While the exact reasons are unknown, many patients with Sjögren’s suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can cause a wide variety of symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may include persistent heartburn and/or regurgitation of acid, stomach pain, hoarseness or voice change, throat pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, sensation of having a lump in the throat, frequent throat clearing and chronic cough (especially at night time or upon awakening).
Tips for combating gastroesophageal reflux in the throat:
• Avoid lying flat during sleep. Elevate the head of your bed using blocks or by placing a styrofoam wedge under the mattress. Do not rely on pillows as these may only raise the head but not the esophagus.
• Don’t gorge yourself at mealtime. Eat smaller more frequent meals than one large meal.
• Avoid bedtime snacks and eat meals at least three-four hours before lying down.
• Lose any excess weight.
• Avoid spicy, acidic or fatty foods including citrus fruits or juices, tomato-based products, peppermint, chocolate, and alcohol.
• Limit your intake of caffeine including coffee, tea and colas.
• Stop smoking.
• Don’t exercise within one-two hours after eating.
• Promote saliva flow by chewing gum, sucking on lozenges. This can help neutralize stomach acid and reduce symptoms.
• Consult your doctor if you have heartburn or take antacids more than three times per week. A variety of OTC and prescription medications can help but should only be taken with medical supervision.
*article courtesy of Sjögren’s Foundation Patient Education Sheet – Reflux and Your Throat