What is Acid reflux Cough?

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What is Acid reflux Cough?

Acid reflux Cough is one of the most common types of cough in adults. Acid Reflux is also known as GERD. 

GERD cough is a result of the reflux action of the body when contents of your stomach re-enter the food pipe upwards. Body makes this reflex action to ease the irritation of oesophagus muscles caused by acidic or non-acidic contents from stomach.

Acid reflux cough is very common and acid reflux is one of the top causes of cough after eating or drinking. If you have persistent cough after eating with or without phlegm and you cannot figure out why you are coughing, it is very likely ‘acid reflux cough’.



GERD cough is so common that experts say if a cough is persistent, there is 25% chance that it is due to acid reflux or GERD.

When you have acid reflux cough, you may see a doctor for a diagnosis of reflux cough. In some cases, you may also seek help from a nutritionist about foods that help acid reflux. You may want to avoid spicy and oily food to suppress acid reflux cough.

We may also see reflux in new-borns. Symptoms of reflux in babies cannot be ignored. Parents of new-borns must be aware of signs of reflux in babies.

New-born reflux causes difficult times for parents if they are not aware what GERD is. GERD in babies makes parents nervous about travel as they never know when the baby cries. Consulting a good paediatrician may help.

What causes acid reflux cough?

When you have a cough, it may be very helpful to know some common causes of cough.

Acid reflux cough is triggered when acidic or non-acidic contents of stomach re-enter esophagus or areas above esophagus. The semi-digested from the stomach irritates your throat when it re-enters food pipe. When your body notices this irritation, it responds with a cough to ease the irritation. This cough is called acid reflux cough.


A new-born can also suffer from acid reflux cough. However, new-born reflux can have its own causes and can be discussed in more detail with a pediatrician.  

Can children get acid reflux cough?

Yes children can get GERD. Usually GERD can cause acid reflux cough in children after 1 year of age and rarely in infants.

The main symptoms of GERD in babies include vomiting and refusing to eat. It may not be always easy to understand baby reflux symptoms and often, symptoms of reflux in babies go unnoticed.

When you see signs of reflux in babies, visiting a paediatrician can help to find out what helps treat acid reflux. Sometimes it is referred to as silent reflux in babies. 

Do I need to see a doctor for acid reflux cough treatment?

The acid reflux cough remains persistent unless a doctor treats it. Sometimes it may be difficult to diagnose GERD cough without a doctor’s help as it is not generally accompanied by any other related complaints such as heart burn.

If a patient has cough that cannot be explained by any other reason, doctors usually suspect GERD. A doctor’s medical advice will help you deal with Phlegm after Eating. So you must see a doctor for treating GERD.

How is acid reflux cough diagnosed?

Acid reflux Cough
Acid reflux Cough

GERD cough or acid reflux cough is not an easy one to diagnose. Common tests cannot detect GERD as it is not accompanied with heartburn etc.

There are a couple of special tests that doctors use to diagnose GERD.

One of the GERD tests is to put the patient on PPI (proton pump inhibitors) a medication for GERD for about 3 months and see if the GERD symptoms come down.

If PPI helps the person to treat GERD cough, then it is also the confirmation of GERD itself.

Popular GERD Tests
Popular GERD Tests

Another GERD test uses a 24 hour pH probe. This probe measures the pH of esophagus for a continuous period of 24 hours.

Based on how the pH varies, one can say whether the acidity in the esophagus is raised.

If acid reflux cough is the reason, then the acidic pH values confirm that.

It may be more difficult to diagnose silent reflux in babies. It is even more difficult to diagnose reflux in newborns.

Baby reflux symptoms may be difficult to figure out and may need a specialist to help you.

What are acid reflux cough risk factors in adults?

In adults, the risks factors for acid reflux cough include consumption of excessive amounts of foods that may cause acid reflux. Examples include alcohol, coffee, chocolate and fried foods.

Spicy foods and fatty foods are the common foods that cause acid reflux cough. Such foods contribute to GERD more than others.

Knowing what foods to avoid with acid reflux and taking them out of your diet helps treat acid reflux cough.

Thus, adults can see some relief from GERD or acid reflux cough by certain lifestyle changes.

It is important that you know the foods to avoid with acid reflux cough. These include consuming less alcohol, less spicy food and non-oily food as part of their diet.

Even if you like foods that cause acid reflux very much, eating less of acid reflux foods to avoid improves your condition. You can eat more of the foods that help acid reflux.

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Foods to avoid with acid reflux cough

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If you know what foods to avoid with acid reflux cough, you can protect yourself from coughing after eating, GERD etc. Your stomach produces acid to digest the food you eat. In a way, the food you eat controls the amount of acid in your stomach.

