It’s not uncommon to be diagnosed with GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, while living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In fact, according to the COPD Foundation, nearly 50 percent of COPD patients are thought to have GERD, as well.
If this is the case for you, it’s important to stay on top of both conditions to enjoy a high quality of life. Here’s what you need to know.
The Connection Between GERD and COPD
The COPD Foundation identifies GERD as a digestive disorder. Your COPD makes you prone to developing GERD because you tend to trap air in your chest when you breathe. This increases pressure on your abdomen, leading to gastric reflux.
In addition, a side effect from COPD medications may decrease the effectiveness of the lower esophageal sphincter. When this valve weakens, acid and food from the stomach can make its way up the esophagus. Some of this acid can even make its way into your lungs, creating more irritation.
MedPage Today identifies several aspects of COPD that are worsened by the acid reflux that comes with GERD:
- Exacerbations occur twice as often and more severely. In a study performed by the University of Florida, COPD patients with GERD had 3.2 flare-ups per year compared to 1.6 flare-ups among those without GERD.
- Hospitalizations, emergency room visits and antibiotic use are all higher among COPD patients with GERD.
Managing GERD While Living With COPD
The COPD Foundation points out that neither of these conditions is curable, but there are many things you can do to reduce GERD symptoms to prevent further complications with your COPD. Try these three easy steps, in addition to taking the appropriate prescribed medication:
- Raise the head of your bed two inches.
- Don’t eat anything for three hours leading up to bedtime.
- Avoid food that stimulates acid reflux, such as spicy food, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol.
If you have severe GERD and it’s affecting your quality of life, talk to your doctor about treatment for your condition. In the meantime, learn more about living with COPD by downloading the free guide, "Understanding COPD: A Glossary of 15 Commonly Used Terms."