Silent reflux – GERD without the BURN
As many as 18 to 28 % of people in North American have silent reflux. The less commonly known form of GERD is silent reflux. It affect millions of people but many don’t know because they do not have the traditional symptoms of GERD. Silent reflux or (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux or LPR) is reflux without the burning or symptoms in the GI tract.
What is Gastro-espohageal reflux disorder or (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus.
What is Silent Reflux or Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)?
GERD is when the sphincter of the GI tract is loosened and the acid in the stomach can enter into the esophagus. Typical this causes a tell tale burning sensation. The difference between silent reflux and traditional GERD is that the person is often unaware they have silent reflux.
How is silent reflux different from GERD?
Other than the absence of the burning sensation, silent GERD is when both sphincters in the esophagus do not work properly so the acid from the stomach can enter the esophagus and also the throat. It can effect the ears, nose, throat, vocal cords, sinuses and mouth. It cause for concern because it can cause damage without someone being aware.
What are the long term effects of untreated GERD
Untreated silent GERD can have long term consequences including:
- Long term irritation
- Scar the throat and voice box
- Increased risk of cancer
Silent Reflux Symptoms
- Chronic cough
- Frequent throat clearing (with a feeling of a continual lump in throat
- Atypical chest pain
- Sore burning throat
- Snoring/sleep apnea
- Difficulty swallowing
- Constant mucus/phlegm
- Post nasal drip
Silent reflux is diagnosed through an endoscopy.
Silent Reflux Diet
Changing your diet can help to relieve your symptoms and help prevent further damage to the lining of your esophagus, vocal cords and sinuses. Avoiding these foods can help to keep the sphincter from loosening up and keep the stomach contents in the stomach
- Caffeine beverages
- Alcohol-of any kind, wine, beer, hard alcohol- alcohol can relax the sphincter muscles.
- Fatty foods-including fried foods, high fat baked goods and other foods with a high fat content
- Minty foods including mints, toothpaste, gum etc
- Sugary foods- such as candy, sweets, added sugar, drinks with added sugar
- Carbonated beverages- can expand your stomach and cause the sphincter to loosen.
- Spicy or tomato-based products
Eating any of these foods or combination of these foods can cause the sphincter to loosen. A combination of a cup of caffeinated coffee with cream and sugar in the morning with breakfast, then mint gum mid morning and a fried chicken sandwich with lunch can cause the reflux to build. An effort to eliminate these foods and combination of foods can help heal from the inside.
Since symptoms are difficult to determine with silent reflux, it is important to eliminate foods that could potentially cause silent reflux. It may take up to 2 to 3 months for your esophagus and vocal cords to heal. You may notice your cough or frequent throat clearing and draining postnasal drip improving. The only reason how it can be determined to heal is through endoscopy.
How to eliminate foods that cause silent reflux
Understand that it is difficult to change routines and typical foods eaten especially when symptoms are not felt or visible. Give yourself time to adjust and try new foods.
- Read labels- Read all food labels to see if items are listed.
- Find new foods that do not trigger reflux and make to effort to substitute these items
- Ex. Switch coffee with herbal tea
- Ex. Baked chicken for fried chicken
- Ex. Switch carbonated beverages for water.
- Keep a food log to record what foods you have eaten and amount. This will help you be more mindful of foods that you eat and help to keep track of your diet.
- Keep a symptom log (if you have symptoms)- Keep a 30-day calendar if you have any symptoms. It is a visual log of any patterns of symptoms.
Also, some lifestyle habits that can contribute to silent GERD
- Smoking-smoking can loosen the sphincter and contribute to silent GERD. Smoking can also raise the PH of stomach acid
- Overweight or abdominal obesity- Carrying weight around your midsection can put pressure on your esophageal sphincter and cause loosening over time.
- Medications-Certain medications can contribute. Blood pressure medication, sleeping pills and sedatives, antibiotics, antidepressants, iron and potassium supplements, and proton pump inhibitors all cause damage to the LES.