Do you have to clear your throat or cough often? Are you hoarse? Do you have difficulty swallowing? If you have these or other throat symptoms, you may have acid reflux, a condition that causes stomach acid to wash up into the throat.
For most people, acid reflux is troubling but not dangerous. However, if left untreated, acid reflux can lead to potentially damaging the esophagus. Medications and lifestyle changes can help control acid reflux and limit your risk of future problems.
Common Acid Reflux Symptoms
- Frequent need to clear your throat
- Feeling like you’re choking
- Chronic cough
- Trouble swallowing
- Sensation of having “a lump in the throat”
- Sour or acid taste
- Recurrent sore throat
Physiology of Acid Reflux
At both ends of the esophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach) are the esophageal sphincters. These muscles relax to let food pass down, then tighten to keep stomach acid down. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t tighten enough, acid can reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. This may cause heartburn. If the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) also doesn’t work well, acid can travel higher and enter your throat (pharynx).
Medications for Acid Reflux
Your doctor provider may prescribe medication to help treat your acid reflux. Medication will be based on your symptoms and the results of any tests. Your healthcare provider will explain how to take your medication and about any possible side effects.
Reducing Stomach Acid
Your doctor may suggest antacids that you can buy over the counter. Or you may be told to take a type of medication called H2 blockers. These are available over the counter and by prescription (for higher doses).
Blocking Stomach Acid
In more severe cases, your doctor may suggest stronger medications such as proton-‐pump inhibitors. These keep the stomach from making acid. They are often prescribed for long-‐term use.
If medications to reduce or block stomach acid does not work, you may be switched to another type of medication. Some work to strengthen the LES and UES (Lower/Upper Esophageal Sphincter). Some help the stomach empty better.
Lifestyle tips for Controlling Acid Reflux
To control acid reflux, you’ll need to make some basic diet and lifestyle changes. The simple steps outlined below may be all you’ll need to relieve discomfort.
Watch What You Eat
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods.
- Eat fewer acidic foods, such as citrus and tomato-‐based foods. These can increase symptoms.
- Limit drinking alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages. All increase acid reflux.
- Try limiting chocolate, peppermint and spearmint. These can worsen acid reflux in some people.
Watch When You Eat
- Avoid lying down for 3 hours after eating.
- Do not snack before going to bed.
Raise Your Head
Raising your head and upper body by 4″ to 6″ helps limit reflux when you’re lying down. Put blocks under the head of the bed frame to raise it.