If you suffer from asthma and find your symptoms harder to manage, there could be a seemingly unrelated culprit that is responsible – and it is originating in your GI system. So what does your gastrointestinal system have to do with experiencing difficulty breathing?

It turns out that GERD, gastroesophageal reflux, can be a trigger for asthma. GERD is a digestive disease that causes the stomach contents to travel back up through the esophagus due to weakened muscles in the esophagus and stomach. Thankfully, it can be treated and it mostly just causes discomfort, but GERD can also potentially cause permanent damage to the esophagus if it isn’t addressed properly. That damage to the throat is what makes it dangerous for patients with asthma. The irritation causes the airways to narrow, making it more challenging to breathe. Studies show that more than 75% of patients with asthma may also experience GERD, and that they are twice as likely to experience the GI disease than people who don’t have asthma. Although these things are linked, the relationship between them is uncertain as to which causes which.

The best course of action for managing the combination of asthma and GERD is always best left up to your doctor, in addition to continuing any medications that are prescribed to treat your asthma. If, in addition to asthma, you find yourself experiencing heartburn and reflux, symptoms of GERD, bring it up to your doctor and come up with a good plan to help get it under control. Many of the symptoms of GERD can be managed through diet and lifestyle adjustments, which is always the easiest place to start. It is best to eat small meals with moderate portions, maintain a healthy weight, and limit fatty or acidic foods. If you’re a smoker, it’s best to stop, as smoking actually makes symptoms of both asthma and GERD worse. Medications for GERD are also available, so discuss with your doctor to see what best fits your individual health and condition.  If you have any concerns, make an appointment at GI Associates today!

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