Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD or acid reflux, is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach backs up, or refluxes, into the esophagus. The liquid can inflame and damage the lining of the esophagus and cause pain or discomfort in the stomach, chest or throat. Occasionally, reflux may also result in a dry cough. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve a cough caused by acid reflux without turning to medication.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Reflux is more likely to occur when you are lying down, since gravity is not opposing the reflux. Additionally, the lack of gravity allows the refluxed liquid to travel farther up the esophagus and remain in the esophagus longer, causing a cough. Symptoms can be relieved by elevating the upper body in bed by putting blocks under the bed's feet at the head of the bed, or by sleeping with the upper body on a wedge. These tricks keep the esophagus above the stomach and partially restore the effects of gravity. Be sure to elevate the whole upper body, and not just the head.
- Reflux is more likely to occur when you are lying down, since gravity is not opposing the reflux.
- Additionally, the lack of gravity allows the refluxed liquid to travel farther up the esophagus and remain in the esophagus longer, causing a cough.
How to Stop Reflux While Sleeping
Certain foods aggravate symptoms of GERD and should therefore be avoided. These foods include:
- fatty or fried foods
- spearmint or peppermint
- whole milk
- creamed foods or soups,
Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of two or three large ones.
Making other simple lifestyle changes will help prevent a cough caused by a GERD flare-up 2. If you are overweight, get as close to a healthy weight as possible. Extra weight causes added pressure on your stomach, which can irritate symptoms. Avoid chewing gum or sucking hard candy, which increases the amount of swallowed air, aggravating your condition. Wear loose-fitting clothing and try not to bend after eating. Stop using tobacco in any form. Smoking relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter, which lets stomach acid leak into your esophagus, causing pain and coughing.
- Making other simple lifestyle changes will help prevent a cough caused by a GERD flare-up 2.
- Avoid chewing gum or sucking hard candy, which increases the amount of swallowed air, aggravating your condition.
How to Stop Reflux While Sleeping
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- MedicineNet.com: Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease
- Medslant.com: Ten Lifestyle Change for Acid Reflux Disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of GER & GERD. November 2014.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diagnosis of GER & GERD. November 2014.
- Harvard Women's Health Watch. 9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication. Harvard Health Publishing. September 10, 2019.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn treatment. March 3, 2018.
Lisa Weber is a freelance writer/editor and former special education teacher. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and professional writing, and a master's degree in special education. Over the last 15 years, she has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and on-line publications.