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Don't Guess about GERD: Asthma and GERD Symptoms Need to Be Treated Correctly

If you've been experiencing asthma-like symptoms for a while and aren't seeing much improvement from your medication, it is possible that your asthma is actually a side effect of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. However, you can't just assume that and stop your asthma medications or start adding GERD remedies. You must be evaluated by a GERD specialist before doing anything regarding your medications. If you start messing around with those before getting a correct diagnosis, you could set yourself up for serious rebound effects and other problems.

Dependency on Medications

Treatments for both GERD and asthma often involve medications that your body comes to rely on. For example, asthma medications are sometimes steroid-based, and you have to take the doses at specific times. You can't stop the medications cold turkey, either; you have to taper them off. That can lead to you taking more steroid-based medication than you need if it turns out you didn't have true asthma to begin with. Or, if you're dealing with asthma that's difficult to treat and decide to assume it's GERD, you could make your body dependent on the antacids or other medications that you would use. These medications can have a rebound effect that means you have to keep taking the medications in order to feel normal.

Additional Side Effects

Even if you use medications that don't create a dependency, you can suffer unnecessary side effects. For example, albuterol, a basic inhaler medication for asthma, often gives people the jitters. Why continue to use albuterol, then, if you really have GERD?

If you are dealing with asthma that is not responding well to the medications your doctor has given you, go to a gastrointestinal specialist and get "scoped." This is a procedure where a tiny scope is inserted into your esophagus—it's threaded in through your nasal cavity, so you can still breathe and talk—to see if there are any lesions or other indicators that the problem is gastrointestinal, rather than pulmonary.

Now, it is possible that you have both GERD and asthma, and yes, that's as frustrating as it sounds. Have your gastro and pulmonary doctors work together to minimize the symptoms of each as much as possible so that you can get a better idea of how a particular medication or coping mechanism is working out. Treat the GERD so that you can see how severe your asthma really is, and thus get a medication that might be better suited to the problem.

Work with your doctors to find the best treatment plan for you. Contact a gastrointestinal specialist and get an esophageal test. Knowing exactly what you have is one way to ensure that the medications you take work well and quickly.