I have had some swallowing problems due to GERD. I find I have most difficulty with meats and dry foods. I avoid eating meat and if I do eat meat I take a small serving size and chew thoroughly. I also will often take some water with each swallow to help a dry piece go down.
I have choked a few times but find if something feels like its going to get stuck on the way down I can help things by lifting my head up and chin down. Not certain why but it seems to help. I also find if I am having a problem with a swallow that I can help myself by taking an extra breath and then trying again. Not certain if any of this makes sense.
I was told by a physician that the muscles in the throat become paralyzed as a result of GERD. I'm not a physician but imagine that the process could start in some people before the point where there is damage to the cells in your esophagus. I have difficulty swallowing, often, and the cells in my esophagus are normal; just had an endoscopy and biopsy about a month ago. As my GERD symptoms subside the swallowing problem subsides somewhat over a few weeks. I am not positive, but I suspect regurgitation is the biggest cause of swallowing difficulty, but that's simply what I suspect from observing my own symptoms.
Hope this helps.
Perhaps something in my history may help you. Hope so. My GERD was pretty much silent for about 15 years. Silent means I had symptoms and was damaging my esophagus but wasn't feeling much of what I was getting exposed to. I mostly ignored the discomfort I felt or if it was really bad I took Pepcid for a few days until the discomfort went away. I wasn't under medical care for GERD and simply learned to sleep elevated and rarely took medicine.
I'm also a colitis patient and a few years ago asked my GI doc to do an endoscopy at the same time as he was scheduled to do a routine colonoscopy in early 2003. I didn't mind as long as he didn't reuse the scope (just joking!). He found the cells in my esophagus had started to change and found a lot of irritation. That started a long odyssey that resulted in Nissen Fundiplcation surgery in March of 2004. It was clear to me that I wasn't aware that I was being exposed to pathologic amounts of acid.
I had my first swallowing problems in the summer of 2002. I was in the habit of sleeping elevated for GERD but one week in the summer I was camping where I was forced to sleep flat on the ground. During that week I started having swallowing problems as described in my earlier post. I also had regurgitation from GERD, although at the time I had no clue what was happening.
By coincidence I had an appt for a routine physical with my regular doc (family practitioner) soon after I returned from my camping trip. I mentioned the swallowing problem but he seemed reluctant to do anything about it. He reluctantly agreed to refer me for a swallowing test but at the time the facility doing the test had some sort of problem with my insurance carrier. My appointment was delayed and by the time the fight with the carrier was resolved my symptoms were gone so I cancelled the appointment. This was about a month after I was home and sleeping elevated again. No more problems swallowing.
The camping trip is part of an annual event I attend and the same thing happened the next year. This 2nd trip was in the summer of 2003 and I had learned in the Spring of that year that my GERD was much more serious than I had been aware of. Through research I had learned about swallowing problems as a side effect to GERD and had learned that part of my problem was regurgitation. I had the same difficulty swallowing during that week of camping and it predictably subsided a few weeks after I started sleeping elevated again.
I gave myself one year from my endoscopy in early 2003 to try to control the GERD before having surgery. I researched everything I could on the Internet, saw Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Physicians and did whatever I could to avoid the surgery. I also added Nexium to my regimen.
I didn't enjoy this but I was able to pretty much control my symptoms and eliminate my swallowing problems by sleeping in a chair instead of elevated on pillows in a bed. Except when travelling for business or during my annual camping trip I slept in a chair. My wife was kind enough to grant me visiting rights and I could enjoy short periods of lying flat but every night I was sleeping in a chair.
Turns out we have the perfect chair for this as not any chair will do. Ask me about the chair if you want to learn more. The problem with sleeping elevated in bed is that during the night you tend to slip off the elevated pillow and for me I was regularly experiencing symptoms at about 4:30AM. You could set your clock by my symptoms in the early AM. In the chair I had gravity on my side and I had no nighttime symptoms and no regurgitation. My swallowing problems went away.
I experienced some side effects from the Nexium (stomach pains) which I verified by stopping the meds (pains went away) and restarting the meds (pains came back). So I was in a place where I had to sleep in a chair, couldn't tell most of the time when I was being exposed to pathologic amounts of acid (and probably bile) and couldn't take Nexium. Sleeping in a chair pretty much put me in control but my quality of life was poor. I decided after 9 months to schedule myself for surgery in March of 2004. I had a Nissen done in March 2004 and had fairly good results until very recently.
I do have some mild swallowing problems now but my GERD symptoms evidently aren't severe enough for the surgeon to agree to redo the Nissen. I'm in a bit of dilemma since the docs measure what they measure to make their decisions and don't necessarily look at all of me and my symptoms. I suppose their hands are tied by lawyers and insurance reimbursement policies that make it very difficult for someone to actually practice medicine; I've learned that most medicine is by the book. Vary from protocol and you risk not getting paid or getting sued.
In any event I'm trying to figure out if I can control my symptoms sufficiently without a redo of the surgery and without having to sleep in my chair (which I detest but works).
If this story rings a bell you might try sleeping in a chair to see if your swallowing problems ease up. If they do then you may be on the same path as me. Reply to this post if you want some chair recommendations.
Good luck and hope this helps.
about 45 days ago it suddenly became difficult to swallow solid food. It felt like I was choking right up at the top of the throat. My airway was never obstructed, but it felt like it could be at any moment and it really scared me terribly. Even when I didn't eat, it felt strange. I am still amazed at how fast this symptom came on.
