Frequent throat clearing is one of the 4 most common symptoms of Throatburn reflux, along with chronic cough, hoarseness and a lump-like sensation in the throat. The key to treating this symptom is to figure out why the throat clearing is going on. The most common cause of frequent throat clearing is swelling in the back of the vocal cords or larynx, due to inflammation from acid reflux injury. The swelling acts as an anatomic shelf so the 1-2 liters a day of mucus that normally comes down from the nose and sinuses actually can “sit” on this swollen area. The treatment of this swelling involves a combination of diet and lifestyle changes and sometimes, medication.
There are 4 popular foods that are acidic in and of themselves which can directly contribute to swelling in the back of the larynx. They are sugary soda, vinegar, citrus and tomato. In addition there are 6 other common foods which have the physiologic effect of loosening the muscular barrier between the stomach and its adjacent structure, the esophagus, thereby allowing acid from the stomach to flow freely up into the esophagus and into the throat. They are caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, mint, onion and garlic.
Lifestyle wise, avoiding all smokables and staying up for at least 3 hours after your last meal are also critical in reducing throat swelling from acid reflux.
While diet and lifestyle are the bedrocks of the treatment plan to reduce swelling in the throat, occasionally antacid medications are necessary as well. The medications range from the powerful proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class such as Aciphex, Dexilant, Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Zegerid, to the less powerful, but still quite effective, antihistamine-2 receptor antagonist class such as Pepcid and Zantac.