LPR can make it difficult to breathe, but can acid reflux from exercise cause this scary situation?

“Acid reflux is when normal stomach acid regurgitates into the esophagus and causes symptoms,” says Jay Desai, MD, who specializes in colon cancer screening, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology with the Endoscopy Center of New York.

“During exercise, this can be exacerbated, especially if you are significantly bearing down on the abdomen (such as in weightlifting, doing crunches, etc.).

“This pressure pushes on the stomach and can cause more acid to be pushed into the esophagus.

“If the acid goes high enough it can irritate the vocal cords. This is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), and can be diagnosed by an ear, nose, and throat doctor by looking at the vocal cords with a small camera.

“When the vocal cords get irritated by acid, you can develop symptoms of coughing or a hoarse voice. Treating the underlying reflux with antacid medication may help these symptoms.”

LPR is often misdiagnosed as exercise-induced asthma when it occurs during or shortly after exercise.

This is especially true if the exercise is of an aerobic nature. The symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease and asthma are similar enough that this misdiagnosis isn’t all that uncommon.

However, LPR will not respond to the asthma inhaler: “intractable asthma.”

If this describes your situation, it’s advisable that you see an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist).

LPR involves the vocal cords and can lead to difficulty breathing, whether it’s caused by acid reflux or an extraneous irritant.

Other symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease include a hoarse voice, persistent cough, bad taste in the mouth/throat and a sensation of a lump in the throat.

dr. desai

Board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Dr. Desai provides a wide range of GI services including for bacterial overgrowth, constipation, acid reflux and GERD, IBS, incontinence and small bowel disease. Twitter handle: @NYGADocs
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/MikeSaran