Juice Man: I see you’re sitting outside with Erin. What brings you in?”
Me: I’m a voice coach just down the street and thought it was past time to try out something healthy for lunch.
Juice Man: Oh Wow! A singing teacher! Can I ask you some questions? We have singers who are recording in the studios around here ask all the time what would be good for them to drink and what should they stay away from. They seem rather obsessed about singing health: milk, mucus, and acid. Like no dairy? Or should they have lemon? How about other fruit and veggies? We never know what to tell them. But we hear a lot of things from them that seem pretty strange.
Me: I bet you do!
Juice Man: Yah. One girl told me she had to have a whole lemon in her tea to get the mucus off of her vocal cords. And another told me lemon was bad for singers because it was acidic. We never know quite what to do. We just give them what they want to make them happy.
Me: Keeping the customer happy is probably your best bet! Most of the things they’re asking for don’t make a bit of difference, BUT, if they think they do, then they’re better off for having them.
And so it goes. Myths and half-truths abound about what effects our singing voices! So let’s stop and have a think.
If something you eat or drink does not pass by and touch the vocal folds, it can’t immediately affect them (unless you are allergic to that substance).
When we eat and drink, hopefully the food passes down our esophagus and goes into the stomach. If it were to pass by the vocal cords that would mean it was going into our lungs – not a good plan. So there is no way that drinking lemon tea can remove mucus from the vocal cords. However, being well hydrated will thin mucus, which is beneficial for singing.
Is it true that eating dairy effects your voice?
Check out this article about mucus and milk to read more. If you’re allergic to dairy, or lactose intolerant, that’s another story. But the research does not support this myth.
What about acidic foods?
They can certainly increase your chance of having reflux. If you reflux all the way into your throat, that can give you a sore throat. And if a drop of that stomach acid sneaks past the esophageal sphincter, you could get a little acid near your vocal folds. That could effect your singing. But that is only if those foods give you reflux. Here is a good, thorough article about gastric reflux and singers with solid suggestions about how to decrease your risk of refluxing.
Does ingesting or smelling essential oils help your voice?
Some singers report great results with using them to help with their vocal health. However, there is no hardcore research supporting this. But my concern is this: Many singers who use essential oils are those whose lifestyles and voice usage patterns are contributing to vocal health problems. They believe the essential oils will fix their voices. Most are looking for a quick fix instead of changing lifestyle patterns and modifying vocal abuse behaviors. Over time, that’s not going to work out for them.
- Question what you hear. Look into it for yourself.
- Myths and half-truths abound about how to keep your singing voice healthy. If something makes you feel better and it doesn’t hurt you or your voice, it probably helps you in some way.
- Don’t pick up a new habit or buy a new product without really looking into it and questioning it.
- The best way to keep your vocal health is to get adequate sleep, avoid overuse, have a solid vocal technique, be vocally fit, be physically fit, eat a truly healthy diet, don’t smoke anything.
YOU are responsible for your vocal health. Singing is your passion and one of your purposes. Give the decisions you make about your voice care the thoughtfulness and respect that your voice (and your entire self) deserve.
Get more great tips and info to become the singer you want to be
Lisa Haupert, Voice Teacher, Nashville, TN