What Causes Burning Throat Syndrome or Silent Acid Reflux

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/27/2024

Imagine waking up one day with your throat ablaze, as if you've swallowed a cactus. You haven't indulged in late-night spicy tacos or belted out songs at a karaoke bar until the wee hours of the morning.

Yet here you are, grappling with an inferno in your esophagus that refuses to be doused. Welcome to the silent but fiery world of silent acid reflux.

This tricky condition sneaks up like a ninja, flying under the radar because it often looks less severe than it is. Silent acid reflux doesn't just knock on your door; it infiltrates your life without so much of a courtesy "hello."

The symptoms? A cocktail of discomforts that could easily be mistaken for other ailments: chronic cough, a constant need to clear your throat, and perhaps even ear infections that seem more stubborn than a mule.

You might wonder how something so pervasive remains under the radar. It's simple - our bodies are complex entities, capable of throwing curveballs that sometimes baffle us.

Often, this tangled web hides problems so well that by the time you notice them, they've grown way bigger.

Understanding Silent Acid Reflux

Silent acid reflux is a sneaky condition that can cause some severe discomfort. It's different from your typical heartburn or acid reflux because it doesn't always come with those telltale signs.

Instead, silent acid reflux (laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR) can cause symptoms like a sore throat, hoarseness, and a pesky cough that won't quit. It happens when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the throat and vocal cords.

What is Silent Acid Reflux?

Silent acid reflux is when stomach acid takes a wrong turn and ends up in your throat. Unlike GERD, which causes heartburn and indigestion, silent reflux doesn't always identify with those classic symptoms.

The medical term for silent reflux is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). It's called "silent" because it can be easy to overlook or mistake for other conditions like allergies or a persistent cold.

Woman with sore throat symptoms

Symptoms to Watch For

Now, you might wonder, how can you tell if silent acid reflux is sneaking up on you? Here are some common symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • A sore, burning throat

  • Hoarseness or voice changes

  • Frequent throat clearing

  • A chronic cough

  • The feeling of a lump in your throat

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Postnasal drip

  • Breathing issues (in severe cases)

If you're experiencing these symptoms regularly, it's worth talking to your doctor. They'll help you figure out if silent reflux is messing with you and brainstorm a way to help you start feeling like yourself again.

Factors Influencing Valve Closure

We need to discuss an essential valve to understand silent acid reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) valve is a gatekeeper between the stomach and esophagus.

When the LES works appropriately, it opens to let food into your stomach and then closes tightly to keep stomach acid where it belongs. But sometimes, the LES can weaken or relax when it shouldn't, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus and throat.

The Role of Stomach pH

One key factor in proper LES function is the pH level of your stomach. Your stomach must be acidic to break down food and kill harmful bacteria. But if the pH gets too low (meaning it's too acidic), it can cause the LES to relax and allow acid to escape.

On the flip side, if your stomach isn't acidic enough, the LES may not get the signal to close tightly. This might also set the stage for that annoying acid reflux.

Autonomic Nervous System Impact

Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) also plays a role in LES function. The ANS controls involuntary functions like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.

It has two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS is often called the "fight or flight" response. It kicks in during stress and can cause the LES to relax. The PNS, on the other hand, is known as the "rest and digest" response. It helps promote relaxation and proper digestion.

An imbalance in the ANS, with too much SNS activity and insufficient PNS activity, can contribute to silent acid reflux.

Gastrin's Influence on Acid Production

Gastrin is a hormone that stimulates the production of stomach acid. Your body releases this in response to food, ensuring your stomach has the right level of acidity for digestion.

However, too much gastrin can lead to excessive acid production, contributing to silent reflux. On the other hand, too little gastrin can result in low stomach acid, which can also cause problems with the LES.

Natural Remedies for Silent Acid Reflux

If you're suffering from silent acid reflux, you might wonder what you can do to find relief. The good news is that several natural remedies can help manage symptoms and promote healing.

Of course, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements or making significant changes to your diet. But these natural remedies can be a great place to start.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar and Betaine Hydrochloride

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular home remedy for digestive issues, including silent acid reflux. It might seem counterintuitive to drink something acidic when you have acid reflux, but hear me out.

ACV can help increase stomach acid production, which can be beneficial if you have low stomach acid. It can also help balance the pH of your stomach and promote proper digestion. Try mixing a tablespoon of ACV with water and drinking it before meals.

Betaine hydrochloride (HCl) is another supplement that can help increase stomach acid. People also mix it with digestive enzymes to help their stomachs break down food better.

Taking betaine HCl with meals may help improve silent reflux symptoms if you have low stomach acid.

Importance of Salt and Potassium

Salt and potassium aren't just things you add to your meals for taste; they're superheroes of the body, ensuring everything from digestion to muscle function runs smoothly.

When you don't have enough of these electrolytes, imbalances can contribute to silent reflux.

Now, if you're the type to shy away from salt, it's high time we chat about why sprinkling a little extra on your meals might not be such a bad idea.

Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt are great options because they contain trace minerals that can support digestive health.

Potassium is another important electrolyte that can help regulate stomach acid production. If you're looking for a potassium boost, don't overlook powerhouses like bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, and hearty leafy greens.

Tackling Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that plays a role in many aspects of health, including digestive function. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with GERD and other digestive disorders.

Vitamin D helps keep inflammation under control and helps your body produce stomach acid. It also plays a role in the function of the LES.

If you suspect you might be deficient in vitamin D, talk to your doctor about getting your levels tested.

You can also try incorporating more vitamin D-rich foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products. Getting some sunlight exposure can also help boost your vitamin D levels naturally.

Silent Reflux Solutions

When combating silent reflux, it's crucial to consider natural remedies alongside conventional options like Tums. While Tums can relieve, be aware of side effects, including constipation or diarrhea, and interactions with other medications.

Integrating natural strategies such as dietary adjustments, stress management, and lifestyle changes can complement Tums and mitigate potential adverse effects.

Consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable to determine the best approach for managing silent reflux while minimizing the side effects of Tums.


So, there you have it. The silent world of acid reflux isn't as quiet as it seems once you tune into the signals your body has been sending.

We’ve just completed a covert mission to unmask the elusive enemy, armed with nothing but our wits and some solid natural strategies.

Remember, managing silent acid reflux is less about duking it out in an epic battle and more about intelligent tweaks—like optimizing stomach pH or keeping vitamin D levels in check—that can turn the tide in your favor without much fanfare.

Think of these remedies not as magic bullets but as loyal sidekicks on this journey toward relief.

We've demystified the causes and symptoms and even offered some ace tips for naturally beating silent reflux. And let's be honest; knowledge is power here.

Armed with what we now know, making those small lifestyle changes doesn’t seem so daunting anymore—it feels doable.

This stealthy condition met its match today: You're now equipped to tackle it gracefully (and maybe a little apple cider vinegar). Remember that every significant change starts with a tiny step—or sip—in the right direction.

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