My article on Gastric Reflux explained what it is, how it happens and how it can ruin a singer’s voice, and even career. In this post, I give you some easy tips to help you deal with gastric reflux. I recommend you try these out before heading down the prescribed medication route.
If absolutely none of these strategies work, or you need faster recovery for your vocal folds then I advise you to see an ENT/Laryngologist for the appropriate treatment. Be aware that there are some considerations that doctors without experience in the singing voice are not aware of.
Top tips to manage your reflux
- Avoid foods that trigger the symptoms: You may already know the specific foods that set off your symptoms, but if not then you may need to follow a process of elimination to find out which foods are problematic. Keep a food diary and record any symptoms and the times they occur. Make a note which foods appear to be the antagonists, then eliminate these from your diet. You should notice an improvement within a couple of weeks. Common offenders include: fatty foods (e.g. take away, fried food); whole milk dairy products, spicy foods, onions, garlic; peppers, tomatoes; Peppermint; Spearmint; citrus; vinegar; caffeine (this includes caffeinated soft drinks) and chocolate (I know, I know!)
- Eat smaller portions: Don’t overeat and try eating four-five small meals per day. Don’t gulp down your food. This also goes for fluids. Sometimes chewing gum after a meal can help, it stimulates saliva, which in turn helps neutralise the acid.
- Don’t sing, bend or lie down directly after eating: These all cause the contents of the stomach to be pushed up and against the sphincter that keeps the opening of the stomach closed. You may want to get into the habit of taking a walk after meals to help with digestion. Eat at least 2-3 hours before singing or going to bed. This allows the stomach to digest and empty first.
- Elevate the head of the bed: The stomach sphincter in GORD sufferers is commonly weaker than it should be so when you lie flat the acid escapes back up through the stomach opening. You should raise the top of the bed from the under the base legs, not from under the mattress. Use blocks or telephone books to raise the top of the bed approximately 15 cm/6in to be effective.
- Lie on your left side: Studies have shown lying on your left side will discourage acid from travelling up through the sphincter.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking: not very rock ‘n’ roll I know, unfortunately, both will aggravate the issue as they stimulate acid production, and nicotine weakens the sphincter further.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight will increase abdominal pressure and this, in turn, pushes the acid up out of the stomach opening.
- Don’t wear tight clothing: In particular, around your stomach area, this will have the same impact as being overweight and overeating.
- Meditate/relax: Stress increases acid production and may encourage overeating or alcohol consumption and so the vicious cycle continues.
- Take medications as prescribed: If you have been to the doctor and been given a prescription for the GORD then make sure you take it as recommended. But don’t rely only on the medication to control the reflux. Generally, it takes a multipronged approach to maintain good reflux control.
Hope this helps, let me know by responding in the comments if you have any tips that have helped you with reflux control.
Happy ‘non-gurgly’ singing!