Acid reflux, otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux, is a phenomenon that occurs when your stomach contents flow back up into your esophagus. If your acid reflux is severe or chronic, a physician may diagnose you with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some symptoms of GERD include regurgitation, heartburn, chest pain, nausea, pain or difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, chronic cough and headache.
In this post, we review the link between acid reflux and headaches.
Why Is There a Link?
Though experts aren’t sure exactly why there’s a link between acid reflux and headaches, they have some theories. Most of which have to do with the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is the link between a person’s gut and their autonomic nervous system (ANS). This allows the gut and brain to communicate with one another.
The ANS controls the body’s involuntary processes. It has three components: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is in charge of your body’s “fight or flight” response and is the body’s automatic reaction to threats; the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls a person’s “rest and digest” response and helps the body relax once a threat has passed; the enteric nervous system (ENS) regulates certain digestive functions, including muscle contractions and secretions.
What Does the Research Show?
Here, we review some of the research on the link between acid reflux and headaches.
One 2015 study found that GERD is associated with impaired PNS function, meaning the link between acid reflux and headaches could be the result of a malfunctioning ANS.
Another 2017 study noted there is a link between ANS dysfunction, headaches and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
Some research from 2020 found that issues with glutamate levels can lead to GERD or migraine headaches.
How Can I Manage Acid Reflux?
You can manage acid reflux though a combination of lifestyle modifications and medical treatments, such as:
- Eating smaller, more regular meals at least three hours before sleep.
- Avoiding triggering foods.
- Elevating the head and chest when sleeping.
- Taking antacids, H2 blockers or PPIs.
- Quitting smoking.
Going to The Firm Fitness Center to lose excess weight.
- Undergoing surgery.
Call Spartanburg | Greer ENT & Allergy today to learn more or schedule an appointment.