Did you know that if you have COPD you’re more likely to experience acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? According to Everyday Health, more than half of those suffering from advanced COPD are likely to also experience GERD symptoms. GERD occurs when the valve that keeps contents in the stomach malfunctions, which causes stomach acid to release into the esophagus.
Some symptoms include chest pain, ear, nose and throat disorders, indigestion, coughing, wheezing and abdominal pain. When gastric acid reaches the back of the throat, it can cause a sour taste in a person’s mouth and can also be inhaled into the lungs, causing pneumonia or bronchitis.
Because GERD can worsen COPD symptoms, including frequent coughing and difficulty breathing, it is important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of experiencing GERD if you have COPD. While no one knows the exact cause of GERD, following the subsequent guidelines will help reduce the likelihood of experiencing GERD symptoms:
- Eat smaller meals.
- Avoid eating before bedtime.
- Limit the following types of foods: fatty, fried, garlic, onions, high acid foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes), spicy foods, mints, chocolate.
- Drink fewer caffeinated drinks.
- Exercise good posture.
- Use an extra pillow when sleeping as raising your head helps.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Don’t smoke.
- Stay in shape; obesity can cause GERD.
- Be mindful of certain medications that bring about symptoms: calcium channel blockers, theophyllines, nitrates, and antihistamines.
- Certain medical conditions can put a person at risk, including hiatus hernia, pregnancy, diabetes and rapid weight gain.
GERD can be very difficult for people with COPD. Dr. David Mannino, pulmonologist at the University of Kentucky, says, “For patients with COPD, GERD can be especially bothersome, as they typically do not have a great deal of reserve lung capacity.” There are medications that can treat the symptoms of GERD, like heartburn, but they don’t actually treat the condition itself. Because of this, being mindful of causes and taking steps to prevention are extremely important for managing both GERD and COPD symptoms.
It is unclear as to why COPD sufferers also suffer from GERD and vice versa, but an article from the Annals of Thoracic Medicine offers some suggestions. Many GERD sufferers develop pulmonic issues, particularly if they’re experiencing acid reflux at night while sleeping and inadvertently inhaling liquid into their lungs. GERD is often associated with chronic cough, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and interstitial fibrosis.
Conversely, COPD frequently leads to GERD. Many medications used to treat COPD actually weaken the esophageal sphincter, therefore causing acid reflux. Also, according to the COPD Foundation, many COPD sufferers have air trapped in their lungs, which increases pressure on the abdomen, which causes acid reflux.
While there isn’t a cure for COPD or GERD, the symptoms can certainly be managed to make life with these conditions more manageable. If you suffer from COPD and GERD, follow the suggestions listed above to minimize symptoms.