Cold Cough
Mature Man with Cough

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GERD and its Cough Connection

Posted on November 9, 2015 | Author and Reviewed by: Mark Ernest Del Rosario, RPh

Mature businessman with gray hair, doubled over with a bad cough from a cold, flu, or ebola

One of the most common illnesses is cough. It’s an illness we start to experience at an early age and continue to do so as we grow older. It is also one of those ailments which medicine we can buy over the counter. Most households might even be stocking up on medicine for cough and colds in preparation for the incoming cold winds and cool temperatures. But do we really understand cough or its cause?

What people do not realize is not all coughs are caused by an airborne virus or a bacterial infection— it can be caused by your stomach! There’s a deep connection between these two and if you want to learn more, then hear us out.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), is a digestive disorder affecting the ring of muscle be found between the stomach and esophagus. That ring, commonly called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) should only open to allow food to enter the stomach. However, there are instances when the LES is weak or too relaxed. The result is your stomach’s content comes back up the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest, thus causing heartburn. It is highly recommended for the person experiencing heartburn not to lie down or bend down as this can only worsen the symptom.

Complications can occur due to GERD. One of these complications is Esophagitis, wherein the esophagus becomes inflamed. Another is Strictures, which causes your esophagus to narrow due to the scarring. Do note that patients with GERD are at a higher risk for esophageal cancer as compared to those without.

Chronic Cough and GERD

Coughing is necessary to clear our throat and airways from clogging. It’s a typical and even healthy reaction by the body. However, if your cough persists for at least three weeks, there might be a problem as it is now considered as chronic cough. One of the most common causes of it is GERD.

The reason why it is highly likely for a person with GERD to develop chronic cough is the same reason why they have GERD: a weak LES. You brain perceives this as an irritation to your trachea, leading you to cough.

To know if your persistent cough is due to GERD and not by a bug, check if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A continuous cough that you mostly experience during the day
  • Said cough also mostly occurring when you are in an upright position
  • Coughing with no logical, common, medical cause such as allergies, smoking or a lung ailment

Solution

Ultimately, keeping a healthy lifestyle is still one of the best ways to help people with this condition. It can also help reduce chronic cough and other symptoms. Here are a few things to remember:

  • People with GERD are advised to refrain from consuming some food such as chocolate, citrus fruits, spicy foods, and tomato-based foods. They should also avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated drinks.
  • It would be helpful for people with GERD to lose excessive weight. You can do this through regular exercise and proper diet.
  • Elevate the bed’s head by adding extra pillows. Remember to avoid lying down for at least 2 hours after eating a meal.

A chronic cough is no joke. If you are displaying any of the symptoms above, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. If you do have a chronic cough due to GERD, just follow your doctor’s instructions to avoid any further complications.