Managing acid re-flux as a singer

Image courtesy of Olek Remesz

Image courtesy of Olek Remesz

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a rising condition known as GERD/GORD, A.K.A gastroesophageal reflux disease. For those of you who know little about it, you might be surprised to learn that it affects 1 in 5 people weekly and 1 in 10 people will experience it daily (NHS). The common causes of it are generally because people are; overweight or eat a high-fat diet. In my case and possibly your case if you stumbled across this post, is that it is because of the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle not functioning properly after it is opened to let food into your stomach. This then causes excess stomach acid to travel up the oesophagus essentially burning the entire tract including the vocal chords and throat.

There are generally no symptoms until the acid has in fact entered the oesophagus and so is a silent torture to those who are required to use their voices for a profession or perhaps hoping to use it professionally. I was asked to visit two ENT specialists who both told me my throat and vocal chords were fine if not a little red. This is my dilemma, having suffered with it for over two years, maybe more due to the lack of symptoms leading up to my diagnosis.

My recommendation is to seek medical help as soon as these types of symptoms appear as it will save you both time and money in the long run:

  • Heartburn after every meal (or randomly throughout the day)
  • Regurgitation of acid in throat or mouth (including food)
  • Difficulty swallowing

More severe symptoms that I have experienced are:

  • Consistent laryngitis (hoarseness and pain in the throat)
  • Chest pain that may radiate up around the lower back/ribs
  • Persistent cough
  • Sickness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms above, this is where you definitely need to get to a GP as this condition can worsen and cause even more problems for you in the future.

(Have your GP test you for bacteria (h.Pylori) in your stomach as this can also lead to some chronic re-flux conditions as described above.)

If your GP has prescribed you with antacid liquid such as Gaviscon tell them that you need a more permanent solution and to consider you for PPI’s such as Omeprazole as this is a more effective method to reducing stomach acid. This is the one solution that worked for me and is continuing to help. There is a polar opposite here however, where your stomach could be producing too little stomach acid and will most likely be discussed with your GP should the medicine not work for you (I have no experience with too little stomach acid so can’t go into any details at this time).

Managing it naturally

The following advice includes methods that worked only for me and I would urge you to visit your GP beforehand as it could potentially worsen your condition. As hard as it might be to hear for those who enjoy natural remedies, nothing has worked for me as well as the medicine I was prescribed. Though it is important to maintain your body by eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Something that really helped me was to eat little and often. I aim to eat a healthy snack every 2 – 3 hours and have a slightly larger snack that could be considered a meal in-between. I also reduced the amount of processed foods I ate which helped within a few days and made me feel a lot more energetic. I would highly recommend eating all natural foods over anything else.

Neutral acids such as lemon juice and apple cider vinegar did appear to work and suppress acid for a few hours which I take in the morning and before eating a meal/snack. (Note: Apple cider vinegar might aggravate your condition so use sparingly and abandon if symptoms worsen)

A big help for me was to exercise more… I now exercise 2 – 3 times a week in the gym and aim to cycle in-between as aerobic exercise strengthens your breathing for singing anyway and increases your ability to control and hold more breathes.

I will keep the comments section open on this if you have any questions as acid re-flux and heartburn are the most common conditions today.

References

Nhs.uk, (2014). Heartburn and Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease – NHS Choices. [online] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Accessed 23 May. 2014].

Wikipedia, (2014). Gastroesophageal reflux disease. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastroesophageal_reflux_disease [Accessed 23 May. 2014].