Why Does Acid Reflux Cause Shortness of Breath?

If you’ve ever experienced a sudden onset of shortness of breath, you might have wondered about the possible causes. Among various reasons, acid reflux is one condition that can lead to this symptom.  This article discusses how acid reflux can cause shortness of breath and what you can do about it.

How Acid Reflux Leads to Shortness of Breath

  • Irritation of Airways: When stomach acid travels up your esophagus, it can irritate the airways and lungs, leading to breathing difficulties.
  • Aspiration of Acid: In severe cases, the acid may enter the lungs, causing inflammation and constriction of the airways.
  • Indirect Symptoms: Acid reflux can also cause a chronic cough, which might lead to shortness of breath.

Symptoms Associated with Acid Reflux-Induced Shortness of Breath

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest, often after eating.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Feeling like food is stuck in your throat.
  • Regurgitation: A sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth.

Treatment Options for Acid Reflux-Induced Shortness of Breath

  • Dietary Modifications: Avoid foods that trigger acid reflux, like spicy, fatty, or acidic foods.
  • Elevate Your Head While Sleeping: This can prevent acid from traveling up the esophagus.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors may be recommended.
  • Prescription Medications: In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Quit smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, and lose weight if necessary.

Preventing Acid Reflux and Associated Breathing Problems

  • Regular, Balanced Meals: Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large ones.
  • Avoid Eating Before Bed: Try not to eat at least 2-3 hours before sleeping.
  • Manage Stress: Engage in stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

When to See a Doctor

  • If shortness of breath is persistent or worsening.
  • If you experience severe symptoms like chest pain or difficulty swallowing.
  • When over-the-counter medications don’t alleviate symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can acid reflux cause permanent damage to the lungs? A: Chronic acid reflux can lead to complications like aspiration pneumonia or scarring of the lungs, but these are rare. Early treatment can prevent these outcomes.

Q: Are there any specific exercises to alleviate acid reflux-related shortness of breath? A: While there aren’t specific exercises for this, general aerobic exercise can improve lung capacity and overall health, potentially reducing symptoms.

Q: Can children experience shortness of breath due to acid reflux? A: Yes, children can also experience acid reflux and related symptoms, including shortness of breath. It’s important to consult a pediatrician for appropriate treatment.


In summary, while it might seem surprising, acid reflux can indeed cause shortness of breath. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms, it’s important to consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


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