Greetings, fellow singers and friends! I am excited to present to you something I have wondered for a long time--something that could possibly open a whole new field of study--how eating and drinking affects the voice.
An understanding of the different parts of the throat, and what it takes to actually sing is essential to proper singing technique. The major parts of the voice include the vocal folds, the larynx, salivary glands, and the diaphragm. The vocal folds (commonly known as vocal cords) are a pair of bands of mucous membrane stretched across the larynx. They vibrate, regulating the flow of air from the lungs. The vocal folds are controlled by the vagus nerve which opens them during inhalation, closes them when holding one’s breath, and vibrates them for speech or singing. The larynx is called the voice box because it is a major source of sound in speech. The larynx generates sound when the vocal folds open and close letting air pass in and out. The air from the lungs passes over the vocal cords and the vibrations are modified by the tongue and lips to produce speech. The salivary glands are in and around the mouth and lay directly on the vocal folds themselves. When salivary glands are stimulated, the mouth starts to water and the vocal folds are hydrated and moisturized. When you eat or drink something this process of the moisture reaching and affecting the vocal folds takes about twenty minutes. The diaphragm is the thin, dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. The diaphragm is the main muscle the body uses to breathe. When the diaphragm moves downward, the lungs expand and pull air into the body. When it moves up, air is forced out of the lungs. Breath is the fuel of the voice, so the stronger the diaphragm is the more control you have over the voice.
There are many factors that can influence the quality of the voice; two of the most important are what you eat and what you drink. Dr. Barbara Mathis in the article Singers, Let’s Prevent Vocal Problems! says “most people involved in voice education and singing recognize that singing is athletic” (Singers, Let’s Prevent Vocal Problems!). She explains that even being slightly overweight can affect the respiratory system and therefore affect how you sing. As a result, exercise and proper nutrition can help keep the voice healthy, but many singers question what specific foods and drinks are okay for the voice. Dr. Barbara Mathis says that water is extremely important, and that habits that dry out the nose and throat such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages should be avoided. Mathis does not go on to talk about food, because she states that general rules of good health for the body apply.
Dan Parilis may disagree, particularly in his article Vocal Brilliance where he discusses the foods and drinks he is aware of that help the voice. Although many believe in the old wives tale that sugar is harmful to the voice, Dan Parilis assures us that it is false. He says...