Like many Americans (most?), I truly love to eat. I admit that I have a love affair with food. Food (at least certain kinds), brings me satisfaction and comfort. This has nothing to do with hunger, which is purely biological. This love-affair is psychological, as my slowly expanding waistline will testify to.
However, a few years ago I began to experience some disturbing symptoms when I ate certain foods. Those symptoms included the following:
Coughing up phlegm and sometimes feeling like choking
Regurgitating food up my esophagus (but not vomiting)
Constant throat clearing followed by irritated, scratchy feeling
Shortness of breath
Constant runny nose and post-nasal drip
After my experience with nasal spray addiction, I knew better than to try an over-the-counter medication. So, I went to a doctor who diagnosed me as having Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
What I didn’t fully understand, until I did some research, was the relationship between GERD and sinusitis.
GERD occurs when a valve between the esophagus and the gastric system fails to prevent stomach acids from backing up to the throat. What follows is a burning, choking, raw sensation. This can lead to serious consequences. Sometimes even the lungs can become inflamed. In such cases, this lung inflammation can result in pneumonia.
I discovered that GERD can trigger a sinusitis attack and that most asthmatics also suffer from some form of reflux disease. It works something like this: Stomach acid backs up through the esophagus and is absorbed into the lungs. This acid can cause the Bronchial muscles to contract. This contraction, in turn, can trigger an asthma attack.
Here is another sequence of events: You develop a sinus attack. The over-production of mucus drains down the esophagus. You begin throat clearing and coughing. In the meantime your stomach begins producing acid in reaction to the mucus you’ve been swallowing. This acid begins backing up through the esophagus, and is then absorbed into the lungs. Your Bronchial muscles begin to contract, which leads to an asthma attack.
GERD and sinusitis together can wreak havoc on your throat. Both conditions cause hoarseness. The sinusitis creates excess mucus flow, which irritates the voice-box and produces a scratchy, inflamed feeling in your throat. When the mucus hits your stomach, it triggers the acid refluxing back up the esophagus. This acid hits the already inflamed vocal cords which cause further irritation and hoarseness. Constant irritation and throat clearing can lead to polyps on the vocal cords.
As I’ve hinted at earlier, certain foods can trigger a bout of GERD or sinusitis. Here’s how this works in my case:
I eat a fatty, non-healthy meal (Ice Cream, Cheese, whatever)
My nose begins to run
The runny nose leads to post-nasal drip, down my throat and into my stomach
I start coughing and choking
My stomach starts sending acid up my esophagus in reaction to the mucus
I start throat clearing, with more coughing and choking
I love ice cream and have a hard time giving it up. But one food that I did give up was beer, which I also love. It got to the point that every time I drank a brew, my nose ran faster than an Olympic sprinter. Then the entire cycle of post-nasal drip, acid reflux, and more drip would begin. It just wasn’t worth the trouble.
If your GERD is mild, then you can probably treat yourself simpy by avoiding any foods that offend, and taking OTC antacids. Try taking them after a meal, especially if your bedtime is less than 3 hours away.
If you find that the antacids aren’t working for you, then it’s time to take a trip to your doctor’s office. She will probably recommend a gastroenterologist or an ENT specialist.