Hydration is one of the most well-known tenets of vocal hygiene. You know you need to keep those folds hydrated well to keep the surface lubricated so that the friction that occurs from the folds constantly beating together won't end up in injury.
You may also know that hydration also has to hit the deeper layers including the vocalis muscle. We want hydration at the cellular level of all parts of the vocal folds to keep them flexible for optimal performance. Did you know that studies have shown that a 1-2% drop in body water can impede performance?
A dip in hydration at this level can also affect your cognitive functioning and you need a clear mind for singing. No time for brain fog when you have to remember all your words, rhythms, choreography, listen to your accompaniment, and the list goes on - all while maintaining good vocal technique.
And let’s face it, the Vocalis Muscle is not a high priority area for the body, so you may feel the effects of dehydration even earlier at your vocal folds. On top of that, your body doesn't register the fact that it's thirsty until you reach the 2% dehydration mark. So staying on top of the hydration game is really important.
You've probably heard the adage "pee pale", however, that might not be telling you everything you need to know about your hydration. You can have clear urine and still be getting dehydrated!!!
Here are 15 things that may be making you dehydrated:
Many medications can cause dehydration. Some of the most common medications that lead to dehydration are:
One of the symptoms of diabetes is the frequent need to urinate. When blood sugar levels get too high the body tries to bring it back down by flushing out the excess sugar through peeing. If you are frequently thirsty or take too many trips to the washroom see your doctor.
3. Insufficient Fibre
About 97% of the North American population is fibre deficient. They don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily requirement, which is about 30 g of fibre per day. That in itself is far lower than what our bodies are actually designed to handle. Aside from the many other health benefits of fibre, eating fibre and water rich-foods like fruits and vegetables can help hydration. It also will allow it to be absorbed into the body more slowly for deeper hydration.
4. Processed Foods
Ultra processed foods have a number of things going against them. First they are devoid of fibre.(See point 3) They can make your blood sugar levels rise making you feel thirsty.(See point 2). They are often very dry foods since water has mostly been removed from them. And they are high in sodium. If you do eat processed foods drink more water to make up for lack. Better yet stick to water-rich whole foods..
5. Your period
Estrogen and progesterone influence your body's hydration levels, and when the two are roller-coastering, like when you're in the throes of PMS, you may need to increase your fluid intake to stay hydrated.
Women who experience heavy flows will need to hydrate extra, too, since you are losing fluid. And remember the dehydrating effects of medications - Midol a commonly used medication for menstrual cramps may be making matters worse.
We all like to have the occasional post show drink with our castmates, but you have to keep in mind that alcohol has well-known diuretic properties. If you do have a drink or two make sure to drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol..
7. Herbs and Supplements
Many herbs and supplements have been shown to increase urine output, which could potentially lead to dehydration. Among them are parsley, celery seed, dandelion, and watercress. Small amounts as a seasoning in food should not be a problem as part of a whole food diet, but if you are taking therapeutic amounts of herbal or other supplements, check with your naturopath. Natural does not always mean safer.
8. Low Carb Diet
Carbohydrates are stored as energy in your body in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver. Each glycogen molecule is linked to 9 water molecules. That's why when you start a low carb diet you drop a couple pounds of water weight. The number on your scale might look good, but it's not great for your hydration levels. Fruits, which are often shunned because of their perceived sugar levels are richly hydrating (not to mention all the other nutrients they provide). Plus, since whole carbs such as oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and brown rice all soak up water during the cooking process, eating them can actually increase your hydration levels. If you cut them out of your diet you could be reducing your fluid intake, too.
9. Indoor Environment
In the heat of summer or the cold of winter we often head indoors, but air conditioning and heating can both have a drying effect. Probably moreson than the outdoor weather. Who has ever experienced the chapped lips and dry skin of winter,yet you barely spend any time outdoors except for running from your door to your car and back. It’s the heating that’s drying you out!
If you exercise you will perspire, but the length and intensity of your workout will dictate how much body water you are losing through sweat. It’s important to adjust your water intake to match the intensity of your workout. Endurance athletes especially are prone to dehydration. A good way to make sure you are getting enough is to weigh yourself naked before and after your workout. If you are hydrating enough you should weigh the same. If not, top up with the deficit amount in your post workout drink.
I mentioned our indoor environment, but of course our outdoor environment matters, too. Extremes of heat, cold, low humidity and high altitudes all can impact your hydration levels. If you’re in a desert-like climate with extremely low humidity and high heat you can feel the water being sucked right out of you (that’s how it felt to me in Las Vegas with temperatures of 110F. The dry cold of a Winnipeg winter, where I live, can be dehydrating as well. High Altitude is also somewhere where you may need to adjust your water intake.
12. Irritable Bowl Syndrome and Irritable Bowl Disease
Digestive issues like irritable bowl syndrome, irritable bowl disease, diverticulitis and other problems of the gut can be debilitating enough on their own (believe me I know I have colitis, which still flares up if I eat wheat or broccoli, my two trigger foods), but their symptoms which can include nausea and chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration, In the search of relief, many people who suffer from these conditions try elimination diets to discover or avoid trigger foods, If you are eliminating whole food groups of fluid-rich foods, you could end up further contributing to dehydration.
High altitude, dry recycled air - air travel can definitely contribute to dehydration if not managed well. If you are flying to a concert gig, you will likely not have sufficient time on the other end to re-hydrate properly, so it’s imperative to stay on top of it before, during and after the flight. Avoid the in-flight alcoholic drinks, which will further complicate matters, drink extra water, and eat plenty of water-rich foods. This is also a great time to use a Humidiflyer or other surface hydration method such as a personal steamer or nebulizer.
14. Drinking Too Much Water at One Time
Your body can only absorb so much water at a time. It is better to drink in smaller quantities throughout the day than to guzzle a litre at a time only to have it go straight through you. The danger with this is that it could also be flushing out vital electrolytes that can lead to a potentially life- threatening condition called hyponatremia.
15. Misinterpreting Your Thirst Cue
Often when people feel hungry, it’s actually thirst they are feeling. This can lead to overeating and not getting enough water. If you feel hungry and it’s not close to meal time try this: drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If that satisfies you, then it was thirst you were feeling. If you’re still hungry then go ahead and have a snack.
To find your optimal level of water to drink start with taking your body weight in pounds and dividing by two. This will give you the amount in ounces of water to drink daily. From there make any adjustments as needed for the above mentioned causes of dehydration. If you keep your hydration levels up you will feel more energized, alert and your vocal folds will be very happy.
Remember that if you think you are drinking enough and still feel thirsty, you need to seek medical advice.
For more tips of keeping your voice in top shape join the Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice Community.
Happy New Year!
It’s hard to believe we’re already two weeks into the new year!
Someone on my Facebook feed posted a meme that went something like this:
“30 days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 except for January which has about seven #@!$% hundred.”
I know that especially applies to us further north, like here in Winnipeg, where the days are short and the cold is bitter and we won’t be seeing any green until sometime in April. It’s especially hard on those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but that’s a whole other blog.
I personally don’t find it long at all. When back to school doesn’t start until nearly a week in, and there are upcoming masterclasses, auditions, exams, recitals, festivals and performances, January hardly seems long enough!
And herein lies the problem for many a performer.
We are afraid to miss out!
We don’t want to miss any opportunity to perform and be seen, to network, to take that next step in our performing career. And it’s not just active performers, teachers, too, taking on every possible student and giving their students extras outside of lessons.
This fear of missing out (FOMO) is running us into the ground. We feel stressed. We lose sleep. We skip meals. We start to get sick more often. Our mental and physical health suffer.
As a result our creativity suffers!
How can we possibly sing or teach at our best when we have that kind of load on us?
My friend and business coach Michelle Markwart Deveaux said recently on The Full Voice Podcast, “If you do not choose to take the time off your body will do it for you”.
