Heartburn can affect other systems in your chest besides your mouth and stomach. To understand how it can affect other systems in your chest, it is important for you to visualize the anatomy of the human body.
Visualize the path food takes as it moves through your body. You can see that it moves to the back of the mouth and then makes a sharp turn down into the esophagus. Similarly, when you breathe through your nose, the air enters the nasal passages and follows a similar path down toward the lungs through the trachea, the windpipe. Where both the food and air take the sharp turn downward, they actually share the same channel in the back of your mouth, then this channel separates to conduct air to the lungs and food to the stomach. A valve called the epiglottis directs air and food to the correct place. Because food and air share the same passage, we are able to breathe through both our nose and mouth.
You might be wondering what breathing and the path the air takes have to do with heartburn. The valve that controls the path of food and air is very thin, and the distance between the food pipe and the windpipe is also only a matter of a few millimeters. Because of the intimate relationship between the “airway” and the “food way,” reflux can affect any part of the lungs or airway. As the refluxed acid comes in contact with your airway, it can cause other symptoms in your chest, including persistent coughing and irritation of your throat, which causes some people to feel like they constantly have to clear their throats. The irritation can become so severe that it may even affect your voice box, which can cause you to have a hoarse voice. Finally, it is thought that people whose airways are constantly affected by acid reflux can develop hypersensitive airways and that this may eventually lead to asthma or make asthma worse, requiring more asthma medication.
Chest Symptoms from Heartburn: References
By Mortin - Copyright 2010
Last modification 10/02/2010