December is here and with it comes the holiday season.  There are over fourteen spiritual holidays celebrated in the month of December capped off with New Year’s on the 31st.  It is a time of reflection, remembering to shine a light in the darkness, and eating/drinking everything in sight (Just me?).

So what is all that indulging doing to your voice anyway.  I’m so glad you asked.

Nothing you eat, actually touches your vocal cords which is awesome because choking really sucks (or so I’ve heard).  The biggest issue with all of these end of year treats and indulgences is that our digestive and immune systems can’t handle it all.

Immune System – Let’s face it, some of us love foods that don’t really agree with us (I’m looking at you, eggnog).  When we eat these things we suffer mild allergic reactions such developing excess mucous.  When we eat them in excess, we are just asking for a more complex reaction.  These issues rarely begin in the vocal folds but they almost always end up there.

Moderation is for monks, and voice users.  Sorry.

Digestive System – Your stomach has a capacity.  If you have ever felt over-full you understand that it is possible, if unpleasant, to hit that wall.  When we overeat, our digestive system goes into overdrive to break all that food down which means extra acid.  If you over indulge in the evening and then lie down you have just invited all that acid up into the larynx and onto your vocal folds.  This is acid reflux and it quite literally burns your vocal tract.

The cherry on top is when we indulge in alcoholic beverages.  I could go into how dehydrating it is but you already know that.  You also know that alcohol isn’t a nutrient and is probably not that good for you (sorry, red wine).  Still, those are not my issues with drinking and the voice.  Drinking has a specific neurological effect.  It slows down the processes of the brain which means that it is affecting your impulses, and execution of tasks in ways that may be invisible to you.

When you drink you create a neurological environment that clouds intention, impacts breathing, puts the vagus nerve on alert, and numbs the vocal cords themselves.  It is the perfect storm for unclear content, unsure vocal execution, and the potential for vocal injury.  Notice I did not say these horrors were guaranteed, in fact you can help mitigate these effects.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely indulge in drinks, but never mindlessly.

  1. When you have a major voice-use event, whether that is a keynote or a concert, you might abstain from overindulgence to prevent reflux and possible vocal fatigue.
  2. At events, pace your drinking, and drink less.  This one is common sense but the less impaired you are, the less impaired you are.
  3. Hydrate while you drink.  It will help keep everything flowing and slow down your eating and drinking.
  4. Plan your eating.  You can have EVERYTHING but you cannot have a full serving of everything and respect your digestive system.
  5. Don’t overindulge on foods that cause allergies, however mild.
  6. Watch the noise-level in the room.  When are in a noisy environment, we tend to increase our volume and the air pressure we are using.  This leads to hoarseness and potential voice loss in the light of day.  Notice when the room gets louder and use better than usual air support and articulation to be heard in the room.  You might not be able to hear yourself but that is fine, don’t push.

Over all, I hope you have a great holiday party season AND remember that your voice is irreplaceable and how you enter the room.  If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.

GROW Voice, is a Boston-based business.  Founder and CEO, Gina Razón has taught voice and speech for over sixteen years to individuals, organizations and in academic settings.   She is sought after as a teacher of voice and speech, singing, and public presentation.  Gina has a BM and MM in Voice Performance, is a practitioner of Fitzmaurice Voicework and a certified teacher of Somatic Voicework. She has served as voice coach for TEDxCambridge, and speaks at National and local events on all things voice and speech.  Gina is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, The Voice Foundation, the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and the National Speakers Association. More information at www.growvoice.com.