Most of us are well familiar with acid reflux: the feeling of heartburn localized in the middle of your chest, the discomfort you feel after eating certain kinds of food, and the acidic taste you feel burning through your throat when regurgitation occurs. Acid reflux can cause many complications if untreated, and it can be dealt with easily by taking antacids.
On the other hand, laryngopharyngeal reflux is known as the silent reflux. Unlike acid reflux, it usually comes with no symptoms to alert us of its existence. It creeps slowly through our respiratory tract, causing varying degrees of damage in its wake. The medical experts at Refluxgate explain how its silent demeanor doesn’t give the patients any reason to seek consult until the damage had already been done. Even then, it’s pretty difficult to diagnose. Doctors may take years before they finally make the right diagnosis, all at the expense of the patient.
So what it this silent reflux? What causes it? And is it true that it can be managed by simple lifestyle tweaks? Let’s find out.
What Is Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)?
LPR results when the highly acidic digestive enzymes, which are normally restricted to the stomach, find their way to the respiratory tract. When this happens, they can cause a wide range of symptoms, which include the following:
- Persistent cough
- Frequent need to clear your throat
- Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
- Shortness of breath that feels like an asthma attack
- Hoarseness of voice
- A sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Frequent burping
- A dripping nose
- Increased mucus secretion in throat and airways
- Inflammation or irritation of mucous membranes
- Pain in the ear
- Falling ill to flu-like symptoms repeatedly
- Erosion of enamel
- Exaggeration of other respiratory conditions
The presence of many of these symptoms together can give your doctor an indication that the culprit might be the silent reflux. After additional testing, the doctor will be able to come to the right diagnosis and provide you with your treatment options.
Understanding LPR Treatment Options
In order to understand how LPR treatment works, we’ll need to get into more detail about the underlying causes. LPR results when acidic stomach enzymes leave their designated place and ascend up toward the airways. But that shouldn’t happen; these acidic enzymes are strictly held in place by sphincters.
The anatomy of the digestive system plays an important role in restricting the ascendance of these enzymes; when you swallow food, they descend down the trachea into the esophagus and into the stomach. The esophagus contains two sphincters, at its beginning and its end, and they allow the passage of food in one way: downwards. Or at least, that’s what happens under normal conditions. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) becomes loose, it can allow the ascendance of acidic reflux upwards, where it reaches the airways and causes all of the previously mentioned symptoms.
The treatment of LPR then focuses on two main goals. You can either prevent the loosening of the LES or decrease the acidity of the stomach. Extreme cases in which the sphincter gas has been destroyed may require surgery, but in most cases, it’s not required. Doctors will also prescribe you different medications to decrease the acidity of the stomach in case of reflux. But the primary approach in LPR treatment lies within the lifestyle changes that need to be made.
The Effective Role of Lifestyle Changes in Easing LPR
LPR can be handled on a big scale by making some lifestyle alterations which include the following:
The kind of food you consume plays a big role in the onset of LPR. Foods and drinks of high acidity will not only increase the acidity of the stomach, making reflux worse, but they’ll also weakens the LES. Once weakened, the ascendance of the reflux, which is now more acidic than normal, will do the damage. Ingesting substances such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, citrus fruits, onions, garlic, and other acidic food will make it worse, so try to ease down on these acidic substances.
There’s another way that your eating habits can worsen LPR, and it’s by exerting a lot of pressure on it that it loosens wide open. This happens in situations in which you overeat way more than the capacity of your stomach. Eating large meals right before going to bed is also going to make it worse. As you lie down, there’s even more pressure needed to keep the contents of your stomach in place. To avoid that, make sure to develop healthy eating habits. Divide your meals into smaller portions, and make breakfast or lunch your biggest meal. Try your best to eat your last meal two to three hours before hitting the bed, so you would have enough time to digest the food.
You can further tweak your sleeping habits to help against LPR. You can do that by adding more pillows below your head to keep it elevated.
Maintaining an active lifestyle can improve your health generally in many ways, which can indirectly help you with easing LPR symptoms. Physical activity will help in shedding down body fat and controlling your eating habits, which will have a direct positive impact on reflux. It will also ease symptoms of stress and anxiety, which can worsen reflux and LPR symptoms.
Other Lifestyle Changes
In addition to the previous lifestyle tweaks, you should re-evaluate the way you live your life in general. If you’re a smoker, then you should probably give up smoking; it aggravates the symptoms. Try to manage your social activities in a way that complements your lifestyle changes, so that you won’t feel tempted and give in to peer pressure.
Managing LPR symptoms takes a wholesome approach that focuses on changing your lifestyle and habits. It can be managed by medications or surgery in extreme cases, but making significant lifestyle changes is the main therapeutic approach. These changes mainly focus on the kinds of food consumed and eating habits, but other changes in sleeping habits, physical activities, and social gatherings can be necessary as well.