This is absolutely true, and since I’m feeling in a quotey mood another well-known one is, “If you don’t take time for your wellness, then you will be forced to take time for your illness.”
So to help to help you overcome the FOMO in your life here are 3 tips:
Three Tips to Overcoming FOMO:
1. Choose with Intention:
Most of us have many projects we would like to take on, but it’s time to take a hard look at everything and decide what is really important to you. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
Does it “spark joy” as Marie Kondo says?
Does it help you grow personally or professionally?
Does it pay your bills? And are you charging what you’re worth?
If you are doing a freebie, is it a good investment of your time or for the future?
2. Ditch, Delegate and Delay
It’s important to set some boundaries and ask for help when needed. That’s where the 3 Ds come in.
Ditch. Anything that is no longer serving you has to go. Somethings have their season and need to go. Other things may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but may be bogging you down or distracting you from what really needs to happen. If you’ve chosen with intention, then all your other projects can go.
Delegate. There are things that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, but do YOU really need to do them all. This includes household chores like laundry, meal prep, grocery shopping, cleaning, as well as business things like scheduling, accounting and so on. Can another family member help out with some of the load? Can you outsource some of the tasks?
Delay. Some projects are great. Want to record an album? Want to produce a show? If they aren’t a priority at this moment and you don’t realistically have the time, then it’s something to keep on your wish list, but don’t kill yourself trying to squeeze in everything RIGHT NOW.
3. Make Time for Your Wellness
As I touched on earlier, taking on everything can leave us chronically stressed. It affects our sleep, our eating patterns, which in turn affect our immunity. This can all lead to mental and physical illness. And your ability to practice your art at full capacity will pay the price.
It’s critical to make time for your wellness. This means schedule EVERYTHING. Time for a walk or a workout. Time for meals. Time to socialize or do an activity you enjoy other than singing. Time for sufficient sleep. Time to daydream.
When you’re feeling great you have more energy, you are more productive, and you will be able to create more fully.
Thriving, you’ll feel you are living a life of abundance and the FOMO will not be a constant presence in your life.
I hope you find these tips helpful and will help you make the most of 2020.
If you need help figuring out how to start planning your abundant life and wellness, then be sure to book a Singer’s Wellness Strategy Session and I’d be happy to talk you through it.
In today’s world, we are constantly on the go, a steady state “busy-ness” is the norm, and we’re always running from one responsibility to the next - literally! So, it’s no wonder that physical fatigue is such a common complaint among singers. Physical fatigue can put our voice at risk of injury as we are more likely to try to exert more effort singing to compensate.
The good news is that there are some really simple (and natural) ways to increase your energy so you can keep up with your busy life.
1. Get off the blood sugar roller coaster
One of the simplest ways we can boost our energy is to stabilize blood sugar. When we don’t eat enough food throughout the day or when we eat foods that are higher in sugar, our energy levels bottom out.
You can balance your blood sugar, and boost your energy naturally by:
2. You like to move it, move it!
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, as hard as it can be to get your butt off the couch, it’s one of the best things you can do to fight fatigue.
And, it turns out that you don’t even have to commit to a long workout!
A California State University study concluded that even a brisk 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to 2 hours.
So when you feel that afternoon slump coming on, skip the coffee and lace up your running shoes instead.
3. Up your sleep game
It may seem obvious that lack of sleep causes fatigue. However did you know that the quality of your sleep can have an even bigger impact on your daily energy? Even slight disturbances in our sleep can affect how rested we feel the next day.
Here are a couple of tips for a more restful sleep:
4. Drink up!
Before you reach for that coffee or energy drink to perk you up, consider switching to plain old water. While caffeine is usually the first choice for busting out of an energy slump, remember that it can interfere with sleep.
And then there’s dehydration. Even mild dehydration impairs our concentration, decreases our mood and zaps our energy. Surprisingly, many singers, even though they know the importance of hydration, are not actually getting enough.
How do you know if you may be dehydrated?
