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If left untreated, acid reflux could lead to serious side effects

Did you know? GERD can affect your voice

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HOUSTON – Heartburn, indigestion and stomach discomfort are all symptoms of acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD -- which is a very common condition, but if it's left untreated, it can start to affect your voice.

When Nicholas Richberg isn't rehearsing for an upcoming concert, he is performing on stage. The award-winning artist depends on his voice for his livelihood.

But a few years ago, Richberg found himself struggling vocally to get through a show.

"I was noticing my voice was unreliable," he said. "I couldn't understand what was going on. I have a pretty close relationship with my voice, using it as often as I do for work."

Concerned that something was wrong with his vocal cords, Richberg went to Dr. David Rosow, a voice and airway disorders expert.

Tests showed Richberg suffers from GERD.

"It's a common cause of thinking there's something stuck in the throat," Rosow said. "It's a common cause of coughing, for example, or clearing the throat."

Added Richberg, "Acid (was) washing up on my vocal cords. That was causing the raspiness that I didn't understand -- the lack of reliability in my voice."

With medication and changes in his diet, Richberg was able to get back in tune with his theater career.

Rosow said there are many ways we can protect our voices.

"The key thing is to hydrate well," he said. "Eat and drink well. Try not to have too much caffeine and try not to use your voice excessively over background noise. Don't push it. It's like tearing your ACL and running on it. It's going to make it worse."

Richberg is happy his problem is solved.

"It makes me able to be up there in front of audiences and do my best every night," he said.

He also stopped having meals after evening performances. Eating late and then going to sleep is a major cause of acid reflux.