What’s the connection between heartburn and asthma?
BY: Stacey Colino
At first blush, it’s hard to imagine what heartburn and asthma have in common, beyond the fact that both are felt in the chest. And yet, it’s estimated that 70 percent of people with asthma also experience frequent heartburn. The likely link: People with heartburn can inhale tiny amounts of acid, which may irritate airways and cause them to constrict, especially at night, explains Dr. Amit Bhan, senior staff gastroenterologist at the Henry Ford Health System in West Bloomfield, Mich. This can lead to asthma symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, hoarseness and irritation of the vocal chords.The good news: Getting heartburn under control has been found to relieve asthma symptoms in many people. While heartburn is rarely the sole cause of asthma, if you have asthma symptoms with your heartburn and your asthma is not improving with standard asthma medications, “explore the possibility with your doctor that reflux may be aggravating your asthma,” suggests Bhan. “If it’s due to acid reflux, taking acid-suppressing medications can help.” Just be aware that “it may take several months to relieve the symptoms, and higher than standard doses may be required,” advises Bhan.
Stacey Colino has written for The Washington Post's health section and many national magazines, including Newsweek, Woman's Day, SELF, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Parenting, Sports Illustrated and Ladies' Home Journal. Stacey is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.