Can GERD Cause Breathing Problems?

gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Yes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause breathing problems or exacerbate existing respiratory issues in some individuals.

GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, leading to irritation, inflammation, and various symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and sometimes coughing.

The reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus can irritate the lining of the airways, leading to:

  • Asthma exacerbation: GERD can worsen asthma symptoms in individuals who have both conditions. Stomach acid reflux may trigger or aggravate asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
  • Chronic cough: Persistent reflux of stomach contents, including acid, can cause irritation in the throat and airways, leading to a chronic cough that may be mistaken for respiratory issues.
  • Aspiration: In severe cases, refluxed stomach acid or contents can be inhaled into the lungs (aspiration), leading to respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, pneumonia, or bronchitis.

When GERD is suspected to be contributing to breathing problems, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation. Proper management of GERD through lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, medications to reduce stomach acid, and, if necessary, other treatments can help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications affecting the respiratory system. Consulting with a healthcare professional, especially if someone experiences persistent breathing difficulties or respiratory symptoms, is crucial to determine the underlying cause and appropriate management.