A Holistic Approach Gets More Holistic
Well, this week, we had a real treat, and we spoke to speech pathologist Nikki Martin. Now I’ve got a confession to make here, and that is that I consulted with Nikki about an issue that has been going on for many, many years, frustratingly so-called silent reflux.
I actually didn’t know silent reflux just to chronic throat clearing and a little cough that I’ve had for a long time. One can become used to that kind of thing, although those around you are generally irritated by it. I have a very understanding family clearly, but this has been going on for a long time.
Nikki is a speech pathologist, and one of the things that I find so fascinating about speech pathology is there are just so many aspects to it that people are so totally unaware of. There’s a whole area of speech pathology called Laryngology, which is what Nikki specialises in.
We discussed all the factors which were around silent reflux. It was a great episode because it really reminded me of how interconnected the body is. Turns out that, you know, respiratory infections may have been mild, you may have just brushed aside years and years ago, can affect muscle tone and muscle memory, which then because it’s weaker results in a chronic problem which just becomes part of your everyday life.
Reflux is an issue we’ve dealt with recently with Dr. Jim Papadopoulos, paediatric respiratory and sleep medicine physician. And Jim was talking about the impact of reflux on young children, and that’s about gut health. This really elevated how we eat not and as well as what we eat, and that’s what I really liked about it.
The Breather Fit
We touch on this thing that Nikki has also incorporated into her treatment, which is a device that looks no bigger than a pipe, if you like, called The Breather Fit, which is like a little tube that’s about six inches long.
It’s got a little bowl on end, and you blow into it, and it has resistance on both your inhale and your exhale, and you can change the level of resistance. What that does is tone up pharyngeal and laryngeal muscles, which become very floppy as we get older and is one of the reasons why we snore.
Not only does the jaw drop back at night, and the tongue blocks the airway, but also the muscles of the pharynx and the larynx become weak and vibrate during breathing. That’s why we make noises at night as well.
The Breather Fit is a great tool. I’ve known for some time that if I would practise using a didgeridoo, again, indigenous knowledge. I’m going to get on and learn more about didgeridoos. But didgeridoos provide us with tone in our throat and from our diaphragm and really improve our breathing. We’re going to be exploring in the coming months.
The Breather Fit is a really simple tool to use for that, and it’s basically, I’ve said, with a very long inhale from the diaphragm as long inhale as you can and exhale long as you can and repeat that 10 times, then have a rest for about a minute and repeat it again. The whole exercise takes no more than two or three minutes. It’s done twice a day, and it really does help tone up those muscles.
I love the fact that that also is a focus on the diaphragm, which another guest of ours, Dr Pran Yoganathan, gastroenterologist, mentioned that people who suffer from reflux, heartburn, or indigestion often are really suffering from an underdeveloped diaphragm because of the little sphincter that the oesophagus passes through the diaphragm into the stomach. This is why the tone of your diaphragm is so important.
This is what I love about this episode. Using diaphragmatic breathing to increase the tone of your larynx also has other positive effects. You get to use the entire capacity of your lungs, so if breathing well is important, and any regular listener of this programme will know it is, then using your diaphragm means you use all of your lungs.
If you’ve got two sets of lungs, you might as well use all of them, not only half of them. If you’re pulling your lungs up from your neck and shoulders to breathe in, which people do, then you’re really not using the full capacity and using the full capacity of your lungs through the diaphragm has so many positive effects, as well as toning up and reducing your likelihood of having reflux or heartburn or indigestion.
Added to that are your 10, 12 or 15 breaths per minute as you use your diaphragm; you also massage the internal organs of the gastrointestinal tract, and that has a very positive effect on their function and also on lymphatic drainage around the area. On top of that, as though that isn’t enough, you’re also improving pelvic floor muscle, and pelvic floor tone is important for anybody.
Any woman that’s had a baby definitely needs to be toning up their pelvic floor. The risk of incontinence is there. Following on from childbirth. As we get older, and by older, over the age of 45 or 50, urinary incontinence is a problem, and good pelvic floor muscle tone is important.
