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Vocal Fundamentals Week 10: Managing Acid Reflux

Today's vocal health focused vocal fundamental is: MANAGING ACID REFLUX

 

I dealt with reflux for the first time about 6-7 years ago. For me, it was stress induced, which is one of the triggers for acid reflux.

 

For others, it comes about because of certain dietary choices, pregnancy, age, or eating too close to bedtime.

 

Do you deal with acid reflux?

 

Maybe you don't know if you do or not.


Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Heartburn

  2. Bad Breath

  3. Your food actually coming back up a little bit after you eat

  4. Constantly having to clear your throat but you know it's not allergy or dehydration related

  5. A hoarse voice

  6. Losing your voice for no reason

  7. Coughing at night when you lay down for bed


There is also something called "silent reflux" where you may never feel any kind of burning or discomfort in your chest, but you may show signs of some of the other symptoms above.

 

As you can see from that list, acid reflux can have a direct influence on the vocal cords and sound of your voice. This makes it a vocal health issue that you should really pay attention to if you want to steward your gifts well.


Quick Story Time:

 

Earlier this year, I led worship for a women's retreat in the mountains of North Carolina. I met a 60-something man there whose voice was very painful sounding. At first, I thought maybe he was dealing with severe laryngitis.

 

I learned that he had dealt with severe acid reflux several years back, and he suffered burn damage to his vocal cords. As his cords healed, they did not heal properly and actually grew together.

 

Doctors told him:

 

they had done every surgery and explored every option that was available, and that nothing further could be done to get his voice back to how it was before...

 

If you're shocked, I was too.


As someone who has taken vocal health seriously for years, I knew that acid reflux could cause some damage.

 

I had NO IDEA it could get to that point.

 

Now I don't tell you this to scare you. This is an EXTREME case of reflux damage, and he had some additional circumstances involved as well. But I wanted to share this because it shows the importance of preventing and treating reflux early in order to allow you to put your best voice forward for as long as possible.



What To Do:

 

So, what can you do if you think you're dealing with reflux?

 

Try something like a Tums first. Does this help the symptoms that you're experiencing? If it does, then that may be enough.

 

Also, are you drinking enough water? This can also sometimes help with reflux.

 

If symptoms persist or get worse, see your regular doctor or an ENT (I recommend the ENT option) sooner rather than later. They will be able to 1) diagnose if it is reflux 2) see if there is any damage to your vocal cords 3) help you with a treatment and recovery plan.


Ok, here's your assignment this week: check the list of symptoms above. Are you experiencing any? Pay attention to your body and voice this week. If at home remedies don't work, make that doctor's appointment.

 

If you find yourself being treated for and recovering from acid reflux, give your vocal cords some time to heal up a little bit. Drink lots of water, get some rest and vocal rest, treat with steam for 5-10 min on the days that you can. Go on the direction of your doctor in terms of when it's ok to actually sing and use your voice full capacity again.

 

At that point, start utilizing a gentle daily warmup, paying close attention to your voice and how it feels and performs day to day. No stretching/growing you range during this time, and I recommend you avoid belting and anything that could potentially strain your voice as well. Let your voice come back to normal first. There's no need to rush.

 

If you're not dealing with any acid reflux symptoms, yay!! Hang on to the list above to refer to in the future if you ever need to.



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