Health & Nutrition For Singers
How to stay healthy is at the forefront of every professional singer's career. Nothing is more uncomfortable than having to perform when you are not feeling well. As a singer, there will be many times when you will be under stress, the misfortune of illness or struggling from a lack of rest or dehydration. Here is the latest tips and trade secrets on how to keep your voice in the best of health under all circumstances!
The best way to keep your vocal instrument hydrated and moist at all times is to drink 8 glasses of water a day. 80% of most vocal problems are due to a lack of water in the body. One of our consulting ENT's, Dr. Stephen Rothstein from NYU, says repeatedly that if people drank enough water he would lose over half of his clientele. Think about that for a moment.
Symptoms of dehydration among others are : a dry sore throat upon rising; dry, cracked lips ; being thirsty (being thirsty means you are already dehydrated); body aches and pains; stomach problems; stomach ulcers. It takes a minimum of 20 minutes for the water you drink to reach your larynx, so you need to drink throughout the day, not just at the time of singing. Studies show that drinking water through a straw will help to eliminate the need to rush to the bathroom frequently and improve your body's absorption of water. When your voice is hydrated, the vocal folds are lubricated and singing is easy.
So how much water do you need? On a regular basis you should take in 8 glasses of water a day. Three days before a performance increase your intake to 10-12 glasses.
A great book to read about the importance of water and health is "Your Body's Many Cries For Water" by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., at Watercure.com
OTHER WAYS TO HYDRATE
You know how sometimes you are drinking a lot of water, but you still feel dry? Steaming is your cure. Heat a large pot water and steam with a towel over your head and steam for 15 minutes a day. Add a drop or two of lavender and eucalyptus oils (3 drops in a pot of water) or just steam with plain water.
** Singer Trivia **
In FemaleMusican.com's interview April 2003 with Cyndi Lauper, the brilliant diva talks about the necessity of steaming to keep her vocal chops in top shape!
Gargling with warm salt water is instantaneous hydration for the throat and vocal cords. Gargle 3-5 times for thirty seconds as needed or before performance for extra moisture. We like to add a few sloshes of Throat Coat tea to our salt water gargle. We have found that Throat Coat tea decreases inflammation and lubricates the cords along with salt water.
** Singer Trivia **
We hear that Celine Dion gargles with warm salt water and Karo syrup before her performances!
We also use a saline nasal spray to hydrate the nasal passages. We like the over-the-counter "AIR" saline nasal spray, available at most drugstores.
Eating moisture rich hydrating foods is yet another way to keep your hydration level up. Watermelon is the most hydrating food we recommend. All other melons are excellent sources as well. Stay away from citrus fruits which have a high acid content and can dry the throat of natural moisture. Vegetables with a high water content like bok choy, celery, escarole etc. are great choices. We at Cari Cole Voice Studios, recommend broth soups with fresh veggies before performances and rehearsals. For those of you in Manhattan, try the vegetable chicken noodle soup from Sam's Noodle Shop! Luciano Pavarotti always raves about pasta before a performance and one day we decided to try it.. but without the acidic content of tomato sauce... and now we are all addicted to Sam's. Nothing like broth and carbs to boost energy levels! We also recommend juicing and extra nutrition like Sunrider herbal food formulas. We'll talk about these foods coming up next!
2. Healthy Foods
No doubt about it, your state of health is strongly influenced by the food you feed your body. What goes in to your body can either create health or destroy it.
Eating from a natural menu is best. Foods that are closest to their natural sources generally have the most nutrition and natural vitamins. Some experts believe in a raw food diet. While we have tried this diet and love it, who has the time to prepare it? There are however several ways to include fresh and natural foods in your diet.
Eat fresh fruits one to two servings a day. Go organic when you can. Watermelon is the an excellent way to hydrate! Juicy fruits with a high water content is the way to go. Avoid citris fruits.
** Singer Trivia **
On Christina Aguilera's last tour, the singer required a "small fruit platter of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums and whole bananas (all organic), along with echinacea capsules and no Styrofoam or plastic goods to be used. (environmentally conscious diva!)
Eat lots of fresh vegies two to three servings a day. Go organic when you can. Moisture rich veggies will hydrate you - bok choy, greens, salads, etc..
Consume whole grains brown, red (wehani) and wild rice, oatmeal, kasha, bran, wheat breads and pastas etc. (some of you may have an allergy to wheat or notice an overabundance of mucous from wheat products.)
Eat fresh beans, hummus and soy products (tofu, seitan, soy milk etc.) - excellent sources of protein for vegetarians.
