Foods and Drinks to Avoid
Eating and drinking well will eliminate dehydration and will have a direct impact on the quality of your voice.
Before we head into this lesson, keep in mind that the only thing that will help you to sing better is correct vocal technique and taking proper care of your voice. Certain preparations soothe irritated membranes and help alleviate upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), but none of these substances reach the vocal folds, so they really only reduce pain and discomfort.
When it comes to foods, the general rule of thumb is that everybody is different. I know people who can’t eat bananas before they sing, for example, because it produces more phlegm in their throats. Steer clear of foods that don’t work for you. There is nothing wrong or right—it’s what works for you.
With drinks, we must take a different approach. Some drinks do affect the voice.
As we discuss all the different drink options, keep in mind that no liquids ever reach the vocal folds. When you swallow, your epiglottis closes over your windpipe and allows food and drink to enter your stomach. In fact, the sensation of choking is caused by food or drink bypassing the epiglottis and entering your windpipe.
However, there are two things that can reach your vocal folds. These are:
We are going to talk about these in more detail a little later.
Why It Matters What We Eat and Drink
So why does it matter what we eat and drink? The two main reasons are:
1. They can have an effect on the body as they are processed, which can cause dehydration or produce more phlegm. Some people also have different allergic reactions to food, which affects functions of the body.
2. The mouth and upper throat (pharynx) will benefit from soothing food and drinks if you have an infection or pain.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at a few options and how they can affect you.
Tea and Coffee
The caffeine and tannin in tea and coffee can cause dehydration, as they have a diuretic effect. In some people the opposite may be true—dehydration can produce too much phlegm. This is the way the body tries to combat dehydration.
Of course, dehydration is not good for the body, and the voice is equally affected. As we sing (and speak, for that matter) we are constantly needing to rehydrate our bodies to replace the fluids that are lost in producing energy to perform. This in turn dries out the vocal folds.
Our vocal folds need a little bit of phlegm to function smoothly. So, as you can see, any drinks that cause dehydration should be avoided on the days you are singing.
Alcohol and Soft Drinks
Alcohol and soft drinks should also be avoided for the same reason. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on your body. Drinking alcohol also increases your body temperature, which means increased blood flow to your vocal folds. This thickens the folds so that when they come together for phonation, they do not come together correctly. You might produce a huskier tone than normal. Needless to say, this also increases throat tension, as you need to work harder to produce a clear sound.
Ice Cold and Hot drinks
If you are warming up your voice to prepare to speak or sing, ice cold liquids or hot drinks can tighten the throat. Although no fluids reach the vocal folds directly, we do use the muscles in the mouth and pharynx as part of singing. We also use the resonating chambers in our face, including the sinuses, so we must be mindful of anything entering our bodies that will create an abrupt temperature change.
Once you warm up, you need to stay warmed up. Drinking ice cold liquids is not a good idea for this reason. Really hot drinks are also to be avoided to prevent burning the mouth and throat.
I hope this lesson has been an eye-opener for you. Not many people realize the effect that certain foods and drinks can have on the voice. Tomorrow, we are going to cover another interesting topic—medications and their impact on singing.
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