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Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords

author image Danielle Hill
Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.
Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords
What you eat can affect how you sing or speak. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Caring for your voice takes a well-rounded approach. In addition to vocal warm-ups and attention to environmental factors, such as cold or smoke, you need to eat conscientiously. Most foods that you should avoid do not trigger disease in the vocal cords. However, they can cause irritation or dryness, which in turn affects your speaking or singing voice.


Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords
Assorted dairy products Photo Credit Oksana Shufrich/iStock/Getty Images

Because dairy products tend to create more mucus, they can interfere with a clear singing voice or give your speaking voice a phlegmy sound. Avoid milk, ice cream, cheeses and other dairy products. Having milk in an iced coffee drink is a triply bad idea; the dairy creates mucus, the cold temperature constricts the throat and the caffeine dehydrates you, leaving your larynx unlubricated.

Spicy Foods

Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords
Jalapenos peppers Photo Credit jirkaejc/iStock/Getty Images

Spicy foods can irritate your throat. Right before a singing performance, avoid Mexican, Szechuan Chinese, Thai or other typically spicy cuisines. In addition to the risk of directly irritating your throat, these foods can cause acid reflux, which results in even greater irritation of the esophagus. The University of Michigan Health System advises against spicy foods as well as foods and even lozenges containing menthol, oil of eucalyptus or citrus, which also can trigger acid reflux. If you are overweight, the risk of acid reflux increases. Counter any tendency to develop the condition by having smaller meals, which are less likely to induce the reflux. Instead of one large meal, you might graze throughout the day on healthy snacks.

Drying Foods

Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords
Mature man drinking glass of water Photo Credit Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

In addition to coffee, already mentioned as a diuretic, avoid any substances containing caffeine, which dries out your throat and produces a raspy or hoarse sound. Citrus fruits are another culprit, as is alcohol. If you do consume dry foods, counter their effects with extra fluids. Your baseline should be seven to nine glasses of water every day just to keep the folds of the vocal cords well-lubricated; to counter any diuretics, drink more than the nine glasses. According to the University of Michigan Health System, you can determine your ideal fluid consumption based on your body weight; simply drink as many ounces as your own weight, divided in half.

Additional Factors

Foods That Are Unhealthy for Your Vocal Cords
Herbal tea Photo Credit OlgaMiltsova/iStock/Getty Images

While plenty of common foods have a detrimental effect on your voice, you also can find plenty of dietary options that help your vocal cords. Drink licorice tea, herbal tea or any decaffeinated hot beverage, preferably laced with honey. In addition to diet, you can care for your vocal cords by abstaining from smoking and avoiding smoky places; using a humidifier if your home or office has very dry air; and regularly washing your hands and consuming vitamin C to avoid viral colds.

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