(. . . or learn what G.E.R.D. means the hard way)
sure it comes as no surprise that late night binges of spicy foods,
alcohol and coffee are no good for your health, but did you know
these habits can ruin your voice?
you are constantly clearing your throat, especially after eating,
and wrestling with a continuous rasp, the cause may not be poor
vocal technique but a condition known as G.E.R.D. Gastro esophageal
reflux disease, more commonly called reflux, is being diagnosed
a lot more lately due to sensitive new diagnostic equipment.
More than just heartburn, this common condition occurs when
digestive acids back up the esophagus and burn the vocal folds.
Since the symptoms resemble a good old fashioned blown voice,
many doctors used to write off the damage, and the singer, to
kamikaze screaming. They now know thatís not always the case.
Reflux swells the folds, making them unresponsive, and misleads
a singer into pushing too hard. Itís a scenario where the condition
creates the behavior instead of the other way around. If you
suspect you have G.E.R.D. see an Ear Nose & Throat specialist.
If you canít afford a visit to an ENT, there are steps you can
take on your own.
line of defense is usually a prescription-strength antacid;
Rolaids will do if you are self-medicating. This just treats
the symptoms, donít think of it as a fix. Doctors always follow
the prescription with a lecture on diet and eating habits. No
coffee, smokes, alcohol, sodas, junk food or spicy stuff. Basically,
your whole life-style goes out the window. Eating late and crashing
is also a big no-no. Lying down after eating allows digestive
juices an easy path to your vocal folds. Donít be to quick to
mourn the loss of your vices. When you think about it, we musicians
eat terribly for two reasons: cash and convenience. If someone
slid a healthy meal in front of you, would you still long for
a burrito and a beer? Eating healthy does not have to cost a
fortune or take all your time if you plan ahead. Donít let McDonaldís
be in charge of your diet options. Before the chains ruled the
planet, brown-bagging a lunch was a way of life. Pack a bag
full of turkey slices, celery, carrots, apples -- or any non-citrus
fruits or vegetables before heading to work. Make it part of
your morning ritual: wallet, keys, lunch. When on the road planning
ahead is even more important. Just as fueling up the van is
a no-brainer, so should stocking a cooler.
A long and
thorough warm up is also vital to heal your voice. Even though
its condition was not caused by over-singing, the result is
the same. Humming at a very low volume up down your range, in
and out of falsetto (without pushing) will help reduce the thickness
of the folds. It may take all day until you stop cracking and
hitting blank spots, which means youíll have to start vocalizing
early. Itís very important that you donít push from your abs
to fix a stubborn pitch. It will only dig a deeper hole. As
always, hydrate with at least two liters of water per day.
some leeway if these steps sound like torture. Some foods may
cause more reaction than others and you can elevate the head
of your bed to reduce the effects of post-gig meals. However,
to discover what evils are manageable, youíll have to start
with a clean system. Knowing youíll be able to keep some of
your old ways makes it easier to start a bland diet. After a
few weeks of cold turkey (pun intended), ask yourself what you
missed the most. Using your voice as the gage, you can discover
your particular vocal offenders. Ultimately, the choice comes
down to what youíre willing to compromise. Will it be the music
or the Mexican? Are you going to lower your artistic standards
or drop the Chalupa?
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark