Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Reflux occurs when stomach acids splash or leak upwards into your esophagus. Many people have reflux without noticing heartburn or other symptoms in the esophagus. For this reason, asthma may be the only symptom of reflux.
Researchers have identified two separate ways by which acid reflux may aggravate asthma. When acid is present in the lower esophagus, it can trigger a nerve reflex involving the vagus nerve. Acid is detected by receptors in the cells that line the esophagus, nerves are triggered to send signals, and the end result is tightening of the muscles of the airways. Many experts feel that this nerve reflex is the major reason that acid problems can result in asthma. The other way gastroesophageal reflux may trigger asthma is by directly exposing the upper bronchial tubes to small amounts of acid, if acid refluxes vigorously enough to reach the throat and upper airways. Acid in the upper bronchial tubes is irritating to the airways and causes them to constrict.
Acid reflux is most active while you're lying down or asleep, especially after a big meal. This may result in a pattern of asthma that is most active at night, if reflux is one of your asthma triggers.
Here's how to prevent reflux-related asthma: