Can Acid Reflux Cause Asthma?


Acid reflux and asthma are among the top seven health problems impacting Americans, as per an USA Today article that was published in November, 2014. While approximately 20% of men and women have gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), over 25 million individuals suffer from asthma. Physicians and other healthcare professionals are also intrigued by recent research that links these two conditions intrinsically.

Possible Mechanisms

Although it may be early to blame spicy foods for your asthma symptoms, studies indicate that acid reflux may influence your breathing disorders through certain physiological mechanisms:

Pulmonary resistance – The acid from your stomach may regurgitate into your esophagus and irritate the nerves in the area to cause a bronchospasm. This may impact your ability to breathe and worsen your asthma symptoms.
Micro aspiration – Researchers also believe that the acid from your stomach can enter your lungs and constrict the bronchi resulting in breathing issues.

Some researchers consider the link between asthma and acid reflux to be a double-edged sword. GERD can worsen asthma. However, asthma medications can also lead to acid reflux. In many patients, it is almost like the chicken and the egg problem as physicians are unable to identify which one came first.


Nonetheless, it is clear that physicians should follow a comprehensive approach that addresses both asthma and acid reflux simultaneously. This is especially recommended if your asthma started in adulthood, and if the symptoms worsen with exercise or while lying down. Patients experiencing poorly controlled asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, chronic cough, or shortness of breath, should discuss the possibility of GERD with their doctors and undergo a therapeutic trial for a PPI inhibitor, if required.

You may also try some simple remedies at home. These may help improve your acid reflux and asthma symptoms without significant side effects.

  • Eat small meals at regular intervals.
  • Use pillows to elevate your head, especially if the symptoms worsen at night.
  • Manage your weight. Overweight individuals suffer from excessive abdominal pressure that may force the acid to move back into the esophagus.
  • Avoid foods, such as fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine and tomato sauce, that may worsen your GERD.
  • Do not lie down for at least 3 hours after eating food.
  • Quit smoking as tobacco and nicotine may damage the lower part of the esophagus that prevent acid reflux.
  • Try over-the-counter medications to control your acid reflux.


If these techniques do not produce the desired results, talk to your doctor right away. Prompt treatment for acid reflux can help manage your asthma effectively and help you avoid the discomfort associated with both the conditions.

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