Acid Reflux

You could be in control of this disease and maintain it better because some of the issues that cause GERD are ways of living. The following are some causes of acid reflux:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Overeating
  • Smoking
  • Being Overweight

Sometimes certain acidic foods, like citrus, may also be the issue. Spicy and fatty foods are known to contribute to acid reflux, often causing heartburn as well.

While people suffering from chronic pain may not necessarily be able to avoid over-the-counter pain relievers, it’s important to note that these can cause GERD. Medications such as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs could be your offender.

Sometimes, the cause has nothing to do with your lifestyle and everything to do with your structural makeup or other health issues. Your LES, stomach, or esophagus may have abnormalities that cause dysfunctions in their operations.

If you are already struggling with ulcers, gastritis, or eosinophilic esophagitis, then you probably have more going on than just GERD. Speak to your doctor for more information and consultation.

Longterm Effects of GERD

Left untreated, GERD can cause some serious complications down the road because stomach acid is extremely irritating and damaging. Strictures, Esophagitis, and Barrett’s esophagus are all health issues that stem from acid reflux that affect the esophagus.

Your esophagus can begin to narrow, making it hard to swallow, and eventually could begin to bleed. Anemia and internal bleeding are horrible side effects.

Barrett’s esophagus occurs when cells of the esophagus change to become more like that of the intestines and can lead to esophageal cancer. This is fatal.

Breathing issues are another long-term effect of GERD. Once acid enters your lungs, your breathing may not be the same.

Treat Your Cough

While there are many ways of treating GERD, acid reflux, and heartburn with medical intervention, there are also more natural ways of healing. Changing your lifestyle and adding Gerdli to your vitamin routine are great treatments for acid reflux.

Try cutting out the main food and drink contributors while shedding excess weight to see a difference in your acid reflux symptoms. In the meantime, avoid lying down after meals, and raise your headboard six to eight inches higher than your footboard. Gravity will help work against the bile that’s trying to work its way up.

Check Out Gerdli

Acid reflux and heartburn are awful, but they don’t have to be lifelong issues. Sometimes surgery is necessary, and you should talk to your doctor about your situation.

However, if you’re looking for a natural supplement, Gerdli is a prime choice. Read about the science behind Gerdli that makes it such a good acid reflux reliever!

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Dr. Minhas, M.D.

Board-certified internal medicine (ABIM)