Last winter I started to lose my voice from what I thought was a seasonal coughing allergy. I was very distraught. This was detrimental, as I do freelance voicework and had to put myself out of commission for many months, since the only vocal impression I could do was Carol Burnett's warble. I was desperate for some good advice, and looked to some old friends from my radio past for their suggestions.
Darryl Law, Co-Host of The Morning Buzz on 107.5 Dave Rocks
Darryl knows that when he gets a cold, it’s his voice that suffers right away.
“[Drink] tons and of water and try not to push it too much.”
Darren McPeake, Mountain Mornings Host on 107.1 Mountain FM
“I do drink Throat Coat a lot and always have water when I’m on air.”
Throat Coat® is a herbal tea described as “smooth and silky” from the Traditional Medicines website.
Christina Rowsell, Voice Actor, Radio Host on Soft Rock 97.7
It seems Christina favours the advice of speech therapists when it comes to breathing techniques and the age-old advice of not talking loudly, if at all.
“…once you have damaged vocal cords, you'll always have problems. When I get a cold, my voice is the first to go. I’ll drink hot water, and refrain from talking, whispering and throat clearing.”
Samantha Stevens, The Samantha Stevens Show on Peggy 99.1
“…there's a product called Entertainers Secret. It's a throat spray. Check places like Long and McQuade or online.” (Confirmed: Entertainer’s Secret can be found at Long & McQuade.)
My throat irritation was a fifteen year-old problem that escalated during the winter months. I had seen allergists and pulmonologists. I’ve had x-rays. I’ve taken medication(s). No one could figure out how to help me. While the advice to lay low and drink water is certainly necessary, I learned that something else is important when it comes to healing the voice: your diet.
In March, my doctor referred me to an otolaryngologist, who immediately identified that I had irritable laryngeal syndrome which made matters worse. From what? Coughing, of course. But why was I coughing? It was my ignorance of having a gastrointestinal disorder. I was placed on the GERD diet and prescribed 10mg daily of rabeprazole.
My toughest challenge was eliminating ginger ale and coffee. The rest of the diet I could handle. I hadn’t realized what an addict I was to caffeine and carbonation. After a few days, I noticed that my coughing had just stopped.
Another trick was to drink small sips of water, then pucker my lips and blow (as if I was blowing a balloon). Doing this for one minute each time I started a coughing fit helped train the muscles in my throat to adjust in such a way that didn’t irritate the nerves. The muscle movement from drinking water also helps relax the muscles around the trachea. After one day of this exercise, I felt much better.
I had no idea that the food I was eating could trigger acid reflux in a painless way. Mint, nuts, cheese, citrus fruits, tomatoes, avocados, coconuts, and “too many” eggs. According to the Digestive Health Institute, these foods and others can cause over-fed bacteria to create an excessive amount of gas which causes pressure in the digestive system. When these gases open up the stomach to the esophagus, acids can make their way to the throat causing irritation.
During the healing process, I switched over to foods that protected my esophagus such as fruits and vegetables (aside from the ones I mentioned), pasta, hot cereal, skim milk, rye and whole wheat bread, and herbal teas. Meals could be made with mild spices, and I was allowed [home made] desserts that did not contain chocolate or nuts. Slowly I could incorporate coffee again, but to this day I’m limited to one cup each morning, and no coffee after 10:00am.
If you talk or sing for a living, or you simply cherish your ability to communicate with your voice, think of the *advice from my friends in broadcast who know what works when it comes to healing the voice. (*Always speak with your doctor first, and only use any products mentioned with your doctor's approval and at your discretion.)
But I want my voice heard too. Prevent throat and vocal cord problems from occurring by looking after your digestive health first. I've learned now that a good diet not only makes you look and feel better, but it can make you sound better too.