I know when I had prostate cancer and I had a prostatectomy, I went to see a physiotherapist improve my pelvic floor exercises and my pelvic tone. Here we are talking about silent reflux and improving the tone of laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles. In the process, we’re improving breathing; we’re improving diaphragmatic tone. We’re making the incidence of gastrointestinal or gastro-oesophageal reflux reduced. We’re improving the health of internal organs and improving the pelvic floor. How holistic is that?
What I also loved about the episode in my time with Nikki Martin is she highlighted to me what I had become very blasé about, and that is how I consume liquids, how I consume liquids now. Intermittent fasting is something that I’ve been doing, and what I would generally have done is have one or two cups of coffee in the morning, and that would be it.
I wouldn’t eat until 12 o’clock. But the problem with coffee is that it is a stimulant, a neuro stimulant muscle relaxant, and that’s not good for reflux. It also affects the acidity within the stomach, as does caffeine in general.
Using non-caffeinated drinks like water and plain water is an excellent way of quenching your thirst. If you had to use some teas, be careful not to use green tea, which is also quite high in caffeine, but using things like chamomile or maybe jasmine tea would be a good alternative there.
Interestingly, as I have reduced my intake of alcohol, I’ve gone into a very bad habit, and that was to treat myself with some sparkling water. I would sit down at a restaurant, a nap would come to the waiter and go, Would you like still or sparkling or just tap water? I would always go with sparkling water because I thought I’d treat myself. I’d usually water down my rosé, white wine with it and make a spritz anyway, which would last longer.
But of course, carbonated water does not set you up well for good, effective digestion, nor does drinking water through a meal. And that is so often the case in restaurants. The waiters always come up, being good waiters to fill your glass up, and drinking through a meal is not a great way of improving your digestion, but it’s a good way of predisposing you to other gastrointestinal reflux or laryngeal and pharyngeal reflux or silent reflux.
How we eat is really important, and how we incorporate fluids into our diet and the way we eat is important. So as a general rule, now, if I have a glass of wine, I will have a glass of wine before I eat. But I will stop having wine for at least 10 or 15 minutes before I start eating, and I will stop drinking for 10 or 15 minutes before I start eating.
Then I will not drink through my meal, and I will not drink for 10 or 15 minutes after the meal, and then I might have a cup of herbal tea at the end of that point, but I stay away from carbonated drinks and fizzy drinks while I mean my eating cycle.
I thought that was really important and very empowering. She does use some medications, which on a very short term basis, you know, which is fine, but it was such a great episode and it’s been such a great professional interaction for me personally, the improvement that it’s made to my chronic cough, which had been on a very low-grade level, varying from time to time, obviously, depending on what I was eating or how I was eating and what I was eating and how I was drinking and what I was drinking.
So that really alerted me to a better way of being, and I feel so much better about it. A chronic cough problem that I’ve had, probably for all my over 30 years, has gone through probably a 90% reduction now, about two months into my conscious effort on how to treat it.
This week’s episode expands our knowledge of speech pathology. We had a great episode with another speech pathologist last year, Sharon Moore, who wrote a book called Sleep Wrecked Kids. That’s a whole other branch of speech pathology. She called Oral Myology, which is all about encouraging nasal breathing, not mouth breathing, and that, in turn, has an impact on laryngeal and pharyngeal health.
This is all about a holistic approach to health care. Exactly why Unstress and our Unstress online community are happening. Log on to the site, join the club, be part of the community. There are some exciting things that are being planned in terms of great resources.
Our podcast, this is another great thing that will just have gone back over the last three years of podcasts, and I’ve pulled out some of my all-time favourites and curated that weave commentary into what is called the Unstress Lab.
We’ve combined about two or three highlights in each programme. We’re up to 12 episodes now, but that’s only available on the Unstress 12-month programme, so they become part of the community. If there’s ever a need for being involved with a like-minded community, I think now is the time. So join in. I had this find you well. Until next time.
This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.