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The vague symptoms of ‘silent reflux’


What is silent reflux?

Silent reflux symptoms can be vague but include:

  • A chronic cough, often worse in the morning
  • Hoarseness, often worse in the morning
  • Throat clearing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asthma
  • Bad breath
  • COPD
  • Tooth decay
  • A feeling of a lump in the throat

If these symptoms sound familiar you could be suffering from silent reflux, also called laryngopharyngeal reflux. It can be a frustrating condition that is often misdiagnosed.

Because you may not have the classic symptoms of acid reflux; acid coming up in to the mouth, burning throat, indigestion and abdominal discomfort, it can be difficult to diagnose and your doctor may be unaware you are actually suffering from silent reflux.

Asthma is often one of the biggest misdiagnosis because silent reflux mimics asthma. It is useful to note that people with reflux will have trouble getting air IN during inspiration whereas those suffering from asthma have difficulty getting air OUT of the lungs.

Commonly with silent reflux the symptoms are worse in the morning after lying down all night. The sphincters at the top and bottom of the throat which are meant to be tightly controlled can stay open allowing acid to splash up into the throat resulting in these symtoms.

Conventional approach

After diagnosis your GP will commonly prescribe Proton Pump Inhibitors. Unfortunately they don’t treat the root cause and may provide just short-term relief. Recent research has shown that these commonly used acid-supressing drugs can cause serious health problems and are linked to higher earlier death risk. Many people now take them long-term when they were only ever meant to be prescribed for a few weeks.

In most cases reflux is actually due to too low stomach acid and not high stomach acid as commonly reported. We need stomach acid to digest food. While an acid suppressing drug may provide short term relief it does not address the root issue and may in fact worsen the problem. As we age stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) declines. Symptoms of low stomach acid frequently occur several hours after eating and can include a desire to eat when not truly hungry, feeling dissatisfied after eating, a sense of fullness after meals, abdominal gas, constipation and diarrhoea.

Possible causes of silent reflux

Stress, a lack of digestive enzymes, LOW stomach acid and inflammatory foods like gluten can all be at the root of silent reflux and a serious look at these factors should be considered.

What to avoid

Alcohol, tea, coffee, gluten and acidic foods including tomatoes and oranges should be reduced or eliminated to allow for healing.

Recommendations to resolve silent reflux

  • Make a slippery elm soothing drink three times daily. Or take a supplement. First port of call we advise in clinic.
  • Drink chamomile tea.
  • Chew DGL liquorice 20 minutes before each meal.
  • Drink water in between meals, not with food. Volvic is recommended.
  • Consider HCL.
  • Consume bitter foods.
  • Consume alkaline foods, including cider vinegar and lemons. Yes these have an alkalising effect on the body AFTER being consumed!
  • Walk daily and practice deep abdominal breathing to oxygenate the abdominal area.
  • Reduce stress factors.
  • Ensure you are having restorative sleep.
  • Create a healthy gut environment and heal the gut with a good quality probiotic.

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