Check the colour of your urine. If it’s the colour of straw, you’re good to go. If it’s a darker yellow colour, it’s time to drink up.
If you’re still craving a caffeine hit, try the Energizing Matcha Smoothie recipe below.
Matcha gives a longer lasting energy boost than coffee. It doesn’t hit you hard and then cause you to crash. Plus the recipe really is delicious!
Energizing Vanilla Matcha Smoothie
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (your choice, no added sugar)
1-2 tsp matcha green tea powder (start with less if you’re new to matcha - it packs a kick!)
½ frozen banana
Ice cubes (optional)
1 large handful of spinach or kale (optional, but recommended)
How to prepare
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until desired smoothness is achieved. Sip and enjoy!
Glycemic Index Foundation - https://www.gisymbol.com/about-glycemic-index/
California State University Long Beach, Public Affairs & Publications - https://web.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm
National Sleep Foundation - https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/what-good-quality-sleep
Time.com Health Land - http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/19/bad-mood-low-energy-there-might-be-a-simple-explanation/
One day this summer I ended up taking my mother to emergency because she hit her head after fainting on the toilet. The cause was straining on the toilet. Talking to the nurse she said it was actually very common to faint while straining due to constipation, due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea - it's when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it's drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
As a singer this can actually cause risks to your voice. During a bowel movement, especially one that is difficult to pass, the valsalva maneouver is often engaged. The valsalva maneouver is often associated with weight lifting. It is a way of establishing intra-thoracic pressure by forcefully closing the vocal folds. Often the muscles of the neck are tensed, as well. This can all lead to structural changes around the larynx such as overly developed vocal fold adductor muscles and neck muscles that can be full of tension. This can lead to less freedom of the larynx and constricted phonation.
Since many singers suffer from acid reflux, which can have major consequences to the voice, it’s also important to note the connection between constipation and acid reflux, Though constipation does not cause acid reflux, the straining could put pressure on the stomach, which could aggravate reflux. More interestingly antacid medications can cause constipation as most contain aluminum hydroxide and aluminum can impair the muscle contractions that move things along.
Whether you know why you’re constipated or not, there are some things you can do for relief:
1. Eat more fibre
You've probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fibre.
Dietary fibre is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fibre is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fibre helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fibre is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fibre that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fibre is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fibre from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It's the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fibre per day.
If you are going to increase your fibre intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fibre intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fibre affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fibre may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
2. Drink more fluids
Since constipated stools are hard and dry, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn't only have to be water - watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you're well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
Some studies show a gut benefit from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least - make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse. You should be going at least once a day if your gut is in optimal health.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Constipation is a problem that could have risks to your voice.
Increasing our fibre and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don't forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fibre, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I'd love to know in the comments below!
Have you ever stopped to think about it? Most singers perform evenings and even into the wee hours of the morning. This can set us up to have a schedule similar to many shift workers. Shift work is defined as anything that is outside regular daytime work hours that could encompass 7 am to 6 pm.
In fact, some of us may even be pulling double shifts if you have a day job, as well as your nighttime gigs or rotational shifts if you have a day job during the week and then perform weekends. Even singing teachers can be considered shift workers.
This can have serious consequences to our health. Within the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of "health", shift work is a risky condition at all three of their reference levels. It is a risk factor for health, it also perturbs the sleep/wake cycle and circadian rhythms, and it hampers family and social life.
Some of the health issues that have been linked to shift work include:
Some speculation on the cause of these health risks is that our sleep/wake cycle is disrupted, which affects the circadian rhythm, or body clock. Our bodies naturally are primed for the difference between day and night. In the morning, our body temperature starts to rise to wake us. Sunlight signals receptors into the eye, which sets off production of hormones that will help us thrive through the day. In the evening, our body temperature starts to drop and levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep, start to rise. When this circadian cycle is disrupted it can cause hormonal imbalances (including melatonin, reproductive hormones, insulin, hunger hormones, cortisol, seratonin and more), a rise in cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which all can lead to health problems.
These disruptions can also lead to insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality. This can lead to fatigue and loss of mental alertness, which could impact our ability to perform at our best. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders has officially defined the Shift Work Sleep Disorder (307.45-1) as one that "consists of symptoms of insomnia or excessive sleepiness that occur as transient phenomena in relation to work schedules".
Family and social life can become strained by working hours that don’t fit with the schedules of family and friends. Socializing with friends becomes difficult, since you are working during their leisure time. Singers with children may get insufficient or disrupted sleep by having to take care of young children or get children off to school in the morning. After school time may be taken up with rehearsals or teaching.
I personally experienced this with my children. When by kids were preschoolers, it was great – I’d have them all day and then my husband would come home and I would teach from late afternoon through the evening. Once they started school not so great. I’d start teaching as soon as they got home from school until their bedtime. It did cause strain and my kids did start having some behavioural problems until I was able to schedule some family time into my evenings.
What can we do?
For many singers there is little choice, but to continue to work evenings. If booking daytime gigs, like church work or singing at retirement homes isn’t going to do it for you, then there are some things you can do to try to make your schedule work for you and get your body primed for your work schedule.
Have you ever considered your singing schedule as shift work? I’d love to know how you cope with it and if you use any of these strategies. If you haven’t give them a try and let me know how you do.
Get more tips to optimize your singer’s health with my free Singer’s Wellness Guide. Click here to get your’s now.
April 16, 2019 marks World Voice Day this year. Every year there’s a theme; the 2019 World Voice Day Theme is “Be Kind With Your Voice” as developed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery as developed by its Voice Committee.
What does it mean to be kind with your voice?
What comes out of our mouths can have a deep effect on those around us.
As singer’s we have a special gift to communicate and touch people deeply through the use of music and words. Sharing that gift is certainly being kind with your voice. Studies have suggested many health benefits to listening to music:
Now those are some awesome benefits that you can provide with your voice!
Of course we also have to consider the spoken word. That has a huge impact, too. There’s a great expression: You have two ears and one mouth and it’s best to use them in that proportion.
Too often we speak more than we listen. Learning to choose your words wisely is the first part of being kind WITH your voice. Then we also have to consider the tone we use, our inflections and speed of speech.
Studies have shown that people who speak in a monotone are perceived to not care. High-pitched voices can become shrill and be perceived as defensive. Speaking at a fast pace can seem aggressive. Other qualities of voice that may give people a negative impression of the speaker are vocal fry (the gravelly sound that drives singing teachers mad!), which makes the speaker seem lazy and upspeak, which makes the speaker sound immature or less confident in what they are saying.
So if you have something to say, make sure you are choosing kind words and delivering them in a tone of voice that will not be mistaken for anything but kindness.
What are you doing to celebrate World Voice Day?
Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans have an allergic disease?
It’s lousy being that one in five as a singer, even worse when it’s an allergy that affects your respiratory tract.
It may be called hay fever, seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis, it all means the same thing to your instrument. Nasal congestion, sneezing, watery, itchy eyes, throat soreness, the need to clear your throat due to post nasal drip, pain and/or pressure in the ears, headaches and fatigue can play havoc on the voice. It will affect your resonance. You may even experience voice breaks, vocal fatigue or laryngitis.
Typical treatment with antihistamines and decongestants can dry out the mucosal surfaces of your mouth, pharynx and larynx, which can lead to problems affecting your vocal quality and your vocal stamina, as well as putting you at risk of vocal injury.
A quick Google search of "singing with allergies" produces a list of quick fixes from daily nasal washes to herbal teas to lining your nose with Vaseline. They may do in a pinch, but wouldn't it be nice if you could just get rid of the allergies.
There has been a marked increase in the allergies and asthma over the last few decades. This leads scientists to believe that it is not a genetic condition, but due to environmental and lifestyle factors. One of the largest factors being diet.
If you REALLY want some allergy relief, start by taking a good look at your plate. The best remedy for seasonal allergies may be increasing your consumption of plant-based foods. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains are rich in a variety of nutrients that work together to keep you healthy even during the height of allergy season.
Follow these tips and eat a balanced diet full of the foods below and hit the high notes instead of sneezing them:
1. Eliminate Processed Food:
Processed foods can contain additives, chemicals and other undesirable ingredients like refined sugar, refined flour and soy that might make your allergies worse. They also increase inflammation in the body, which makes your immune system have to work in overdrive. This entire process makes allergies more prevalent in the body, not to mention makes you feel run down and tired. Try to buy organic, since pesticides can also cause some people to react to a food as well.
2. Rule out Food Allergies:
If you have a known food allergy, then you are probably avoiding it. However, some people have low grade allergies or even unknown food allergies. During allergy season, when your immune system will be overwhelmed you may want to cut out these common allergens: wheat, barley, rye, dairy, soy, gluten, shellfish, nuts, and sesame.
3. Eat vitamin C rich foods:
If you eat a whole foods plant-based diet, you’re probably getting a good amount of vitamin C. This antioxidant is known for its role in keeping us healthy during cold and flu season, and it can also protect us from foreign invaders during allergy season. Some excellent sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, red bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
4. Carotenoid Rich Foods:
Dark green leafy vegetables, including seaweed are rich in carotenoids. As are orange coloured fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots. A study found that those with the highest level of total carotenoids in their blood stream (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, canthaxanthin and cryptoxanthin) had a significantly lower prevalence of seasonal allergies.
5. Quercitin Rich Foods:
This anti-oxidant has properties of an anti-histamine. It can reduce the inflammatory response throughout the body, including those that are caused by an increase in histamine levels when an allergic response occurs. Foods such as onions, apples, berries, broccoli, cherries, grapes, capers, and tea are all great sources of this important antioxidant. You need to regularly consume quercetin-rich foods to see the benefits, but since they are all healthy plant-foods, with many other amazing benefits, you should be eating them daily anyway!
6. Eat Garlic and Tumeric:
Garlic is a such a powerful, yet humble food. This one food has been linked to cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation, a healthier heart, and reduces inflammation in all parts of the body. Boost your immunity with a small serving every day. If you don’t like garlic, turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory food with incredible benefits, and may also help lower the allergic response you suffer during pollen season. You can easily have tumeric by adding it to curries or try some Golden Milk.
7. Eat Omega-3 Rich Foods:
Flax seeds chia seeds, walnuts are all great sources. Similar to the carotenoid finding, those with higher levels of both long and short chain omega-3 fatty acids in their blood stream were found to have less allergic rhinitis.
Hydration is more important than ever during allergy season! Drink lots of water (preferably with fresh lemon – citrus has been associated with lower allergy and asthma symptoms).
9. Reduce/Eliminate Meat:
One study on diet and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (runny nose/itchy eyes) confirmed that meat can increase the risk by 71%. Other studies have also shown the link between diets marked by greater intakes of meats, poultry, and seafood and greater risk of hayfever and asthma.
So start adding more fruits and veggies on your plate to replace the meat and processed foods and see how you do. (Bonus: these foods do so much more for you and your voice than just ease allergies)
What do you do to alleviate your allergies? I'd love to know, Leave a comment below.
Need motivation or help transitioning? Then join us in our Facebook community, Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice.
My friend Kate, a professional singer for a decade, had a rude awakening about 3 years ago. In the middle of singing a song her voice snapped. She had a vocal hemorrhage. On closer inspection it turned out she also had pre-nodules and significant stiffness in her right fold.
She chronicles her journey back to vocal health in her book “Just One Voice”, but one of the underlying causes of her injury was reflux.
This is the stuff singer’s nightmares are made of. The thing is many singers are not even aware of their reflux. When you feel heartburn or have a distinct backflow of acid to the back of your throat, you can be sure you are suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), but many singers don’t feel this, yet they may still experience Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR).
