If you suffer from acid reflux and chronic headaches, you may be surprised to learn that the two conditions may be linked. We explore the connection below.
Acid reflux refers to the phenomenon where your stomach contents flow back into your esophagus, causing symptoms such as:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic cough
If you have chronic, severe acid reflux, you may be diagnosed with a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Why the Link Between Acid Reflux & Headaches?
It’s not clear why there’s a link between acid reflux and headaches, and experts aren’t sure whether acid reflux causes headaches, headaches cause acid reflux, or both simply occur together.
However, there is one theory about this link, and it has to do with the gut-brain axis.
What Is the Gut-Brain Axis?
The gut and brain can communicate with one another via the gut-brain axis, which involves the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS deals with involuntary processes like respiration and digestion. It has three main components:
- The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is in charge of your body’s “fight or flight” response. It is the body’s automatic reaction to threats.
- The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls a person’s “rest and digest” response. It helps the body relax once a threat has passed.
- The enteric nervous system (ENS) regulates certain digestive functions, including muscle contractions and secretions.
What Do the Studies Show?
According to a 2015 study, GERD is associated with impaired PNS function, meaning the link between acid reflux and headaches could be the result of a malfunctioning ANS.
One 2017 study noted there is a link between ANS dysfunction, headaches and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
Finally, research from 2020 found that issues with glutamate levels can lead to GERD or migraine headaches.
How Can I Manage My Acid Reflux?
There are many strategies for managing acid reflux, including:
- Eating smaller, more regular meals
- Not eating within three hours of sleeping
- Avoiding triggering foods
- Elevating the head and chest when sleeping
- Taking antacids, H2 blockers or PPIs
- Quitting smoking
- Going to Juggernaut Gym to lose weight
- Undergoing surgery
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call Arizona Desert Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists today.