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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the abnormal
backflow, or reflux, of stomach juices into the esophagus, the tube that leads
from the throat to the stomach.
GERD is found in many people who have
asthma. Having asthma increases the chances of
Some experts debate whether or to what extent GERD makes asthma
worse. Studies have shown conflicting results as to whether GERD triggers
Those experts who believe GERD does trigger asthma theorize that the
abnormal backflow of stomach juices irritates nerves in the esophagus. This
could make the smooth muscles of the bronchial tubes tighten, causing airway
narrowing. Or food may back up into the throat and airway, causing direct
irritation of the bronchial tubes.
People with asthma who have
heartburn—after meals, when they bend over, or when
they lie down—may need to be treated for GERD. If you have persistent nighttime
asthma symptoms, especially coughing and wheezing, GERD could be making your
asthma symptoms worse. Simple steps you can take that may reduce the symptoms
of GERD include losing weight (if needed), eating a low-fat diet, raising the
head of your bed, and not eating for at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
Studies show mixed results on whether treatment for GERD improves
asthma symptoms or lung function or reduces the need for
For more information about GERD, see the topic Gastroesophageal
Reflux Disease (GERD).
Gibson PG, et al. (2003). Gastro-esophageal reflux treatment for asthma in adults and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1). Oxford: Update Software.
American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers (2009). Efficacy of esomeprazole for treatment of poorly controlled asthma. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(15): 1487–1499.
Khoshoo V, et al. (2003). Role of gastroesophageal reflux in older children with persistent asthma. Chest, 123(4): 1008–1013.
February 22, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
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