What is Silent Reflux?
Don't they say ignorance is bliss? Well, not in this case. What you don't know could actually be killing you! You may already be familiar with acid reflux, which in itself can be quite a dangerous condition. Silent reflux takes it a step further by keeping the victim in the dark. With none of the usual outward manifestations of acid reflux (like indigestion or heartburn), silent reflux can go undetected for prolonged periods of time. The condition is also known as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) because, in addition to the esophaghus, it also causes damage to the larynx and the pharynx - meaning your voice box and your throat.
Although the condition affects more than 50 million Americans every year, it is often misdiagnosed as asthma. However the best way to tell both conditions apart is to ask yourself whether you are having trouble breathing in or breathing out. While people with asthma face difficulty in expiration (getting air OUT of their lungs), those suffering from silent reflux are more likely to have trouble during inspiration (getting air INTO their lungs). So you might want to keep that in mind when consulting a medical practitioner.
As mentioned before, the usual symptoms of acid reflux are absent in silent reflux. However, there are other signs that are indicative of LPR. These include hoarseness, persistent coughing, choking sensation, sinusitis, post-nasal drip, soreness/burning sensation in the throat, shortness of breath, difficulty in swallowing, bad taste in the mouth, sleep apnea, tooth decay, bad breath, and asthma.
The causes of silent reflux are varied, but the leading among them is the habit of smoking. Cigarettes contain nicotine which stimulates the stomach to produce increased amount of acid. Other factors that could lead to silent reflux are lying down within a few hours of eating, wearing clothes that are tight around the abdominal region, being overweight, and having an unhealthy diet.
Now that you know what causes LPR and how it can be identified, the next step would be to take steps to prevent the condition. The very first thing you might want to do is give up (or at least reduce) unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Nicotine in cigarettes causes excessive production of stomach acid. Caffeine and alcohol do the same. However, alcohol compounds the problem by relaxing the esophageal sphincter, causing it to open up and allow the acid to travel upward.
Another thing you can do to prevent silent reflux is to include complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, brown bread, wheat pasta, etc. in your diet. By absorbing excess stomach acid, they prevent its flow up the esophagus and throat. Avoid coffee, spicy foods, chocolates and citrus fruit, since they are notorious for the production of acid in the stomach. Other lifestyle changes such as having meals several hours before you sleep, staying in an upright position during and after meals, and sleeping at an incline can also help prevent silent reflux from wreaking havoc on your life.
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