Dr.Chirag Thakkar

Having chronic cough and breathing problems! Is it due to Obesity or Acid Reflux?

Hello friends, am writing this because it is a very common practice to ignore Obesity and acid reflux as the primary cause of cough and breathing problems. I am not saying your doctor is not aware of this possibility. But it is commonly seen that patients and their primary physicians both many a times don’t give Obesity and Acid reflux its due importance. And the treatment and evaluation is focused on lung problems. The reason for such a casual approach to these conditions is our human nature. Obesity and Acid reflux do not pose any immediate threat to one’s life, so it is taken casually by all of us.

But the problem is, if not addressed in a proper way these conditions, Obesity and Acid reflux affects your quality of life in a major way. Without treating obesity and acid reflux, complete relief form cough and breathing problems is not achieved even with aggressive lung treatments. I see a lot of patients who have a very compromised quality of life, they have to take frequent leave form work, don’t get a good sleep, can’t concentrate on work, the personal life is affected, are forced to stop physical activity and exercise. I have also seen patients who have eventually developed psychological problems due to years of poor health.

And it feels terrible when you see life being lost because of a preventable and treatable condition. And it is never a single life that is affected; just think the life of a spouse or children or parents of these patients. They all suffer along with the one who is having this disease.


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So my appeal is “If you are suffering from a long term cough and breathing problem, do ask your chest physician if Obesity or GERD could be a reason for this. If you are obese, then reducing weight by any means will be the primary treatment that you need. Recall if you had in past or are now having heartburn and feeling of food coming back after eating. If yes, than you should see a Gastro-surgeon and get evaluated by an endoscopy and pH study.”

Studies show that when a pH study is done on all the patients with chronic cough and breathing problems,  32-50  % had acid reflux even if they had no acid reflux symptoms. This percentage goes up to  50-82 % for those who had acid reflux problems.

So apart from obesity if you have even a mild problem of acid reflux, you should get yourself evaluated by a 24 hr pH study. This may change your line of treatment and improve you cough and breathing problems like never before.