Can Acid Reflux Cause Breathing Problems?

Acid Reflux in Women

Yes, acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) can lead to breathing problems in some individuals, especially when the stomach acid or contents flow back into the esophagus and even into the respiratory tract. Here are a few ways in which acid reflux can cause breathing problems:

  • Aspiration: When stomach acid and digestive enzymes flow back into the throat and potentially into the airways, it can lead to aspiration. Aspiration occurs when these substances are inhaled into the respiratory tract, causing irritation and inflammation. This can result in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and even pneumonia.
  • Bronchoconstriction: Acid reflux can trigger the bronchial tubes in the lungs to constrict, leading to increased airway resistance and potentially causing breathing difficulties. This can be particularly problematic for individuals who have asthma, as it can exacerbate their asthma symptoms.
  • Microaspiration: Even without noticeable symptoms like heartburn, microaspiration of stomach acid and its components can occur during sleep or throughout the day. This microaspiration may lead to chronic inflammation in the respiratory tract and contribute to respiratory problems.

It’s important to note that not everyone with acid reflux will experience breathing problems, and the severity of these issues can vary among individuals. If you suspect that acid reflux is causing or worsening your breathing problems, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and appropriate management. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, medications, and, in some cases, surgical interventions to address the underlying GERD and alleviate the associated respiratory symptoms.