Written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks
Whether a street or stage hypnotist or hypnotherapist, your hypnotic voice is one of your most valuable resources. As such, it is worth treating it well. Whilst you may avoid screaming at the television (sports, the news…), or belting out a song during a drunken karaoke session with your friends, you may pay less attention to the food that you eat. Yet what you eat (and drink) can make a significant difference to your voice, not just in terms of vocal quality but resilience to environmental factors and high demand situations. Also, it isn’t just when you are hypnotising that optimising your voice may be important. Think about the impact a great telephone voice can have on your enquiry conversion rate, or if you get invited to speak on a podcast, or even on the radio. Also consider how you might sound if you are speaking at a corporate meeting, group hypnosis session or even presenting at a conference. It is true that you only have moments to make a first impression, and, for a hypnotist, that relates as much or more to your voice as to your appearance.
Before we start with what foods and drinks to avoid and why, a question… What is one of the best things you can ever ingest to support your voice? If you said ‘water’, you would be right. Well, partly. Room temperature water might not seem as enticing as a frosty glass of ice-cold water laden with ice cubes, yet the room temperature water won’t stress your throat by shocking or constricting the throat muscles in the way that an icy drink will. However, keeping hydrated is possibly the most important consideration of any hypnotherapist. Not just because being sufficiently hydrated helps with cognitive performance, but you are maintaining the thin layer of mucus that protects your nasal passages and throat. Water significantly contributes the health of every aspect of your voice, by keeping that mucus thin and runny. Whilst you might think that even more mucus would be helpful, that is not so. In fact, when it becomes thicker in texture or a more gunky layer, it can impact on the clarity of your voice and can also start a very unhelpful habit of throat clearing. This is unhelpful for two reasons; firstly, it can interrupt the flow of what you are saying, and secondly, the throat-clearing cough can irritate your vocal cords.
There are two key groups of food and drink that can lead to this gunky type of mucus production. High-fat content foods and caffeinated drinks (hot and cold) tend to be notably problematic. So, is there any need to avoid your favourite fish and chips, pizza, milky coffee or can of caffeinated drink? On the days when you want your voice to be great, then possibly, or at least minimise the amount you are having. Generally, it can be helpful to leave at least 3 hours between eating dairy, fried or high fat foods and speaking.
A classic comfort food during a hard day, and a quick snack on a busy day, chocolate is not that helpful for your voice, because as well as the fat content, the caffeine (an effective diuretic) that is in the cocoa further dries the vocal cords. The caffeine can reduce production of the right type of mucus and, even more problematic, can have a constricting effect. Whilst this might be helpful in terms of getting rid of bags under your eyes, it really isn’t good for your throat, as this can put damaging tension onto your vocal cords. This might be one of the few times when low cocoa might be better, especially if it contains non-dairy fat as well. The processed sugar in chocolate doesn’t help either at is can contribute to phlegm production; just what you don’t need!
If you are having a stressful or busy day, it can be tempting to resort to quick and comforting food, such as pizza, loaded with cheese (high fat, dairy), or fried food such as chips or fried chicken. Any food which has a high fat content can add to that gunk! How about a sandwich thick with butter and cream cheese or a nice strong Cheddar or Stilton? Unfortunately, dairy can be particularly effective at creating more clingy mucus, so is particularly unhelpful in terms of voice quality.
Both hot caffeinated drinks (e.g. tea, coffee) and cold caffeinated drinks (e.g. ‘sodas’) can have an impairing effect on your voice, particularly fizzy drinks which can actually dehydrate, rather than hydrate. Both the cream in your coffee and the lovely full-fat milk latte are best avoided on days when you want your voice to sound its best. Would a soothing alcoholic drink be better? Sadly, alcohol also dries out your throat. Even worse, it is often mixed with sugary carbonated and caffeinated drinks that add to that unhelpful effect.
So, what can you eat to better support your voice? Well, leaner meats (e.g. chicken or turkey) and fish offer a vast range of meal choices. Sandwiches are fine if you keep the spread to a minimum or use something such as mashed avocado or sliced tomato instead to add some moisture. If you are tempted to have a healthy salad, then oil and vinegar dressings are much more voice friendly than rich, fatty mayonnaise. Fundamentally, making low-fat, low-dairy choices, and maybe even considering caffeine-free drink choices (shock horror!) will make a huge difference to your vocal health. Also, when considering a healthy, voice-friendly diet, it is useful to know that food high in vitamin A can keep your mucus membranes healthy and working well. As such, it might be good to add some spinach to your salad or have a peach or some melon.
If your voice is feeling a little fragile, honey can be an absolute life-saver. It has antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties and both prevent and soothe strained voices. If you have a busy hypnosis day, then you could be proactive and dissolve a little honey into your drinking water. Or, if it is to address an already sore throat, putting some honey in the fridge and then slowly sucking a teaspoon of set honey can be incredibly soothing. It acts as a ‘demulcent’. Another popular demulcent is liquorice, especially in the form of liquorice tea.
Remember, as with any food or drink, it is sensible, if changing your diet to seek advice if you have any health conditions.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on food, drink and the impact on your hypnotic voice, and if you have any more questions about this topic, or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks