How Come "Heaty" Food Causes Sore Throat?

Myth or Fact?

Our parents would tell us how certain foods (i.e. durian, goreng pisang, chocolate, etc) can result in us feeling heaty, leading to sore throats. Ever wondered if this advice is medically proven?

Introduction

There is a scientific explanation of why certain foods can cause sore throats. The explanation however is not because of the “heaty” nature, rather the explanation is closely associated with gastric reflux. The medical condition of why one may get a sore throat after eating fried food is Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

What is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)? 

LPR is defined as a backflow of stomach contents to the larynx (voice box) and pharynx (throat). (See Image 1) The contents of the stomach is usually acidic in nature, the back flow of which causes damage to the tissues of the voice box and throat causing two of its common symptoms of a loss of voice and sore throat

Image 1. A drawing of the anatomy involving the Pharynx, Larynx and Esophagus. (Resource: Wikipedia) 

Is laryngopharyngeal reflux the same as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

GERD, or as we commonly term gastric reflux shares similar pathology with LPR. The difference is that the reflux of the stomach content reaches and causes tissue damage at the esophagus (food pipe) (Refer to image 1).

Different symptoms: How do I know if I have LPR or GERD?

Common symptoms of LPR

Common symptoms of GERD

Bitter taste in your throat

Heartburn

A sore throat or a burning sensation in your throat

Nausea, vomiting or regurgitation

Difficulty in swallowing

Difficulty in swallowing

Constant hoarseness

Hoarseness after sleeping

Frequently feeling the need to clear your throat

Dry, painful cough

Post nasal drip

Bad breath

Difficulty breathing

Chest pain

How do I prevent LPR?

  • Weight loss
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid eating immediately before bedtime
  • Avoid foods such as caffeine, chocolate, gasified beverages, fat, tomato sauce, and red wine, oily food, and spicy food. (foods that are commonly referred to as ‘heaty’)
  • Avoid overeating – you may eat small portions of food multiple times through the day

Are there medicines to treat LPR?

Medications for treating LPR are very similar to the medications used to treat GERD. They include antacids, H2-antagonist and proton pump inhibitors. The first two medications are available for purchase at your local pharmacy in Malaysia. However proton pump inhibitors are to be prescribed by your doctor. 

Addressing the myth “drinking lots of water reduces the effect of heaty food and sore throat will go away.”

Although hydration is vital for your overall wellbeing, as stated in point 4 and 5, drinking lots of water is not associated in preventing and treating the sore throat associated with LPR.

Conclusion

Many are not aware of the condition LPR. Yet, the scientific explanation of LPR fits nicely to the advice our parents give when they say “don’t eat so much fried food, you are going to get a sore throat!”. 

References:

  1. What you should know about silent reflux. A Biggers (2018). Healthline. (Web accessed June 2020) (Web link: https://www.healthline.com/health/silent-reflux#causes)
  2. Laryngopharyngeal Reflux: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Latest Research. AM Campagnolo, J Priston, AR Assuncao, et al. (2014) Int Arch Otorhinolaryngol