What is GERD?

GERD is the acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disorder, sometimes called reflux. It is essentially a chronic heartburn problem. There is a valve at the top of the stomach that prevents stomach acids from going into the esophagus. This is especially important when lying down, as gravity can not help to contain the acids in the stomach. If the valve is weak, acid will creep up, particularly at night when lying in bed. This is what causes the feeling of burning at the level of the heart and higher. Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, cough, interrupted sleep and vocal problems that are worse in the morning.

The acid rising through the esophagus will eventually reach the region of the voice box, which can result in irritation of the vocal cords. Left untreated, reflux can cause long-term or permanent damage to the voice.There are a variety of treatments for the condition, some of which are simple enough to try at home if you suspect you have reflux.

  • Raise the head of your bed so you are not lying perfectly flat. You could prop yourself up with pillows, but since this will cause you to bend at the waist, it may not be the best solution.
  • Avoid food and alcohol for several hours before bedtime. (Spicy foods are the worst offenders.)
  • Over-the-counter antacids may help, but it’s best not to take them regularly. There are other (prescription) drugs used for difficult cases.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about your symptoms, especially if these measures do not alleviate them.