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Elon Musk, Acid Reflux, and a Sore Throat

By Stu Leo︱Published September 9, 2022

Elon Musk: the Founder of SpaceX…the Architect of Tesla…the leading advocate for renewable energy, the world’s richest man and sworn enemy of the Twitters…but does Elon Musk have acid reflux? That’s the kind of question we like to discuss on this channel. So let’s get into it. 

The reason why I believe Elon Musk has reflux is because he sent out a tweet to YouTube personality and celebrity Mr. Beast a couple months ago and said:

For improved quality of sleep, raise head of your bed by about 3” or 5cm and don’t eat 3 hours before bedtime

Very interesting. So in this video, I’m going to dissect Elon’s acid reflux advice to Mr. Beast and break it down to 2 things you should know about acid reflux, GERD, and LPR.

First, we’ll talk about the impact of breathing on acid reflux. Second, we’ll discuss how body mass contributes to LPR, and lastly, we’ll talk about one crucial fact you need to know if you have LPR especially if you’re taking acid-suppressive meds like omeprazole.

Stick with me to the end to find out what it is.

Elevating Your Bed For Acid Reflux

So let’s begin by analyzing Elon’s first tweet to Mr. Beast where he recommends raising his bed by 3 inches. I’d say this is pretty standard stuff that the doc would tell you to do after a visit and a lot of people seem to get relief from doing this. But have you ever wondered why this works?

Well, a common line of thinking is it’s gravity. When you’re lying down the theory goes that stomach contents can reflux or come back up easier. However, when you elevate your bed, reflux is less likely because your upper body is slanted up.

But for those of us who get regurgitation or have experienced regurgitation in the past, we know this is not always the case.

For example, just think about the last time you experienced acid reflux maybe prior to a GERD diagnosis—were you lying down? I know I wasn’t…As a matter of fact, I was sitting down at a restaurant—upright. And that’s the thing. Reflux tends to shoot up at all angles, in all body positions.

Doesn’t really matter if you’re standing up or laying down. So if people are getting reflux when they’re completely upright—can raising your bed by a mere 3 inches really stop reflux at night?

Maybe.

Here’s what I think is a more significant reason why bed elevation works so well for a lot of people.

When you raise the head of your bed, it makes it easier to breathe through your nose, which reduces breathing through your mouth, and this tends to preserve your saliva through the night which is crucial for not only neutralizing the acid in your throat but also keeping your throat moist and lubricated.

This could be a big reason why you’re waking up in the morning with a dry mouth and a sore throat. I don’t have time to go into this too heavy right now, so I’ll just throw up this time card if you want to check out my last video about saliva—and real quick I’ll also show you this study about the importance of saliva for reflux defense here.

Feel free to pause the video to give it a further read. This is well-established in the medical literature.

So as I was saying the reason why bed elevation works is it makes it easier to breathe at night. You can actually test this out right now by lying down and trying to breathe through your nose.

And then stand up and breathe through your nose. If you don’t have any breathing issues it was probably easier for you to breathe standing up and that’s my point.

Raising Your Bed Preserves Saliva, the Natural Reflux Barrier

When you raise the head of your bed you are closer to the standing position at 90 degrees where breathing through your nose is much easier, vs. lying flat on your back in the “supine” position where breathing through your nose is much harder and as a result, we mouth breath to compensate, which again, in turn, dries out the saliva in our throat and this can lead to LPR symptoms.

The fact that it’s harder to breathe when you’re lying down vs standing up is well known in the medical literature. Take for example this study which examined the relationship between sleep posture and breathing.

This study found that nasal resistance—basically how hard it is to breathe through your nose—increased for both snorers AND non-snorers, in the lying down position.

It’s interesting to note that snorers had higher nasal resistance than non-snorers even after administration of a nasal decongestant called oxymetazoline.

Here’s another study out of the University of Chicago that found laying down on your back, in the supine position decreases the ability of the nose to warm and humidify air—which is very important to keep the throat moist and neutralize acid.

And let me show you yet another study excerpt that talks about nasal resistance being especially crucial for non-obese patients with sleeping disorders, but notice what it says about other factors that also influence the tendency to mouth breath—fat around the neck which increases the risk for airway collapsibility.

Too Much Body Mass Can Lead to LPR Symptoms

Which leads me to my second point, the main cause of breathing disorder is too much body mass. Excessive body mass impedes your ability to breathe and this can lead to LPR symptoms.

Now I know this can be a tricky subject because of the pressure to compare ourselves to others nowadays and what that does to our self-esteem and body image but nonetheless, I think it’s important to this because very few people are actually talking about this—which brings us to…Yacht Elon.

I think most of you guys have seen this picture of Elon on this yacht because it went pretty viral when it came out but as you can see Elon Musk has accrued a considerable amount of body fat, particularly around these regions right here and here.

And if you look at Elon through the years it’s apparent that he has put on a lot of mass through the years. Just look at this picture of Elon in the year 2000, now this one in 2008, and then this one in 2022.

But don’t get me wrong, Musk looks good, much of the weight gain looks like muscle to me. He looks strong. But here‘s the downside to body mass gain, and when I say body mass, I mean both fat and muscle, it increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea? It’s a condition where the fat and or muscle in your throat and face causes your airway passages to collapse, making it harder for you to breathe through your nose—so what do most people do?
They breathe through their mouths to compensate.

If we go back here, notice what this excerpt says, “collapsibility” due to fat in the neck and throat. So here’s a study that looked at how obese patients with apnea breathed and unsurprisingly, it was found that obese patients, by and large, experienced increased nasal resistance, making it harder for them to breathe through their nose, even when they were seated upright and it was probably even more difficult for them to breathe lying down.

But it’s not just fat that can cause the airways to collapse, it’s also muscle mass, which as I’ve said Elon seems to have plenty of in this region right here.

Now, if we take a look at this picture of Elon from the side and compare him with this guy right here, we can conclude that Elon is a big guy, I think he’s like 6’ 2”? And probably at least 225 lbs, if not more, as a matter of fact—his build is similar to that of a football player’s because he’s certainly not slim, but you can’t call him straight-up fat either because he has a good deal of muscle…which is a great segway to now talk about professional American football players, which illustrates the concepts I’m talking about perfectly.

NFL Players, Sleep Apnea, and LPR

Did you know NFL players are 4 to 5 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea? Offensive and defensive linemen bear the brunt of the risk as they make up 85 percent of the cases of sleep-disordered breathing, presumably because they are usually the biggest.

But how can this be? Aren’t our football players the ultimate models of peak youth, health, vigor, strength, and brawn? I mean a lot of football players have relatively low body fat so how can they suffer from breathing disorders like sleep apnea?

Let’s take a look at another study to find out more shall we?

According to this study from Kyoto University, the severity of sleep apnea correlated with increased skeletal muscle mass, rather than muscle depletion.

So it’s not just fat, even muscle can have the same detrimental effects on your breathing by collapsing the airways, making it tough to breathe through the nose, and therefore increasing the risk of sleep apnea and by association, mouth breathing.

Many physicians according to this paper in the New England Journal of Medicine are unaware of this because again, most football players look young and fit and are presumed to be healthy—well, looks can be deceiving. And apparently, humans were just not evolutionarily designed to pack on that much mass, even if it’s muscle.

Looks great, but it’s probably not so great for your long-term health, especially as you age, which further explains why a lot of football players develop health issues after they retire.

So now you might be thinking to yourself, ok, so body mass increases the risk of sleep apnea and mouth breathing but does that necessarily translate to risk for acid reflux?

According to the research I have seen, the answer is yes because sleep apnea is directly connected to acid reflux, specifically laryngopharyngeal reflux, LPR for short, which is basically reflux symptoms in the upper throat like hoarseness, dry mouth, sore throat, and the like.

Check out this study titled laryngopharyngeal reflux in obstructive sleep apnea patients: literature review and meta-analysis. This study found a very high incidence of LPR(about 45.2 percent) among sleep apnea patients.

Another paper referred to in the study found the incidence of LPR to be as high as 64.3% in their sampling of sleep apnea patients. And if that weren’t enough here’s another study that looked at 262 patients with LPR and found that obesity is associated with more severe LPR symptoms.

Why do so many obese patients and sleep apnea patients have LPR?

Again I contend it’s due to mouth breathing due to excess fat in the throat which again obstructs nose breathing and this dries out saliva which is in fact the natural acid neutralizer in the throat.

Acid Reflux and LPR are Massively Overdiagnosed

The final point I want to touch on is how Elon Musk and many doctors seem very eager to diagnose people with acid reflux. Elon Musk be like:

“Anyone want to explain why these two things help to me

Mr. Beast be like:

“Good chance you’re experiencing at least mild acid reflux at night, affecting quality sleep without consciousness awareness”

This is actually the typical reaction of people who are initially diagnosed with acid reflux. Really? You’re sitting on the medical bed thingy and the doctor’s asking you a bunch of questions like do you have a sour taste in your mouth, do you regurgitate… and I don’t know about you but at the time I said no…no… and no and it’s like they’re almost trying to convince you that you have acid reflux to send you away with reflux drugs.

So this is the crucial fact that I want to leave you with and it’s that reflux drugs or PPIs are massively overprescribed.

Here’s a study all the way back in 1995 when PPIs came out that found 56% of PPI prescriptions in one Minnesota hospital were inappropriate and wrong.

Here’s another study that found 66% of patients at a medical center in Texas did not meet A guideline for appropriate PPI use.

So listen, if there is no objective evidence for acid reflux, plus you don’t recall getting regurgitation, yet you’re still experiencing a dry mouth and a sore throat in the morning, you may very well be mouth breathing through the night. You should consult your doctor.

Does Elon Musk Have Acid Reflux?

So back to the million dollar question—does Elon Musk have acid reflux?

I’d say…probably. He might even be diagnosed with LPR because he told Mr. Beast to raise his bed 3 inches up and mentioned acid reflux, which isn’t really something you would know unless you were formally diagnosed with acid reflux.

My guess it, if he were to drop the pounds and slim down, his LPR symptoms and sleep quality, would probably improve by a lot.