The term reflux refers to stomach contents (stomach enzymes and acids) back flowing out of the stomach and into the esophagus. These contents should stay in the stomach. Whent the reflux reaches all the way up to the larynx, (voice box) or the pharynx (throat), it is referred to as laryngopharyngeal reflux or Acid Reflux. Also known as GERD (gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease), acid reflux disease is commonly seen in our patients, and it has been estimated that over 60 million adult Americans suffer from this disease.
Symptoms & Causes
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle that connects the esophagus with the stomach. During normal functioning, the LES opens to allow food in and closes to prevent food and stomach acids from refluxing back into the system. In individuals suffering from acid reflux disease, the LES does not close properly, allowing damaging stomach acids to flow back into the system and, in some cases, into the throat, causing a sore throat. A trained ENT doctor can adequately examine and diagnose GERD and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Acid reflux disease can often be controlled by acid-reducing medications. If left untreated, some believe it can be a precursor to esophageal cancer.
Possible Symptoms of Acid Reflux
- Burning sensation in the back of the throat
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Frequent throat clearing
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Frequent bad breath, acidic taste in the mouth
- Chronic hoarseness
- Chronic cough
- Excess phlegm or mucus
- Prolonged voice warm up time
- Pain in the throat when talking
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Your doctor will ask you a few questions to gauge the severity of your reflux and then may recommend lifestyle changes or an antacid. If the pain has persisted for longer than a month you may be referred to a specialist known as a gastroenterologist. If the over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes don’t resolve your symptoms a stronger antacid or surgery might be the last solution option to take.
There are different types of acid suppression medications that your doctor can prescribe for you. In addition, it is important to make changes in eating habits and stress management. Patients who are unresponsive to medical therapy and those who are at risk for complications of Acid Reflux may be advised to have surgery to correct the reflux problem.
How can you minimize Acid Reflux?
- Quit Smoking
- Limit your intake of alcohol, as this weakens the esophageal sphincter.
- Avoid caffeine. This includes coffee, soft drinks with caffeine, tea or chocolate.
- Limit foods high in fat content such as cheese, red meat and fried foods.
- Avoid mints, such as peppermint.
- Avoid very spicy foods such as Indian, Thai, Mexican cuisines, and hot peppers.
- Listen to your body and pay attention to what irritates your stomach.
- Do not lie down immediately after eating. Wait at least 3-4 hours before going to bed after dinner.
- Do not fill your stomach during meals. Eat to 80% satisfaction. it is often helpful to plan smaller, more frequent meals.
- Avoid tight clothing, especially around the waist.
Avoiding food and drink that affect LES pressure, such as alcohol, citrus juices, chocolate and fried foods can help mediate symptoms. Additionally losing weight if you are overweight, remaining upright two to three hours after eating, and/or taking an antacid (as prescribed by a medical professional) may also help.