Can someone please explain to me the link between breathing and reflux because it's driving me crazy

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Hi everyone,

I've been having ongoing stomach problems for a while now which has led to reflux. I had an ulcer in my upper oesophagus so they put me on esomeprezole for two months (I didn't get chest pain so it must be the silent type). The ulcer cleared up and I'm not on any PPIs now. In between this, I started struggling to exercise because I couldn't take full breaths and got dizzy, along with chest pains. It lasted for a few days after I went for a long walk. It just got worse to the point where It hurts to take a deep breath. I can't exercise or take deep breaths without hours of chest pain, partial wheezing and dizziness. 

My gastroenterologist has suggested it's something to do with either the bloating or the reflux. But he wouldn't explain it to me. I totally don't get the reason. I don't want to go back on PPIs because they make my stomach problem worse but I will go on some weaker ones if it will improve my breathing. I NEED to understand the connection before I do this. Does anyone have any experience of this?

(If it helps, I have what seems like frequent sinus problems,  ear popping when I swallow and a lump in my throat most of the time - could be acid related).

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  • Posted

    Hi Dave,

    I would post this on the Anxiety Forum. Your symptoms sound very much like Health Anxiety, especially the lump in the throar and the swallowing.

    I have severe reflux and sometimes if enough acid comes up into my mouth (gross) I become wheezy. It's because the acid irritates the air passages slightly so that sparks off asthma.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for your response. The problem with that is that only happens after physical exertion or when I take really deep breaths - never when at rest. I can breath fine when I'm just sat around. It doesn't feel anything like hyperventilation to me. My breathing patterns don't change and I don't feel short of breath. It just hurts and I wheeze.

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    • Posted

      Hi Dave - you don't mention your age, but people can get asthma at any age for the first time (I was nineteen).

      Wheezing is, I think, being caused in your case by the acid irritating your air passages particularly when you exert yourself. Wheezing is very much part of asthma. I'm a little surprised that your gastroenterologist hasn't referred you to a chest physician.

      By the way, any sudden onset of chest pain, no matter how mild, should be investigated immediately. Call 999 if it happens again. (Or 911 if you're in the USA).

      I once worked away from home and ran out of my PPI (lansoprazole) and wow! I had the most AWFUL reflux within a few hours of the first missed dose. it was a nightmare. And then the wheezing started. I ended up at the local GP's surgery with a severe asthma attack, brought on by the excess acid. And my throat felt like I'd swallowed Drano yuk.

      Can you talk to your GP about this? It sounds like you need a better explanation than the gastroenterologist gave you. Or that I've given you, come to that lol.

      All the best.

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    • Posted

      Based on that, I'd better book a GP appointment on Monday then I think. Maybe it might be an idea to try some weaker PPIs to see it it stops. I'm just a bit wary because I'm suffering from some post infectious h pylori IBS (which is where all this started) and PPIs seemed to make it worse, but they were the strongest ones I think (which I was one to get rid of the ulcer)...

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  • Posted

    Hi Dave,

    ?Did your doctor mention Vocal Cord Dysfunction?  I was recently diagnosed with it and your issues sound remarkably similar to mine.  It's very hard to diagnose. it mimics asthma but your stats reads can appear stable. Basically what happens is that your vocal cords malfunction, they close and as they sit on top of your windpipe  it leads to the other symptoms because you struggle to get air.  Normally does not happen when you're asleep.  It occurs more after exercise, my first episode was after I had cycled.  

    ?The wheeze is more in the neck than in the chest though but it's all the usual symptoms of asthma except inhalers do not work on it.  It just needs time to heal, my ENT said he has never seen someone suffer with it for more than 2 years, it goes away by itself.

    ?Just to note I had 8 hospital admissions in 2 weeks with it, 6 by ambulance, and they kept asking me did I suffer from anxiety as my stats always stabilized fine but I could not breathe. I don't suffer from anxiety or panic attacks so I knew it wasn't either of those.

    ?There's a really good article on VCD on this link https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/vocal-cord-dysfunction, I came across it after my diagnosis when I started researching.

    ?BTW I also have asthma and acid reflux, acid reflux and VCD can be linked

    ?Not sure if this is of any help to you but just thought I'd share as I was cracking up not knowing what was happening

     

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    • Posted

      Thanks so much for your helpful answer. It sounds like a case of self help and trying to manage/solve the reflux problem. If I can get to the point where I can exercise again that would be a start!
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    • Posted

      Yes with VCD there is an op but it's not ideal.  They can take a nick out but you'll have a permanent opening on top of your windpipe, I wouldn't want it. 

      Did the doctor by any chance do an xray or have a CT scan carried out?  Reason I'm asking is that when they did mine they told me my diaphraghm? was pressing on my lungs leading to some of the issues with breathing.  A normal chest xray would show above and below your lungs.

      ?The ability to exercise is coming back to me.  Granted slowly but I'm back walking.  Anything strenuous is out for now. Breathing exercises are essentially what you learn in a yoga class, they actually recommend yoga or my ENT did anyway.  The physio is very minimal, I don't get anything really from it though maybe I expected too much smile 

      ?The reflux can lead to scarring, they need to check this with the camera.  Worse case scenario they told me was they may need to stretch it a bit but thankfully I didn't have scarring when they went in to look.

      ?Hope you feel better soon

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  • Posted

    Or you could buy some gaviscon or something similar, which personally I find excellent in making sure the acid cannot get up into my throat. Same thing for drinking milk, if you haven't got any gaviscon.

    Years ago, my mother seemed to live on milk of magnesia. That is very old-fashioned but I can now understand why she needed it. H2 antagonists and PPIs hadn't been invented!

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  • Posted

    Google vocal cord dysfunction and see if the symptoms fit. Sounds like they could.
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    • Posted

      Hmmm, that's seems like a possibility yeah. I've never heard of it until now. Maybe I could suggest this to my GP. Do you have experience with this? Do you know how it's treated?

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  • Posted

    I've got it but getting it diagnosed took 4 years and then it was by my physio not the doc. I'm not sure my doc knows now what it is! It is something that is hugely undiagnosed and quite often put down to asthma.

    My VCD is put down to silent reflux when acid affects the upper airway and makes me just feel like I can't breathe properly. It's horrible and hard because unlike normal acid reflux I don't feel it and can work out what triggers it.

    There are some exercises you can do, more breathing exercises really that might help manage it and then things like using a steam inhaler, neck strengthening exercises and chewing sugarfree gum but not mint ones. It's all about making sure the vocal cords don't get too dry so drink water.

    It's a hard one to get over but sorting the acid out is a big one to do as it's most likely that setting it off. Try a low or no acid diet for a month. There is a good book called dropping acid which really helped me. Took about 3 weeks to start really working but was working well until a 12 hour nosebleed has just set me back a month. But that's another story! 😀

    Breathe through your nose too and don't over breathe. Learning to take more slow shallow breaths tends to help too.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for your reply,

      are these exercises you can do yourself or do you need the help of a physician? It gets to me because I can't walk very far or exercise and I feel like it might help my stomach if I could. I'd love to be able to get over that as a first step.

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