We’ve already spoken at length about what foods and drinks can be healthy and beneficial for the voice. Now, let’s spend some time on what to avoid; what foods and drinks can be inhibitive, and potentially detrimental, for the voice.

Vitamin Dgetty_rm_photo_of_dairy_products

We’ll start with the obvious culprit: DAIRY.

Yes, indeed…milk products being potentially harmful to the voice is another well established belief that just so happens to be completely true. Consuming dairy products can cause a thick, heavy phlegm to form and coat the vocal folds (not to be confused with the thin, protective mucosal lining that coats the folds, that is both healthy and vital to a well functioning voice). With the vocal folds coated and weighed down by this phlegm, the normal amount of air pressure required to make them vibrate just won’t do the trick. We end up having to use more air pressure just get our phlegm-laddened vocal folds to vibrate the way they normally do…and as I’ve mentioned before , using extra pressure for singing can be inefficient and limiting to start, and potentially harmful and damaging overall to your voice. orangejuice

Also try to avoid pasteurized citric-acid rich juices (orange, lemon, grapefruit); they are also phlegm inducing and create a similar effect.

Again, this is not to be confused with the freshly squeezed stuff; freshly squeezed juices are great.

Other drinks/foods that can cause a similar phlegm: Processed soy products, like soy milk and soy yogurt. Yes, I know…many people tout soy products as a flawless replacement for the demon-dairy. Unfortunately, soy isn’t really much better. It causes the same kind of phlegm, and can also cause gas if you’re not used to using it. A belly full of gas is never a good thing when you’re trying to sing. A better dairy replacement than Soy Milk would be Almond Milk. It’s highly nutritious, without the digestive issues. If you don’t believe me, do a couple of google-searches: “Soy Milk Vs. Almond Milk”, “Soy Milk Dangers”, “Almond Milk Dangers”…you’ll see what I mean.

As long as we’re talking about drinks, another culprit is alcohol.

It’s a diuretic, so it draws moisture right out of the body. Ever notice when you’re out having a few drinks, and you find yourself having to urinate a lot? “Man, this beer’s really running through me!” What you’re actually doing is not only peeing out the moisture from the beer/wine/liquor itself, but you’re also losing a lot of moisture that was in your system before you even took your first alcoholic sip.


When I have a few drinks, I make it a point to re-hydrate at the same time. For each beer or drink or two that I have, I’ll drink a glass of water. You should try to do the same; doing so will keep you amply hydrated, despite the effects of the alcohol you’re imbibing. Similarly, though to a lesser degree, try to curb your consumption of caffeine-containing products. Caffeine is also a diuretic, though not to the same degree that alcohol is. So, if you can avoid it, don’t drink a liter of Coca Cola before a recording session. While we’re on the subject of soda: any drinks containing carbonation also aren’t great choices for pre-singing beverages. They fill your stomach with a large surplus of air, and with your diaphragm pushing against the walls of your stomach with every breath you take, they can cause cramping, burping, or hiccups while singing. Wrapping up the “drinks” portion of this article: as was mentioned in VOCAL HYGIENE – PART 3: Dietary “Do-s”, you should absolutely avoid drinking cold liquids before you sing. The exact reasons why will be discussed in a later article, but for time being, rest assured: cold liquids are a no-no. Stick with hot, warm, or room temperature liquids.

Moving on from liquids…in addition those of a dairy or soy-based persuasion, what kinds of foods should be avoided before you sing?

To start, you’ll want to try and stay away from overly salty or spicy foods. And again, I’m not saying you should avoid them entirely, any more than I’m saying you shouldn’t have the occasional ice cream sundae;

Selection of Indian curry dishes including prawn biriani, chicken jalfrezi, madras, Bombay aloo, vegetable samosas and rice.

Selection of Indian curry dishes including prawn biriani, chicken jalfrezi, madras, Bombay aloo, vegetable samosas and rice.

but the last thing you want to do is have a spicy curry dish or a salty pork dish before vocalizing. Salty foods not only dry out the throat, but also draw moisture right out of the body. Spicy foods can do the same thing salty foods do. They also dry out and irritate our throats, causing our old arch-nemesis, phlegm, to form and coat the vocal folds. You should also try and stay away from foods that are overly processed. Fast food, frozen dinners from the supermarket…anything that has been altered dramatically from its natural state with chemicals and chemical reactions, *heat, and blast freezing, etc., should be avoided before you sing. Anything the body has difficulty breaking down will cause you stress, and cost you valuable energy that you should be devoting to your performance, not to mention dehydrating the heck out of you in the process. Again, if you want to go out for the occasional Big Mac or Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, I won’t stop ya…just at least try not to do it on the day when you’ll be singing, or, at the very least, do it after you’re finished. (*Just to clarify: when I talk about food that is altered dramatically from its natural state with heat, I’m not referring to ordinary foods that you cook or order to have cooked for you before you eat,; I’m not saying you have to eat everything raw. (: Meats, breads, or vegetables that are purchased as-is and prepared/cooked in your home or a restaurant do not fall into the same category as something that is over-processed ahead of time, pre-prepared, and altered with flash heat, chemicals, and preservatives, and frozen, like a Big Mac or a TV dinner.) I’m sure I don’t need to get into details when I say that cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs are also extremely bad for the voice and should be avoided in general if possible, but especially before you sing.

One final biggie to avoid: MENTHOL. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT good for your voice at all.

Let me paint a picture for you: you have a sore throat…what do you do? You take a HALLS Menthol throat drop…and you feel this nice, cool sensation soothing the back of your throat. What can be wrong with that? Remember when we talked about that protective mucosal lining that protects the vocal folds? Well, the menthol literally STRIPS AWAY that protective lining, and dilates the blood vessels in your throat in the process. Now, since your throat is presumably around the same temperature asHustenbonbon your body (97-98.7 degrees), what do you think happens to your bare, unprotected vocal folds and dilated throat blood vessels when you inhale air that is cooler than 97-98.7 degrees into your throat? You guessed it: you feel a “cool, soothing sensation”…cold air hitting your unprotected throat and folds! Sucking on a Halls, or Fisherman’s Friend, or a similar menthol product when your voice and throat are compromised isn’t really any different than going on a hike or a marathon when you’re sporting a badly sprained ankle; you’re adding a stressing element to something that is already compromised. A better choice would be a Slipper Elm Throat Lozenger, or Liquorish Root, or tea made out of either Slippery Elm or Liquorish Root. There are also some fantastic all-natural throat sprays that are phenomenal for helping you work through dry throat and vocal strain. We’ll discuss those elements, and several others, further in an upcoming article on herbs, products, supplements, and practices that can have miracle effects on the voice and throat. In the meantime, eat well, drink well, and sing well.

Have a question about singing technique, voice training, or performance, or an article you’d like to see written? ASK DAN.

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