A few months ago I very nervously walked along Harley Street to see ENT consultant Dr John Rubin. You see, I had been struggling with what I was pretty sure was acid reflux. This appointment was made very shortly after attending the annual BAST retreat I attend every year. This is a singing teachers retreat which includes guest presentations by medical voice professionals. This year we had a guest lecture from Rehab Awad who is clinical lead Speech Therapist at University Hospital Lewisham. She was educating us on acid reflux and showing us some footage of laryngoscopes (a procedure where a camera is used to show the vocal folds and the glottis) showing some extreme cases of reflux. This was enough to scare me into getting an appointment for a scope, ASAP!
Lucky for me, although it was clarified that I was suffering from reflux, it was only classed as a minor case. Dr Rubin explained that there was the option of medication however it was best to avoid if I could. So instead I followed his advice and I took these 3 totally easy steps, which by the way, have worked!
1) Elevate the top of the bed.
I went to Argos, picked up a couple of catalogues and put one underneath each leg of the headboard. The bed head being elevated goes unnoticed but the angle prevents acid from rising up through the oesophagus at night.
2) Take Gaviscon after breakfast and before bed.
This was a huge help and Dr Rubins main advice. There is a key ingredient in Gaviscon called sodium alginate which is especially good for coating the throat. Some of the cheaper options don’t always have as high dosage of this so look out for that.
3) Try not to eat anything 3-4 hours before you sleep.
Acid reflux symptoms are usually worse after eating and when lying down it’s easy for acid to rise up into the throat. You should also avoid eating or drinking anything which you know sets off your reflux symptoms, for example alcohol or spicy food.
In any case if you think you’re suffering with reflux and you’re a professional voice user, it’s definitely worth making an appointment with an ENT who specialises in voice who can examine you properly. Reflux if left untreated can cause long lasting effects and it’s a slow process to heal from. There is a list of clinics on the BVA website which singers can refer to in order to find a relevant specialist.