Acid Reflux – What Is It? What Makes It Worse? (Hint: Age, Wine, Coffee)

There’s nothing worse than when that burn starts and your acid reflux flares up, which usually means you’re going down in flames, and about to spend the night tossing and turning with the Tums.

But despite the way the obnoxious ads make it sound – not all reflux is the same and therefore neither are the triggers or treatments.

Lets start with what is acid reflux, and a few things that can help you navigate the scene so you can make it past the appetizers.

What is acid reflux?

Our otolaryngologist friends at CEENTA tell us acid reflux is a condition where stomach acid flows up to the esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, burping, and sore throat.

As delightful as all of that sounds, acid reflux is a little bit different for everyone and where it leads to in the body makes a difference in your diagnosis and treatment.

The condition always starts in the stomach, but can travel to two places, both of which carry their own problems, and have their own acronyms: GERD and LPR.

What’s the word on GERD & LPR?

When the contents go from your tummy to your esophagus that is known as GERD which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease.

LPR is laryngopharyngeal reflux, and while it also involves the ‘redirection of stomach contents’ the difference is they go beyond the esophagus and enter the larynx, think: voice box.

You know it’s probably GERD when you have some of this going on:

  • stinging sensation in your throat
  • heartburn
  • hoarseness of the voice
  • increased saliva or mucus in the throat
  • an acidic taste

LPR arguably the scarier of the two, is often diagnosed as something else… post nasal drip, and cold symptoms etc. and is why you should consider seeing a professional if you are experiencing some of these potential LPR symptoms:

  • persistent throat clearing or coughing,
  • sore throat, and excessive mucus

LPR can lead to more severe complications for your larynx and surrounding body parts including ear infections, vocal cord irritation, and increased probability of throat cancer.

Dr. Jamie Scaglione, CEENTA ENT physician says “We see mainly LPR patients which we diagnose by performing a flexible laryngoscopy. This is a simple, painless procedure that is done in the office that allows us to see the damage the acid has done to the structures of the throat. If you find yourself chewing on Tums all day or have annoying symptoms like a chronic dry cough or constant throat clearing, it’s time to come in and see one of us to get evaluated and treated for possible reflux.”

Is acid reflux just another milestone in getting older?

Reflux can happen at any age but as we get older, it does tend to worsen. There are a few reasons for that, Dr. Scaglione says:

  1. Our muscles get weaker and that includes the muscle that keeps food in the stomach and not allowing it to come back up called the lower esophageal sphincter.
  2. We tend to gain weight as we age especially as we hit the mid to late 40s. Obesity is a major driving factor for reflux.
  3. Some of the common medications for over 40-year-olds such as blood pressure medications can also contribute to reflux symptoms.

Food: Friend or Foe?

Even if you’ve experienced only mild acid reflux symptoms, you’re probably aware of the tabletop troublemakers including citrus fruits, chocolate, and fatty fried food. Life however is still worth living, you just need to also think about when and how much you’re eating. Remember what goes up must come down, and try to allow two to three hours to pass between eating and lying down. Eating stimulates acid production in your stomach; that acid can more easily move up into your throat if you immediately hit the sheets. 

Once you’ve investigated your food instigators, know that there are some good guys out there too that do not tend to spark a flare-up and may help reduce symptoms, including mild greens (lettuce, celery, sweet peppers), brown rice, oatmeal, and low-acid fruits like melons.

What’s best to sip to minimize symptoms?

Alcoholic beverages can play a role in acid reflux but the star of the is show actually the understudy… take note of the alcohol by volume level (ABV) regardless of if it is beer, wine or spirits it can either help you or send you into Hulk mode.

For example, light beers and wines like Moscato with an ABV of around 5% may help curb acid reflux due to it being light-bodied, while stronger spirits like whiskey and Scotch could make your symptoms worse.

And, mixology wannabes listen up – try ordering something with non-grain vodkas, gin or tequila, and if you define your cocktail by citrus consider some of the lighter juices as a mix-in like pear or cranberry.

Make an Appointment Before Your Reservation

The takeaway is if you experience acid reflux from time-to-time it may be OK, but if your symptoms are ongoing and you’re starting to avoid certain food, drink and enjoying life, get it checked out… with CEENTA they make it easy to make an appointment.

Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. (CEENTA) has nearly 140 providers in almost 20 locations bringing specialty care to the community. CEENTA provides comprehensive pediatric and adult eyeear, nose and throat care, and highly specialized care, too.

These services include but are not limited to: audiologyallergy treatmentcataract surgerycochlear implantscornea diseasesdiabetic eye careglaucoma treatmenthead and neck cancerneuro-ophthalmologyoculoplasticsoptical and contact lensespediatric airway care, sleep medicinethyroid treatment, and voice and swallowing care.

To schedule an appointment with any of CEENTA’s board-certified physicians, please call 704-295-3000.


Bek Mitchell-Kidd
Bek Mitchell-Kidd
Bek is an Australian native who has lived in the Lake Norman area for more than a decade.