Maintaining Your Vocal Health

I get many questions about maintaining vocal health, not only from singers, but from people who use their voices for their work, and others who are just curious. While some of these suggestions are just common sense, others may not seem so obvious. Remember that you need a healthy body to have a healthy voice!

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you don’t eat organic food, be sure to rinse off pesticides from plants.
  • Avoid processed foods, excess sodium, and as many toxins as you can.
  • Use natural cleaning products in your home.
  • Avoid artificial fibers (you can inhale tiny bits as they decompose and some have sharp edges that might be able to cause microscopic damage).
  • Avoid artificial fragrances (fragrances in cosmetics, shampoos, etc. can have hundreds of undocumented chemicals, and toiletries are not regulated by the FDA). If those chemicals are undocumented, you don’t know what they do to you.
  • Drink water. If you don’t like plain water, consider a SodaStream or carbonated water. It’s just as good for you as regular water. If you still need flavor, add a teaspoon or so of fruit juice to plain water, or try infusing water with fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices.
  • Maintain proper humidity levels in your home. Dry air dries out your mucous membranes and can compromise your health. Use a humidity meter to maintain a level of 45-55% humidity year round. Not only is it good for you, this humidity level is ideal for your pets, plants, wood floors and furniture, and electronics.
  • Vacuum and dust regularly, and change your air filters often. If you have problems with dust, wear a mask for dusting, and consider investing in a new generation Roomba and micron filters for your air conditioning.
  • Honey is a great antibiotic; choose it over other sweeteners, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Try a variety of herbs and spices to boost your immune function.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Relax your muscles. Tense muscles can cause a number of vocal problems. A pillow that is filled with rice, millet hulls, buckwheat, flax, or similar grains can be heated (usually in the microwave) and is safe to wear at night, and comfortable in the winter. The heat will relax your muscles. If you can find a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ or anterior throat massage, or both, this kind of massage will also help to ease the strain on tight muscles and free up the vocal mechanism. You can also use a mild vibrating hand massager.
  • Wash your hands frequently with plain soap to avoid infection. Cough into the crook of your elbow to avoid spreading infection.
  • Choose hard surfaces over soft for furnishings and flooring. Soft surfaces are harder to remove dust from.
  • Take good care of your teeth, tongue, and gums. If you grind your teeth (if you don’t know, your dentist will), wear a guard.
  • If you have laryngitis, don’t whisper. If necessary, use text to communicate, or spend a few dollars to invest in a Magic Slate.

Stay healthy!

If you get the “creeping crud,” as one of my teachers called it, here’s what opera singers in Europe do:

  1. Get a coffee cup and fill it with dry red table wine (you don’t want the expensive stuff, but nothing sweet either).
  2. Heat it in the microwave as you would a cup of coffee. If you choose to heat it on the stove instead, unplug your carbon monoxide detectors first. Don’t forget to plug them back in.
  3. When it’s hot, add honey to taste.
  4. (Optional) Add a slice of lemon or orange, either fresh or dried
  5. “A sprinkle” is where you can count the individual grains, like 5-10.
    Add a sprinkle of the following:

    • pumpkin pie spice, or ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg
    • black pepper
    • cayenne pepper

    You might also try a sprinkle of:

    • star anise
    • cardamom
    • galangal

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