Your Allergies May Actually Be Acid Reflux Instead

The symptoms of acid reflux are so similar to allergies that they are often misdiagnosed. Here's how to know the difference.

Allergy sufferers take note: your allergies may actually not be allergies. It actually turns out that more than half of Americans have been misdiagnosed as having asthma and allergies when the real issue is acid reflux.

“One in five people have heartburn and indigestion (also referred to as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD),” notes Dr. Jamie Koufman, director of The Voice Institute of New York and author of Dr. Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet: With 111 All New Recipes Including Vegan & Gluten-Free. “However, what is more common is respiratory reflux, with symptoms that often include post-nasal drip, throat clearing, and trouble breathing.”

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These symptoms are actually what lead many doctors to misdiagnose acid reflux as allergies, which Koufman explains is due to the fact that many doctors don’t know much about respiratory reflux.

“Often, respiratory refluxers (those who often reflux silently throughout the night) wake up with allergy-like symptoms since there are similarities,” she adds. “Therefore, they never realize the real issue is acid reflux.”

When it comes to treating acid reflux, it is a mistake to think that medicine alone will fix it. This is why Koufman instead advocates for sufferers to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to treat symptoms. She notes that staying away from acidic beverages, fatty meats, chocolate, and peppers is part of that diet. Additionally, having your last meal no later than four hours before you lay down to go to sleep can help reduce chances of reflux throughout the night.

So how do you know if what you are experiencing is actually reflux? Paying attention to your body during exercise may actually give you a clue.

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“Many people suffer from exercise-induced reflux, which often occurs when they start to run. If you have trouble getting air in, this is acid reflux, and if you have trouble getting air out, this is when you suffer from reflux and asthma,” explains Koufman. “Often, after 30 minutes of running many people’s acid reflux improves. To help ensure you don’t have reflux symptoms during your workout, make sure you stay away from acidic beverages—stick to water—and don’t eat a large meal before exercising.”

If you feel like you still need medication, Koufman suggests Zantac or Pepcid to relieve symptoms. If you think you may have been misdiagnosed, check with your doctor.