Alternatively Speaking: Make your voice heard

Alternative medicine expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: Are there any foods or drinks that I should be eating or avoiding to help protect my voice?

Jerusalem Academy Choir and String Ensemble (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem Academy Choir and String Ensemble
(photo credit: Courtesy)
During the past ten years I've treated several vocalists, professional singers, and others who rely on their voices as part of their profession. With my guidance they can enhance their performance with a healthy diet and by avoiding foods that can be harmful to their vocal health. Vocal cords are fragile and vibrate at an extremely fast rate when singing. By keeping them moist this will go a long way toward preventing dryness, which can irritate them.
Q. Dear Natalie, I am a singer and am just about to begin an intensive month long production where I will be performing every night, using my voice for at least three hours. Are there any foods or drinks that I should be eating or avoiding to help protect my voice?
A. One of the most important things you can do is drink a lot of water. Keeping your vocal chords hydrated is crucial and the recommended eight glasses a day are not enough for a vocalist. I recommend you drink at least three more glasses.
In addition to water, avoid yelling and straining your voice, as this causes wear and tear. Proper sleep and rest will also ensure and enhance your voice. The best diet for a vocalist is one that limits or avoids fatty and fried foods. Stick with fish and chicken as your best meat options. Eggs, apples, rice, and root vegetables are also excellent choices. Fruit, whole grains and vegetables which are rich in vitamins A, C and E, help ensure that mucus membranes remain healthy.
Avoid alcohol since it diminishes vocal control by causing constriction of the blood vessels in vocal tissue. Cold drinks actually contract and stiffen the throat and voice. Try to drink fluid at room temperature.
Avoid foods that have a drying effect such as salty foods, peppery or spicy foods, and caffeine. Remember that not only coffee, but tea, sodas, and chocolate are also sources of caffeine, and should try to be limited.
Before a performance, avoid eating dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, and even bananas since these can cause excess mucus production. By avoiding these foods you will avoid the unnecessary throat clearing - a process that can injure the vocal chords.
Q. Dear Natalie, I am an actor and keep on losing my voice. Can you suggest any natural remedies to treat my sore throat and is there anything I can do prevent this from happening?
A. I have been amazed throughout my clinical practice at the wonders of honey. If you are able to find Manuka honey, I highly recommend swallowing a spoonful of it slowly, allowing it to coat the lining of the throat.
Manuka honey's antimicrobial properties can help ward off bacterial throat infections and accelerate healing. It should also help ease any throat discomfort with its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
I would try to avoid carbonated beverages since they can also promote acid reflux and negatively impact the voice.
Increase your intake of Vitamin A since it has a particularly important role in vocal health since it promotes good respiratory health and helps the body to fight off infections. Fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin A include sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, squash and romaine lettuce. The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A is 900 micrograms for men or 700 micrograms for women.
I recommend gargling a warm solution of lemon and honey to reduce any inflammation and irritation of the larynx. Squeeze half a lemon into a glass, add honey and pour into your mouth yet not drinking it. There are also a number of herbal tea remedies that can make soothing drinks for your aching throat and voice. Tea made from fenugreek, eucalyptus or marshmallow can be enjoyed and are also useful to gargle with.
Q. Dear Natalie, as a Yoga instructor can you tell me if there any Yoga postures which can help improve my voice?
A. Yoga is a hidden secret to those in the professional singing and public speaking world. It is considered an excellent cost effective method to rapidly improve your voice and overall speaking abilities. When our throat is flexible, it encourages the vocal cords to resonate more effectively thereby projecting a better sound. By stretching the entire body with yoga we improve breathing abilities and help to improve both singing and public speaking.
It is the efficient method of transporting oxygen through the body which makes our heart and lungs function more efficiently. Certain yoga poses are also better than others in helping to improve your voice. Try the following yoga posture for improving your voice.
The Lion Pose
Sit on a yoga mat on your knees (if able to) with your knees apart so that they are parallel to your shoulders. Place both your palms on the floor in the space between two knees, fingers pointing towards the body and the base of the palm in the opposite direction. Now lean a little forward and gently tilt the head backwards. Inhale slowly gazing at the center of your eyebrow. Open your mouth and extend the tongue out like a dog. While exhaling produce a sound similar to a roar of a lion with your mouth wide open. Relax, close the mouth and breathe in. Repeat this 10-12 times to help to improve your voice. A little modification in the sitting position can also be done as long as you sit in such a way that your body weight is mainly on your toes and at the same time you can take support of your heels.  Another simple exercise is by using the chant OM which is often used at the beginning of a yoga practice. By simply chanting OM - daily at least 5 minutes without any breaks will this will not only help to improve the base of your voice but will also help increasing your voicing stamina.Book your free consultation today with Natalie to devise your own personal health plan: Telephone: 054-733-7401 or email [email protected]
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.