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My Sore Throat Was Caused by Stomach Acid: A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sore Throat Stomach Acid Acid Reflux

Maggie is looking forward to a trip to Austria with her choir to sing in a competition for the first time in six years. “I have always loved singing and was a member of several choirs and choral societies when I was at university and then afterwards, although work and then children did limit the time I had. I am so glad to be able to do this again,” she says.

Ill health forced Maggie to take a break from singing for over three years. “I started to get hoarse for no reason at all and I had a cough I couldn’t shake off. My children were teenagers by then and one or other of them was always picking up a virus at school. I just put it down to that,” Maggie explains.

Throat Problems Worsen

Maggie felt very conscious of her hoarseness and the change in her voice and decided to leave the two choirs that she had been a part of for over 10 years. Feeling very depressed at being without her beloved hobby, she threw herself into work and did some voluntary stints at a local hospice. “Just by chance, I was talking to one of the nurses there about my singing and she was asking me why I didn’t do it anymore. When I said I had a persistent cough that was worse at night and a hoarse voice with sore throat most of the time, she asked me if I ever got heartburn. I thought it was a strange question but, it was true, heartburn did bother me a lot and I was always swallowing antacids,” recalls Maggie.

The nurse at the hospice suggested that Maggie pay a visit to her GP as it sounded as though she had symptoms of acid reflux, and that she could have acid from her stomach coming back into her oesophagus at night and then going right the way up to affect her throat and lungs.

Acid Reflux is Diagnosed

“I didn’t feel ill at all but I decided to go to talk to my GP – who was actually a member of one of the choirs I used to be in. She was quite concerned and I really felt that I would rather not have mentioned it when she told me I would need an endoscopy. I really hated the thought of that,” says Maggie.

An appointment was arranged the following month and Maggie chose to be quite well sedated and doesn’t remember anything of the actual procedure – “thank goodness.” Although Maggie’s oesophagus was generally OK, there were some signs of inflammation and Maggie was put onto tablets to cut down the amount of acid produced in her stomach. “That worked very well and within a month, my throat felt much better. The gastroenterologist didn’t stop there though – he wanted to know why I had the problem so, after more tests, I went away with a lifestyle plan to see if I could avoid excess acid production. This involved changing my diet to avoid foods that increase acid production, such as coffee, alcohol and chocolate and eating earlier in the evening so that my stomach was never full when I went to bed,” explains Maggie.

Singing Again

After three months, Maggie no longer missed the foods that made her condition worse and was allowed to stop taking the acid suppressing drug she had been prescribed. Another endoscopy confirmed that the inflammation had gone and, best of all, Maggie’s hoarseness and cough had completely cleared up.

“I contacted one of my old choirs and they were delighted to hear from me and I started singing again regularly. Now I know my throat problems were caused by stomach acid and not problems with my vocal cords I am so much more relaxed and I’m really looking forward to the trip to Austria and the competition,” she adds.

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