YOUR HEALTH: Check Your Gut! Maybe your cold is something else

NEW YORK CITY –  Do you feel congested or struggle with a scratchy, hoarse throat?   Your troubles might not be in your lungs.

Just ask Susan.

Susan Howard is a registered nurse and volunteer teacher who gradually started having trouble in front of a large class.

"I'd lose my voice and say just bear with me. I do this."

Lisa Smelkinson's symptoms appeared suddenly and they were tough to ignore.

"I remember distinctly having lunch with a friend and coming home and coughing to the point of almost vomiting," she said.

Take this test to see if you might be affected.

Both women were treated for months for what doctors thought were colds, allergies, or asthma until they visited Dr. Jamie Koufman.

"The problem with the idea that it's asthma or a cold is that the symptoms don't go away. Even after the asthma is treated they continue to have symptoms," said Dr. Jamie Koufman from the Voice Institute of New York.

Dr. Koufman says with silent reflux neither the lower valve and upper valve is working right.

"So what's in the stomach is in the esophagus, is in the throat, and it sits there at night," she said.

NEW RESEARCH:   Itchy, watery eyes and chronic cough have long been associated with allergies or asthma; however, new research suggests that these common conditions are in fact being misdiagnosed.  They may be a type of acid reflux known as silent reflux.   Silent reflux (laryngopharyngeal reflux) unlike GERD (acid reflux) does not show customary signs of GERD such as: belching, heartburn and nausea.   A few laryngopharyngeal reflux indicators are: hoarseness, chronic cough, noisy breathing and trouble feeding just to name a few.   Silent reflux is something to be cognizant of if your common allergy, cold or asthma symptoms don`t seem to vanish or respond to antihistamines or cold medicines. (Sources: &

Dr. Koufman says if you have trouble breathing in but not out, the problem could be reflux.

She says the number one risk factor is eating too much right before bed.

  • Sleep on a 45-degree incline
  • Leave four hours between your last meal and bed
  • Avoid junk food, soda, and chocolate milk

"No physician ever said to me it's dietary-related," said Lisa Smelkinson.

CHANGING YOUR DIET:  A diet change is recommended by most doctors when developing treatment options for patients. One doctor suggests a two-week elimination diet in which acid-forming and hard to digest foods are eliminated or curtailed; foods such as: alcohol, coffee, spicy foods and dairy.   Experts recommend a patient adopt a low-fat, low-acid diet.   This modified diet should reduce symptoms and with long term implementation should p keep silent reflux at bay. (Source:

"I tell them you won't need me in a year," said Dr. Koufman.

For many patients, lifestyle changes help make this the last stop in a long search for better health.

Both Lisa Smelkinson and Susan Howard say their symptoms have significantly decreased since they made dietary changes.

Dr. Koufman says for some patients, certain medications called H-2 antagonists, like Pepcid or Zantac, are also safe and effective.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.