LPR occurs when stomach contents come up the throat in a gaseous form or as a mist. This allows for easy access to the larynx as the mist can be inhaled. And you won’t even know it.
Though it was previously thought that the acid was doing the damage, more current research suggests that it is actually not the acid, but inflammation due to the action of pepsin.
Pepsin is a digestive enzyme, specifically for the breakdown of protein. Guess what the pharyngeal and laryngeal tissue is made of? That’s right. Protein. So the pepsin is digesting your tissue! Gross!!! Right? The stomach has a special lining that prevents this from happening, but outside of the stomach all tissue is fair game for the pepsin.
To make matters worse, Even if pepsin stops digesting and lays dormant, it can be reactivated by acid. So that coke or orange juice you drink can be reactivating it starting the cycle all over again.
What does this mean to your voice?
If you have LPR you may be experiencing inflammation in the vocal folds and even a thinning of the epithelial layer of the vocal folds. This puts you at greater risk of nodules, polyps, and hemorrhages when you sing. It also increases the risk of laryngeal cancer (though this is still a very rare form of cancer at 1% incidence).
If you have a very active singing life, this is a disaster waiting to happen.
Look out for the symptoms:
Chronic cough and throat clearing
Feeling of a lump in the throat
See an ENT if you have any of the above issues that are not associated with a common cold and persist for more than 2 weeks.
What can you do?
I’ve already laid out some basics in Acid Reflux and the Singer: What Every Singer Needs to Know. Paying attention to what you eat does matter. There is now evidence that a plant-based diet together with alkaline water is as effective as proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy.
Why is the alkaline water important? Remember earlier I mentioned that the pepsin is active in acid (that's a pH of 2 – 6.9) and can be reactivated by coming into contact with more acid? Well, it turns out that pepsin is permanently deactivated in an alkaline environment.
An alkaline pH of 8 – 10 is most effective to deactivate pepsin.
You can buy alkaline water, or you can buy expensive machines that can mineralize your water to make it alkaline. It’s also possible to make your own by adding baking soda to water, however, this has a high sodium content, which is not recommended for your health. Buying bottled alkaline water may be the best way to go if can’t spring for a machine. If you are on a tight budget, then instead of drinking the baking soda water, try gargling after a meal.
These are the dietary steps Kate took to help with her reflux: An anti-inflammatory plant-based approach, avoiding triggers like soda, caffeine, chocolate, citrus, tomatoes and strong spices and alkaline water. Her folds are now pristine.
If you suspect you have reflux, get checked by and ENT, and if you want to get back on track vocally, you may be interested in The Fit Singer’s 14 Day Vocal Reset, which includes a reflux friendly meal plan.
Doucet, Kate J, Just One Voice A Book on Vocal Sustainability and Injury Prevention, 2018, Outskirts Press, Inc.
Colds, flu, sore throats. Winter is the time for getting sick. Of course that just won’t do for a singer. Every singer's nightmare is to get that tickle in the throat and sniffles coming on just before a performance.
Usually I try to promote prevention through a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, good nutrition, stress management, and sleep. However, there are times but even the best laid plans go awry.
So what’s a singer to do when that illness comes along?
Let's start with what you shouldn't do.
Do not sing with a severely sore throat.
Though you may be able to get by singing with a bit of a head cold if you feel it in your throat chances are your vocal folds are also inflamed and you put yourself at risk of vocal injury.
Don’t sing if you feel really lousy.
Aside from the possibility of inflammation in the vocal folds, if you are not feeling well and have to increase your effort to sing, you will put your voice at risk of vocal injury.
Do not use over the counter cough and cold medications if you are going to sing.
Many of them contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. These drugs will numb the pain and then you won't be able to feel if there is a vocal problem. You could end up with a vocal hemorrhage. Same goes for any herbal remedies that numb the pain, even good old Throat Coat tea is not safe to use if you are actively singing.
Do not drink alcohol.
Alcohol can affect your gut microbiome which is essential to your immune system. It's also a diuretic that will dry you out. When you're sick you need to hydrate more than ever.
