Acid reflux is a condition where digestive fluids can leave your stomach and move back up into your esophagus or throat. More specifically, these fluids include:
- gastric acid
- bile salts
Your stomach is coated in a lining that allows it to withstand strong acids, but other parts of your body don’t have this same lining and can be damaged by these fluids.
There is a valve made of muscle just above your stomach called your lower esophageal sphincter. It’s supposed to allow swallowed food to travel in one direction: from your esophagus to your stomach.
If it’s unable to close properly or remain closed, though, stomach acid can enter your esophagus. If this happens frequently enough, you might be diagnosed with a common condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD can lead to many of the symptoms often associated with acid reflux, such as:
- chest discomfort when lying down or at night
- difficulty swallowing
There is another valve at the top of your esophagus called your upper esophageal sphincter. If stomach acid escapes this sphincter, it enters your throat. This is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). It’s sometimes called silent reflux because the symptoms might go undetected for a long time.
LPR is distinct from GERD. Though both conditions are common, LPR is not quite as prevalent. It is possible to have both LPR and GERD.
Read on to learn more about LPR and what you can do about it.
When stomach acid gets past your upper esophageal sphincter, it can damage your pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box). These parts of your body have even less protection against acids than your esophagus.
You may have LPR without having the classic symptoms of GERD like heartburn. The common symptoms of LPR include:
- feeling like you have a lump in your throat (globus sensation)
- frequent throat clearing
According to research from 2017, other symptoms included on a clinical test for LPR — the reflux symptom index (RSI) — are:
- the sensation of a postnasal drip
- difficulty swallowing
- coughing after eating or while lying down
- difficulty breathing
- irritating cough
- chest pain
- acidic taste in the throat
While GERD is well known for intensifying at night when you’re lying down, LPR usually works the opposite way. It tends to be felt more during the day when you’re upright.
The most effective thing you can do is prevent acid reflux in the first place. Smaller meal sizes might be a good place to start.
If you smoke, experts recommend smoking cessation. This can be difficult, but a doctor can help build a plan that works for you. If you are overweight or have obesity, it may help your reflux if you lose weight.
You might also want to avoid consuming things that trigger your reflux. According to the
- carbonated beverages
- foods with high acidity
- high fat foods
- spicy foods
If you’re already feeling the symptoms of acid reflux in your throat, you may be looking for relief. In that case, a 2011 study of pregnant people documents several home remedies that were helpful, at least anecdotally. The study is a few years old, but you still might find it beneficial.
Home remedies include:
- Drinking cold milk: The cold temperature could feel soothing, and the calcium and protein in milk could help counteract reflux. High fat milk might aggravate your reflux, though, so try skim or possibly a less acidic plant-based alternative.
- Eating cucumber: Cucumbers contain a lot of water, which might help to dilute the acid in your throat.
- Drinking tea: While many teas are acidic, some herbal teas could provide reflux relief.
A doctor will usually begin by encouraging lifestyle changes or recommending over-the-counter (OTC) remedies.
If these fail to provide adequate relief, a doctor could prescribe proton pump inhibitors or histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers). These medications use different methods to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
In serious cases, if no other treatments work, surgeries such as fundoplication might be an option to address acid reflux in your throat.
Popular OTC antacids claim to provide relief immediately or in seconds, though results may vary from person to person. It’s important to follow the instructions on the label when taking these medications. OTC drugs are meant to provide occasional relief and should not be overly relied upon.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), H2 blockers typically take
Home remedies haven’t been studied as rigorously. You can expect that they might provide quick relief for the symptoms of acid reflux in your throat, but they probably won’t treat the cause.
If you feel the symptoms of acid reflux in your throat on a regular basis, it’s best to speak with a doctor about it. GERD, which is a similar and sometimes related condition, is characterized as recurring at least two times per week, so this might be a useful measurement.
When acid reflux enters your throat, it can be unpleasant. Left untreated, it can lead to further complications. Many people may not notice symptoms of acid reflux in their throat until it has been going on for a while, though.
If you do have symptoms, you can try home remedies and OTC medications. If your reflux continues to come back, you should meet with a doctor for an evaluation.