You get acid reflux cough when acidic contents from stomach travel upwards and enter esophagus. You can thus control acid reflux cough by avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux cough.

What foods to avoid with acid reflux cough?

Different people have different triggers for acid reflux cough. As a result, foods to avoid with acid reflux cough may be different for different people. Foods that trigger an acid reflux cough in your case may be perfectly fine with others. Similarly, foods that cause acid reflux cough in others can be fine with you.

But experts broadly agree on a general list of foods that trigger acid reflux cough in a majority of people.



Common foods to avoid with acid reflux cough

Examples of foods to avoid with acid reflux cough include the below.

Fatty  foods

Your stomach takes more time to digest fatty foods. As a result your stomach acids have to work extra hard in digesting fatty foods. This means there is greater possibility of semi digested food from stomach re-entering esophagus. Thus fatty food can trigger acid reflux cough in many people.


Examples of fatty foods to avoid with acid reflux cough
  • fat on meat like bacon fat, ham fat, beef, pork, lamb, lard
  • full fat diary like butter, milk, cheese, cream, ice cream
  • deep fried food like french fries, burgers, onion rings
  • gravies, creamy sauces , dips and salad dressings

Sour and citrus foods

Some very nutritious fruits and vegetables add sourness and acidity to some foods. As eating sour and citrus based foods increases the level of acidity in your stomach and can potentially cause more irritation. So you need to watch for any sour or citrus foods if you have acid reflux cough.

Examples of sour and citrus foods to avoid with acid reflux cough
  • tomatoes, tomato sauce and  tomato based foods like pizza, salsa
  • citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, pineapple and grapefruit

The above citrus and sour fruits are definitely some foods to avoid with acid reflux cough but they are very rich in essential vitamins and minerals. So you may miss out on such very important vitamins and minerals if you totally avoid them. To avoid becoming deficient of such vitamins and minerals, you can consume these in small quantities.

Chocolate

Methylxanthine in chocolate can trigger acid reflux cough in many people. So chocolate and chocolate based foods can foods to avoid with acid reflux cough.

Spicy or tangy foods

Foods that taste spicy or tangy normally cause some irritation in the stomach. As a result, consumption of spicy or tangy foods can trigger acid reflux cough in many people.

Spicy foods are one of the main causes of coughing after eating or chronic acid reflux cough. So, foods based on garlic, onion, chilli etc. are foods to avoid with acid reflux cough.

Caffeine

Caffeine based foods are very popular for triggering acid reflux cough, heart burn and cause sleeplessness. As a result, caffeine based foods are bad for you if you suffer from acid reflux cough.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a very common trigger for acid reflux and so cutting down on alcohol consumption can really help alleviate acid reflux cough.

Mint

Mint is a great after food treat. They say mint helps in digestion. But mint also triggers acid reflux cough in a lot of people.

Though the above list outlines foods to avoid with acid reflux cough, you need to be sure you get your acid reflux cough triggers correctly identified. For this, you need to identify what foods trigger acid reflux cough in your case and then avoid them.

Foods to avoid with acid reflux cough specific to you

Foods that trigger acid reflux cough in you

You need to keep a food diary and document foods you eat and the symptoms you have. Once you have thus gathered enough data, you can analyse and make a note of foods that triggered acid reflux cough in you.

In the food diary you need to note the below.

  • what food you ate
  • amount of food you ate
  • what you did after eating
  • time of the day when you ate
  • whether you ate it hot or cold
  • the symptoms you faced after eating

While updating your food diary, you need to pay attention to the below symptoms and note them in the diary.

  • burning sensation in stomach or chest
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • burping or hiccups
  • lump in throat
  • regurgitation
  • sore throat
  • heartburn
  • dry cough
  • vomiting
  • bloating

By documenting your food and symptoms for a week or two, you will have a fair idea of what foods trigger acid reflux cough in your case. The idea of this diary is to identify what foods trigger acid reflux in you and then avoid eating such foods.

Tips to reduce acid reflux cough

  • if you eat too many processed foods, you may want to check if any processed food is causing your acid reflux cough and avoid it.
  • eat more fibre so that your digestive system works better and food keeps moving faster through your digestive tract
  • if you are on any medication, discuss with your doctor if your acid reflux cough is the side effect of any medications you take and request for a change of medication
  • discuss your food diary and symptoms with your doctor and follow doctor’s advice
  • avoid eating a heavy meal just before going to bed
  • use acid reflux wedge pillow when going to bed
  • take smaller bites, chew well and eat slowly
  • eat smaller meals more frequently
  • lose weight if you are obese
  • stop smoking
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