Fun Fact: Did you know that the over-the-counter acid solutions that many people rely on every day actually have an FDA warning noting that users should never use the product for more than two weeks?
This makes perfect sense, given the FDA classifies “acid reflux” as a condition that happens on occasion — no more than twice a week — usually in response to a specific, avoidable acid reflux trigger.
But what many people don’t know is that two other common conditions that are often mistaken for being general acid reflux when in fact they are more serious conditions that need to be addressed using more unique treatments: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
Both of these conditions are related to dysfunctions in how the body manages acid, but the root cause differs, which is why some people don’t respond to “standard” approaches to acid-related discomfort.
So how do you know what’s causing your discomfort and which solution would best eliminate it? Although acid reflux, GERD and LPR are related, they have some distinct differences. Here is an overview of the three conditions.
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1. Is It Acid Reflux?
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, 60 million Americans suffer from reflux symptoms at least once a month. By definition, acid reflux a condition that causes stomach acid to flow backward into the esophagus, resulting in a painful heartburn sensation. This happens because once food enters the stomach, a ring of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is supposed to close tightly. However, sometimes the LES becomes weakened and doesn’t close properly, which permits stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and irritate the lining. This produces a burning sensation called heartburn or acid reflux.
Lifestyle modifications can help avoid occasional bouts. These include avoiding trigger foods, staying upright three hours after a meal, losing weight, abstaining from smoking and refraining from wearing tight fitting clothing around the waist.
2. Is It GERD?
If acid reflux symptoms occur more often than twice a week, it’s called GERD. Because GERD is chronic in nature, the path to relief is a little more complicated. (In fact, some of the more modern “solutions” to GERD are pretty shocking.) The frequent contact of stomach acid with the tissues of the esophagus produces the following symptoms:
SYMPTOMS OF GERD
- A burning sensation in the center of the chest that lingers several minutes to two hours
- A feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest
- A bitter or sour taste in the back of the throat or middle of the chest
- A feeling of chest pressure or pain that becomes worse when lying down.
- Difficulty swallowing
GERD symptoms experienced during the night may also include the below signs:
- Chronic dry cough
- Sleep disruptions
- Development or worsening of asthma
Complications of GERD are ulcers and narrowing of the esophagus, along with precancerous changes in the esophagus.
3. Is It LPR?
Sometimes the acidic contents of the stomach will back up beyond the ring of muscle at the top of the esophagus, thus entering the throat. When this happens, the contents irritate the larynx and back of the nasal airway, a condition called LPR or silent reflux. It produces the following symptoms:
Symptoms of LPR
- Croupy persistent cough
- Persistent hoarseness
- A bad taste
- Excessive throat clearing
- A lump in the throat that lingers
Below are less common symptoms:
- Trouble swallowing
- Postnasal drip
- Sore throat
- Trouble breathing
Complications include scarring in the throat and larynx and an increased risk of cancer, as well as worsening of bronchitis, asthma or emphysema. There are several known treatments that work well to soothe this kind of esophageal irritation. You can learn about the top five here.
Main Differences Between GERD and LPR
The two conditions have some symptoms in common but they also have differences. A notable dissimilarity is that a majority of patients with LPR don’t have heartburn. One of the most frequently manifested symptom of LPR is hoarseness. Patients with GERD tend to have reflux at night or in the lying down position, while those with LPR tend to have reflux in the daytime or in an upright position. Dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter is usually present in GERD, and dysfunction of the upper esophageal sphincter is characteristic of LPR. A simple way to remember the distinction between the two conditions is that GERD damages the esophagus and LPR can damage the vocal cords, larynx and lungs.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.