Apr 23 2010

Water it! Feed Your Voice, Part 2

Published by at 4:53 PM under Musings


You probably don’t realize how much fluid you expend…and expel (as in, sorry, spit!)… as a power voice user.    That coupled with how much one perspires under stress,  and it’s obvious  that power voice users are also power fluid users.  In this post we talk about drinking enough water, and some other, perhaps surprising information about hydration and foods.

Hydration is key to energy.
Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can slow your metabolism and decrease energy. The Mayo Clinic says , “If you’re an average adult, every day you lose more than 10 cups (close to 2.5 liters) of water simply by sweating, breathing and eliminating waste. You also lose electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body. Normally, you can replenish what you’ve lost through the foods and liquids you consume, even when you’re active.” But if you are more active than usual, or are using your voice,  you need to step up your intake of fluids.

Hydration is key to making the body work better and keeping the voice lubricated.
Signs of dehydration will begin to show with as little as a 2% deficit of fluids in the body.  In addition, the voice is a low-priority organ, so if you become even a little dehydrated, your heart, lungs and brain will get the fluid first.  Then your voice will suffer, becoming scratchy and irritated, much as your automobile will begin to have problems when it is not lubricated properly.

How to stay hydrated
Drink water first.  It’s a great idea to keep water on hand and sip it throughout the day, particularly if you are presenting, singing, or simply speaking a lot during the day.  However, the question is, how much do you need?  We used to hear that you needed at least 8 eight-ounce glasses a day.  In an article by Dr. Barbara Mathis, professor of music at Lamar University, she discusses the recommendations of noted otolaryngologist, the late Dr. Van Lawrence,  recommending 8-12 glasses of water a day.  In addition, he advised that professional voice users keep the humidity level at about 40% in the surrounding environment, using a humidifier if necessary to keep it at this level.  Recently, however, the prescribed amount has changed.  Today, the general theory is that you need water, but mostly you need to stay hydrated.  If you start to get a headache or show any other signs of dehydration, you need to do something about it.

Drink other liquids: To tea or not to tea, that is the question (Happy birthday, Wm. Shakesepeare!).   In my online poll on Twitter, one person said to stay away from tea because of the caffeine, while another said that tea helps them stay focused.  The American Dietetic Association suggests that both green and black tea have been shown to have healing properties.  And Dr. Murray Grossan, otolaryngologist at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, reminds us that, in addition to hydration, warm liquids help the cilia of the nose and bronchial passages move quickly so they can defend the respiratory system against contagions. And by the way,  the latest consensus on caffeine is that, everyone reacts differently to it so you have to listen to your body.

Eat foods that hold fluid.  20% of your fluid can come from the food that you eat.  Fruits and vegetables are good sources of hydration.  Look for food that is plump with water such as grapes, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes.  Before speaking or singing, avoid dry, packaged snacks and go for the vegies.   In addition, pasta, dried beans and foods that need to be rehydrated to be consumed are fluid-filled and they are good choices for meals leading up to your presentation or performance.

Eat foods rich in potassium and other electrolytes. One of the best fruit choices for hydration is cantaloupe.  It is high in potassium, an electrolyte, which regulates the body’s heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Electrolytes help you stay hydrated.  Potassium-rich foods that contain other electrolytes include: plain coconut water, potatoes, avocado, and lima beans.

Energize it!  Feed Your Voice, Part 3

If you have other tips to share on staying hydrated through your choice of food, please leave a comment.  Also, if you have specific questions regarding “feeding your voice,”  leave a comment.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you.   For links to recipes, please visit Kate’s Voice on Facebook.

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