My direct experience with gastroesophageal reflux is this: a glass of wine, nothing high notes the next day. A glass of wine, full high notes as soon as I woke up. Nachos, fajtas and mojto, nothing high notes the next day. Nachos, fajtas and mojto: almost normal voice the next day.
For so long I have never been able to understand why one day I eat like a pig and my voice the next day sounds like sh*t, another day I eat like two pigs and my voice has never been so bright.
My indirect experience is with you instead. I have had several students who have suffered and suffer from reflux, and I remember one well. He worked at Zelig in Milan in tandem with his partner, and did a comedy show that usually started at midnight. So he never used to go to bed before 4 in the morning. One morning he comes to class at 10, and if before he could take full Gs (I actually vocalized him with an “operatic” voice up to an F above the high C in full head resonance), that morning his voice was breaking on an E note. Nothing to do, we try but the high notes are all gone. He had had a nutella sandwich late at night, before going to sleep, and he remained with no high notes for at least a month.
There is nothing more that I can tell you about the reflux than what you will find on the net: hundreds of doctors, speech therapists and so on, so it is useless to add more. But often too much information produces a bit of confusion (exactly like too many vocal techniques …) and a lot of useless paranoia. What I can tell you is that the human body reacts differently from person to person. If there are people who, while smoking, do not suffer much when they sing, I could not enter the Leoncavallo club without going out without a voice 2 hours later. And without even smoking joint (I’ve never smoked in my life, nothing at all). And in fact I had to give up those jam sessions that often saw me on stage with excellent musicians and friends. Amen.
Another thing I would say is that stomach acid is very often not stimulated by juices, tomatoes and various colas less than it is stimulated by stress. NO matter if you are on a diet and eat salads, pasta with nothing, rice etc. If you are a stressed person, and often have reflux, it is very likely that you will have to calm down, rather than eliminate those good Sicilian cannoli in the morning (I used to have one a day for breakfast this summer) and that good fried fish in the evening. It is not certain, but I am absolutely convinced of it: less stress, more cannoli.
Another consideration that I can share with you, is that what I know about reflux is that when I thought this was the greatest of my vocal problems (but it wasn’t, it was the sulcus I was born with), I was wrong. The greatest was that I thought it was, and let myself be conditioned by this thought. So at some point I stopped worrying about it. I said to myself “Reflux? Who cares!” Of course, if I have to sing on Saturday, maybe on Friday evening I avoid drinking 2 bottles of white wine with fried fish and a Tiramisu to finish with a mirto liquor. But I no longer deprive myself of anything, I only do it intelligently, that’s it.
So, for those of you who are paranoid about this reflux, I feel like telling you one thing: forget it. Relax, and, even if with intelligence and without exaggerating, enjoy the food which is one of the most beautiful things in life, and which in our country is certainly of excellent quality. Try it, and see if your stomach calms down, your spirit relaxes and your voice strengthens.
I don’t know about you, but – if it’s allowed – I prefer to sing with a slightly empty voice but a full stomach: is a little reflux better than depression, or not?