3. Finding Your Body's Proper Weight
When the body and mind are healthy the body will find it's natural healthy weight. Most overweight problems stem from a lack of ease with one's body, environment and life. Some overweight problems are caused by a lack of eating the right foods, but for the most part it is a sign of ill health.
Fat Flush by Ann Louise Gittleman - imagine a Healthy Atkins diet with lots of fresh vegetables? Ann Gittleman's new book brings us the healthy way to lose weight. She suggests drinking "cran water" a blend of unsweetened cranberry juice with water all through the day along with supplementing the diet with Omega 3's (sooo healthy) and other vitamins to assist the body in losing weight. We give this book ***** five stars!
For those of you interested in Sunrider foods, it is true that as your body finds greater health, the weight drops away. We use these foods for our singers who are on the road and can't prepare healthy food. Great supplement to diner food!
Another approach to weight loss is through the mind. Some things in life, no matter how hard you try, are so hard to change because of our unconscious beliefs buried deep within. In this case hypnosis is a valuable tool.. check it out at: DStressDoc.com
4. De-tox and Regeneration Program
De-tox is a radical way to improve health. However we recommend being guided through the process by a professional nutritionist for the best and safest results. De-tox flushes the toxins into the bloodstream and you don't want to do it too quickly or you'll end up in bed with a stomach ache and flu-like symptoms.
We do recommend de-tox at a slower pace on a daily basis. There are de-tox teas available at health food stores (be careful to dilute these teas or the toxins will flush too quickly). Our favorite Sunrider products are Fortune Delight and Calli tea. These two products are daily cleansers. Fortune Delight cleans the lymphatic system and Calli tea cleans environmental toxins from the body. We give our singers both products on a daily basis for preventative care and health maintenance. Using these products keeps the toxins flushing out and the chances of coming down with a virus, even if exposed, are greatly reduced.
Regeneration is a new word to our ears. It is all about feeding the body the right nutrition so it can "regenerate" it's way back to health. The philosophy of regeneration is that the body is the healer. Give the body the right nutrition and health is yours! Imagine if you ate Twinkies all day long? Or... imagine if you ate all organic foods? Do you think your body would work better? Regenerate your body with organic foods!
5. Stress Reduction
We've all hear about it and try our best to avoid it, but fall into it's unavoidable grasp every so often. Stress seems best described as a cumulative effort by forces outside us and inside us met with our very own "resistance". Basically said, stress is "being somewhere we don't want to be" or "doing something our heart is not into". Given that stress is the number one cause of disease and illness, our understanding of, and ability to work with it is our saving grace. Here are the ways we teach our students to work with the stress in their lives and demanding schedules.
YOGA & EXERCISE
Yoga and exercise get the stress out! Try bending into a downward dog in yoga and taking a deep breath. Two or three of those life challenges already seem smaller... We teach a yogic approach to breathing and alignment at our studio. Yoga opens the body and softens the hard places releasing stress and tension. This creates a dramatic shift in posture, balance and alignment so important for the singer. Yogic breathing reaches deep inside the body opening the diaphragmatic movement and strengthening the core of breathing while releasing stress and tension.
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, enlivens and energizes us instantaneously. We teach our singers to use aerobics regularly and especially the day of performance to open the lungs and relieve stress. Running, swimming, jumping rope (great for a hotel room workout on tour), biking, spinning class or just walking up and down stairs opens your breathing and gets the stress out!
** Singer Trivia **
We've heard that Frank Sinatra used to work on his lungs by swimming underwater holding his breath...
OTHER WAYS TO CHILL OUT..
Hot baths, (in the comfort of your own home) whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms - a great way to unwind - find a gym that has these or go to your local day spa once a week for a refresher -Takes the edge off. For hot baths, try adding BATH THERAPY - a natural inexpensive mineral bath for aches and pains - with a few drops of lavender or rosemary oil... and rela-a-a-x.
Massage, we call it bodywork, once a month - Bodywork is not a luxury for singers! Read these words again - Bodywork is not a luxury for singers! So go do it! No singer wants tense muscles - they contract and mute the voice. Acupuncture is a great way to release muscle tension. If you don't like to be poked and prodded - try some other effective treatments like water therapy, guided meditation or visualization. Try a meditation class or listen to a guided meditation cd. Great for chilling out. Meditation and visualization create the space you need to reflect and think clearly. Create some space in your mind!!
We hope these suggestions and tools have enlightened your load and given you the insight you need to be healthier, happier and a better singer!
We wish you the very best of luck - go out there and sing your heart out!
This article is reprinted with the permission of Cari Cole. Cole is a prominent vocal coach and artist, who is the head of the Cari Cole Vocal Studio in New York City. For more info, please visit her website: www.vocalmag.com.