I went to my primary doctor who sent me to a barium swallow, where it was found I had strictures at the top of the esophagus and the bottom. I was referred to a gastro interologist for an endoscopy, where he confirmed the strictures and the damage to the esophagus stating, "marked friability and oozing of blood." He dilated the strictures and put me on Prevacid solutab. I was grateful he prescribed solutabs because there was no way that I could possibly have swallowed a pill.
Now here is where it gets weird--I was told that I could resume eating solid food. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Whenever I swalling something with texture it almost sends me into a panic, as I feel the food "bunch" in the back of my throat. I can still breathe okay, but it feels like that could change at any time.
This feeling was so intense after the dilation that I broke into hyperventilation and went to the emergency room. They gave me lorazepam (antianxiety) drug and sent me on my way. I called my doctor and he told me that I must have an anxiety disorder because my "throat is totally open" and that food should pass without a problem. When I met with the doctor a week ago he again told me to see a psychiatrist for this anxiety.
I have not yet gone to the psychiatrist. Why should I? OF COURSE I HAVE ANXIETY if it feels like food is bunching in my throat.
My question to the forum regards my feeling "strange" in the back of my mouth/throat even when I'm not eating. My throat often feels dry. When I am distressed, I can often get relief by scraping the back of my tongue with a tongue scraper.
Do people with GERD only feel uncomfortable when eating, or is there a strange feeling in the throat pretty much all the time? Can I ignore the choking feeling and have confidence that I won't choke to death?
I can drink liquids and slurries okay, but if it has texture then the sensation can make me panic. Does this make any sense? The doctor treats me like I must be crazy.
Has anybody out there made it through this and resumed a normal life? Please post a reply if you have. I'm not getting the emotional support I need from my doctor.
My experience is there is a huge difference in the experience and knowledge of physicians even within the same specialty. Perhaps you've heard the old joke: What do you call the medical student that graduates at the bottom of his/her class? The answer: Doctor.
If I was having swallowing problems of the order described in these posts I would start doctor shopping. Be organized by doing research first, write down your questions and interview various docs until you find one that makes sense. If you aren't qualified to do this on your own get help from a family member or see if you can find someone to advocate for you. My sister-in-law, the nurse, has been doing this for her elderly parents and she's done a marvelous job. Its a frustrating process and often you feel that the energy expended in the process is worse than the energy expended to deal with the disease, but if that's true then don't doctor shop.
I'm biased in that I try to see physicians who are at a major university medical center but I don't limit myself. In example: I recently learned that Osteopathic physicians have something called visceral therapy that is supposed to be helpful with GERD. I'm going for a consult with someone who does the therapy to see if it will help.
I also found you can find the name of a top specialist in a field by calling a company that sells equipment to that field and asking who is familiar with using their equipment/therapy. For GERD there are several firms marketing equipment to GERD specialists. In your case you could find the company that makes the equipment that does the dialations used on your strictures. Other possibilities: Medtronic sells the Bravo monitoring system, Curon Medical sells the Stretta and so on. The reps that work for these companies often know the players and who is good and who is not better than other physicians. Your local doc may only know the local specialists and if you want the best you may have to get outside whatever local box you are in. Typically, that means a research hospital affiliated with a medical center, but not always.
I would also be cautious of any doc who tells you anything that sounds to good to be true or so bad that you hope it isn't true. I try to believe and disbelieve everything I hear and eventually I decide what is truth and what is not. Often docs use the word "can't" when they really mean "don't know".
I'm sorry about your problem. Are you on any meds? Are you on anything that could dry your mouth out? Is your mouth usually dry? I have GERD, but I went through a spell when I was on an antidepressant, when I would choke. But......I'm thinking, for me, it had more to do with my hormones. I was in my late 40's. It started looking to me that it had to do with hormone drops and fluctuations. I know people around your age who actually start going through perimenopause. For me, it was like my esophogus just got weak. I also started having trouble breathing at night. All this finally passed after I was through menopause.
One supplement that I've found works on "weak" muscles is magnesium. It helps me in various ways. Since the esophagus is a muscle, perhaps it would help you too? It can't hurt. I take around 200 mg twice a day. I've known a number of women who began having trouble swallowing around perimenopause. Good luck to you. This will pass, so don't get too discouraged.
Well, I am still having difficulty swallowing sold food especially meat and breads, but I have improved alot I have been on prevacid 30mg 2x daily and ditched the reglan. My Doctor told me it wasn't to help me swallow just move things intestinally faster. I see no point in it then I told him so I quit it.
I also discovered I have a bone spur on my neck at the c3 and c4 vertebrae it is compressing my esophagus. I have to go for a swallowing test to see if they consistency of my food is a problem and if the spur is making it worse. Well I think its all from the GERD, but intend to fallow through with all these test. I think doctors should listen more to their patients symptoms then in a book most every one on her with reflux disease is having difficulty swallowing. Could this sensation be a muscle issue like a spasm of sort from the reflux?
Welcome to HealingWell and the GERD and Heartburn forum.
I am so sorry you are having the problems with swallowig. Have you seen an ENT or asked you CP for a referral to a specialist in throat problems associated with injuries?
I am sure you will meet wonderful members here that will support you and hopefully someone will have some better advice.
Take care and again welcome.
Kitt, Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic & Depression& GERD Forums*~*
Good Morning Wilson
Welcome to HealingWell and for sharing your opinion with the members. I am sorry to hear you have swallowing problems due to anxiety. However the issues members with GERD have swallowing are different and I am sure if you read through the many threads your will see that. People with GERD may also have anixety.
Here is a thread you may like to review.
If anxiety is a problem for you please do join us in the A & P Forum. We do have members over there that have problems with swallowing also.
Again thank you for your input.