This is probably one of my biggest sacrifices as a working singer. I LOVE SPICY FOOD but the voice usually does not. I don’t give up spicy foods full time, but I definitely eliminate them for studio/performance days. Every singer is different in tolerance but spicy foods, which often lead to heartburn/acid reflux, affect vocal quality.
So let’s look at the bad and then we’ll look at the good!
BAD: Anything spicy or too oily.
This includes fast food!
“These foods are bad for the singing voice as they grease up your throat and cause phlegm (mucus).
Spicy foods in particular also cause heartburn.
While eating these once in a while may be fine, try to avoid eating these foods on performance day!”
Spicy foods can massively affect your tone. Also you’ll find yourself [wanting to or] clearing your throat more excessively. When you clear your throat you’re basically aggressively clapping your vocal cords together (like you would clap your hands 👏) and this unfortunately, may lead to excess vocal fatigue.
Check out my blog all about CLEARING YOUR THROAT. I include numerous tips on how to stop clearing your throat and tips to soothe/manage that ‘stuck’ feeling in the throat.
Most take out joints have mass amounts of salt that otherwise you wouldn’t put in food made at home. Excess salt dehydrates the vocal cords because it absorbs the moisture there. No moisture in the vocal cords makes it so difficult to sing. Your vocal cords need proper lubrication in order to function with the flexibility needed for singing. Singing is the ultimate fine motor skill, and you need dexerity!
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE:
“Milder spices are great in moderation and can help alleviate a cold, reduce breathing problems, clear congestion and help with voice recovery.”
TURMERIC, GARLIC, CAYENNE PEPPER ARE ACTUALLY GOOD for the singer!
Let’s tackle the acid reflux ‘killer.’
*I’ll put a disclaimer here: If you feel like you might have chronic symptoms due to acid reflux and not just the occasional heartburn from a bad diet day, consult a professional. Head to your ENT to get checked out. I’m all about prevention over treatment.*
“In the case of reflux, what your doctor is looking for is redness and irritation in the larynx and on the back of the vocal folds.”
As stated in the source listed below, “while acid reflux presents with real physical symptoms, in my experience, stress– and our inability to manage it effectively– is the number one cause of reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).”
“In some people, small amounts of stomach juice can spill back into the upper throat (pharynx) affecting the back of the voice box (larynx) causing irritation and hoarseness. This is known as laryngo-pharyngeal reflux (LPR). It is often called 'silent reflux' because many people do not experience any of the classic symptoms of heartburn or indigestion.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MANAGE THE SYMPTOMS!
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
Use moderation in your diet (limit coffee, carbonated sodas, citrus juices, etc).
Avoid spicy and oily foods.
Avoid dairy if you have persistent mucus.
Use a portable steamer.
Nasal saline rinse.
Gargle with warm salt water.
DRINK MORE ROOM TEMPERATURE WATER.
Drink warm teas (licorice, peppermint, lemon + ginger)
Get quality sleep and rest.
Try some activities that relieve stress, like walking in the sun or reading a book.
DON’T PUSH THE VOICE.
When it comes to singing with reflux, my favorite expression is: No Compensating! Your voice may feel thick, slow, and rigid, but resist all temptation to push through and ‘fix’ these sensations.
Imagine you have a knot in your shoulder. Banging on it won’t help matters; slow, repeated massage will help to loosen its grip. The same is true when dealing with reflux. Be gentle, and be patient. Begin to speak and mindfully use your singing voice as soon as you wake up, and plan for a much longer warm up prior to a performance, rehearsal, or training session.
While your throat is indeed red and irritated where the acid has come back up through the vocal tract, save for few exceptions, it is safe to sing with reflux so long as you don’t push. It’s akin to being a bit tight after a particularly hard workout the day before; you just need to take extra care stretching and easing into the next workout to prevent injury. If you’re patient and hydrated, your voice will come around and you should be able to sing– and sound– as you usually do.”
There is so much information that I could give to you in this blog but for now, I would recommend these 2 sources to go and peruse at your own discretion.
It’s so important to me to advocate for healthy, preventative singing. I practice it in my daily life. Last year I learned the hard way, even though I knew better. I had a very spicy lunch the day of a huge headline performance. I was to sing a full hour set of my most extensive songs from the previous television shows I had been on. I did end up feeling like I burned my vocal cords and had to pull out all my tricks to try and soothe my voice to manage the performance. I ended up needing 2 full days to recover vocally when normally, I don’t need recovery time. Anyway, shame on me! I pushed my limits. Sometimes I’m ok with a bit of hot sauce but this meal was overboard with spicy salami and spicy olives and blah blah! The performance did go well but it’s very dangerous to act this way. I could have caused damage and most singers who don’t have the experience, could have caused undue injury to their voice.
Just some “FOOD FOR THOUGHT!” 😂
See you soon + stay warm! Cx