The Care and Feeding of the Voice Part IV

So, where was I? Oh, yes, in my last post we were talking about ‘vocal hygiene’. I shared with you how I’d been diagnosed with Silent Reflux, and how, despite the doctor’s best efforts to treat me, through the use of medication and diet, I was still plagued with the condition. That left mefunny-blond-woman-singing-shower-young-62675375 desperate to find a solution. So I went on a personal quest of my own. I thought…”I wasn’t born with reflux, which means it has to be something I’ve inadvertently caused.”

I decided to make an appointment with a Dr. of Naturopathy to see if they could help me unravel this mystery, and what I learned during that appointment was shocking. The diet changes I had made several months back, to lose and maintain my weight, were in fact the very cause of my reflux. It wasn’t that the foods themselves were bad; it was that they were bad ‘for me’. They had altered my pH in a way that was compromising my health and my livelihood. I also learned that certain foods I was consuming were causing my esophageal muscles, (which is where the stomach and esophagus join) to relax too much. This in turn was allowing acid to wash back up from the stomach, where it belongs, into the throat, where it does not.

At the conclusion of our first meeting the doctor asked me to take the first step to restoring my voice, by taking steps to restore my pH.  She asked me to start what is known as The Elimination Diet. Here is a link if you would like to know more about it ( I thought, “Oh know, here we go again…another diet.”  But she assured me that this diet would help me to identify the foods that were causing my pH to be overly acidic, and which ones were causing inflammation. She said once we figured that out, I would have the information I needed to tailor my diet to suit my needs, and begin to heal my gut.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought. I certainly had nothing to lose. So I jumped in with both feet. I also decided, on my own, to begin testing, and keeping track of my pH (In case you are wondering…your ideal pH is 7.30 to 7.45.) Anything below this number is considered to be acidic, and conversely, anything above it is considered to be alkaline.  Here is what I discovered ‘For Me’ and I emphasize that point because what may be right for me, may not be right for you. But for me the following foods were my trouble-makers and needed to be avoided. The key is to pay attention to the foods that affect your body and avoid them.

Foods that made me acidic.
  • Wine
  • Chocolate
  • Large quantities of animal protein
  • Unfermented dairy
  • Coffee
  • Chilies
  • Peppers
  • Sugar
Foods that caused inflammation:
  • Unfermented  dairy
  • Soy
  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Yeast
  • Grains
  • White potatoes
  • Sugar/Chocolate

Now, I know what you’re thinking as you look at this list. You’re thinking, “Well, then, what does she eat?” But I assure you, I eat very well. I don’t skimp on flavor, and I enjoy a broad variety of foods, and whatever sacrifices I have made have been well worth it, because in reducing, or in some cases eliminating these triggers altogether, my voice is back and better than ever.  My pH is exactly where it’s supposed to be, and I no longer suffer from silent reflux.

The lesson here… Don’t ignore your diet. If you are experiencing gravel, or hoarseness in your voice, and you haven’t been sick, if you are constantly clearing your throat, and dealing with excessive, unwanted phlegm, and you don’t have environmental allergies, or a cold, then look to your diet. It may well be that you are experiencing either reflux, or inflammation. If that is the case, then I can speak from personal experience when I say, you can correct the problem by correcting your diet. It is worth it if you are a serious professional.

Does that mean I never have chocolate, red meat or wine? Are you CRAZY? I can’t live without chocolate or wine, and I enjoy an occasional steak, but I do it in moderation, and never before a performance. I reserve my indulgences for the weekend, and when I do indulge, I don’t overindulge.

Now, for the sixth and final measure to ensure the health and longevity of your voice…my avoid list. Some of these should be common sense, but you’d be surprised.

Avoid Smoking:16138-illustration-of-a-no-smoking-symbol-th Smoking greatly compromises your health, but it also compromises your breathing by degrading lung function, which leads to decreased airflow through the vocal cords. The smoke itself, whether primary or secondary, dries and irritates the tissue of the throat giving way to, wait for it… Acid Reflux.

Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption: There are many dangers surrounding the use of alcohol on and off the stage. An occasional social drink, or glass of wine is not an issue, however a regular habit is. Regular consumption of alcohol is drying to the vocal cords. It acts as an agent of dehydration. 287-colored-wine-glasses-thRemember what I said in my second post in this series? Dryness is enemy number one for the vocal cords. Dryness, caused by alcohol consumption, kicks the body into excessive mucous production in order to compensate for the dryness.  The singer then finds themselves having to constantly clear their throat to move the excess mucous off their cords. Alcohol also impairs the motility of the vocal folds, and it impairs our perception of discomfort. So we may be using our voice in a way that is unhealthy, but due our sensory impairment, not be aware that we’re doing damage to the cords. Finally, alcohol is a contributing factor in, oh, here it is again…Acid Reflux.

Avoid Cocaine Use: Here are just some of the possible outcomes of Cocaine use…drugs-line-money-9886107Septal perforation, Chronic Laryngitis, Permanent Hoarseness, Asthma/Reactive Airway, Chronic Cough, Loss of vocal range, Chronic vocal fatigue. Is is worth it?

Friends, I can’t imagine not being able to use my voice to sing. I can’t imagine it. I know personally, how frightened I was when faced with the possibility of losing my ability to teach and sing. There are so many people who do not have our ability and would give anything to have it. Respect your voice. Respect your craft. Take care of it, and your voice will serve you for a very long time. See you after the Holidays. Cheers!

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