Do not take antibiotics unless you know you have a bacterial infection.
Over-prescription of antibiotics is a problem these days. Taking antibiotics kills off good and bad gut bacteria throwing your immune system off balance.
Do not eat sugar.
If you feel a cold coming coming on, cut out the sugar and simple carbs. Sugar is inflammatory and lowers your immune system.
Do not use Facebook recommendations for wacky remedies.
Many can be ineffective and at worst can put you at risk of vocal injury. Ever hear of putting onions on your feet? Or using colloidal silver? Please, just don't.
Now let's talk about what you should do and some natural remedies that you can use.
Do increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Even if you haven't been eating them regularly before your cold they will still help boost your immune system and shorten the length and severity of your symptoms.
Drinking lots of water will improve your body's ability to function and fight off the infection. In addition to water, soups and herbal teas are great are great to have for hydration and may have other soothing and healing benefits. Some good herbal teas to include in your cold and flu fighting arsenal are ginger tea with lemon, marshmallow tea which is good at suppressing coughs and soothing sore throats, peppermint tea. You can also have water with a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar. Raw apple cider vinegar is known to kill germs and bacteria. Drink it a few times a day when you have a cold or flu.
Do make sure you are taking vitamin D.
Especially in Northern climates where we don't get much sunlight Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem and it is known to be important to your immune system. Read more on vitamin D here.
Steaming will help open up your sinuses and hydrate your vocal folds providing you with some relief. Adding some essential oils such as peppermint, rosemary or oregano can help clear up and soothe even more.
Do gargle with salt water.
Salt water can help kill germs lurking in the back of your throat.
Do some light vocalizing.
Using semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVT), especially straw phonation, can help with healing of inflamed vocal folds.
Do see an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist (ENT) if you are concerned or if symptoms last for more than two weeks.
You want to make sure you're voice stays healthy for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Here are a few other natural remedies you can try.
For congestion make a rub of coconut oil with a few drops of peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil. Other essential oils that are antibacterial and antiviral are thyme and rosemary which can be incorporated in rubs, steaming or diffusers.
Licorice root is known to soothe coughs however use in moderation and for no longer than two weeks at a time as there may be side effects from overuse.
Eat lots of garlic. Garlic is known to have natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. Try mashing two cloves of garlic with little bit of honey and lemon juice and chewing on this every 3 to 4 hours at the first signs of a cold.
Apply coconut oil to your nostrils and ears and mouth. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties make sure you were using unrefined coconut oil that will still have the enzymes in it. This will prevent entry of germs into your system it's a great preventative when you are traveling on planes where the air is very dry.
Try some of these strategies the next time you get sick. Let me know what works for you.
If you need help revitalizing your voice after a cold or flu then the 14 Day Vocal Reset is for you. Check it out here.
As the days get shorter and the clocks have recently fallen back, many of us in northern climes are lucky if we get to see the sun through the day. This can be a bad thing, especially when we talk about Vitamin D. This is especially so for singers who need to maintain their energy and immunity during this busy season.
When we think of "vitamins," we know they're super-important for health.
But vitamin D is special. First of all, it's not even really a vitamin, but actually a hormone.
And, unless you live in a warm sun-drenched climate, it's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency.
So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and as a hormone it helps us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function (this is especially important for us singers when cold and flu season hits hard), cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to low energy and getting sick more easily, but it can also lead to more serious problems such as to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. However, many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. The Endocrine Society recommends 1500 - 2000 IU for the average person (more if you have severe deficiency or are obese).
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.
Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving. As always, I lean to the whole food plant-based choices.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A, which is a potentially toxic vitamin if consumed daily in this form and should be avoided if you are pregnant). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
There is also some evidence to suggest that taking vitamin D3 may be more beneficial for longevity than vitamin D2 (the kind made by mushrooms), though either form will improve your blood levels
But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
I've given you some ideas how you can get your daily dose of vitamin D.
If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.