As a follow up to last week’s health and diet tips, we thought we would offer some more valuable pointers to help you establish and maintain a strong, healthy voice. One of the questions that came up was about the use of honey since consuming refined sugar is discouraged. Refined sugar has no nutritional value and using it actually requires your system to tap into stored nutrients so the sugar can be processed. The use of honey can be a bit tricky if you’re not careful about what you purchase. Honey has many beneficial nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants. Many naturopaths also believe it has some natural antiseptic or antibacterial properties. There are a number of singers who claim that honey helps to soothe the throat, but too much can coat the throat in the same way that dairy products do, creating a problem with more mucous. So it should be used sparingly, as in herbal tea. Raw Keeps It Real, Honey Raw honey is the preferred choice. Many of the brands of honey that you’ll find on the shelves of your grocery store are heavily processed. That processing or refining significantly reduces and often destroys many of the enzymes and antioxidants. With raw honey, the benefits of these nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants are preserved. So what exactly is raw honey? It’s the concentrated nectar of flowers that comes straight from the bee. It is unheated, pure, non-pasteurized, unprocessed honey. Raw honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. Unlike refined or processed sugars, it doesn’t ferment in the stomach, and it’s helpful in countering acid indigestion. Raw honey contains amylase, an enzyme concentrated in flower pollen which helps predigest starchy foods. Enzymes are complex protein molecules found in every cell in your body. They are biological catalysts that aide healthy chemical reactions in our body. Because raw honey is not processed, the naturally occurring enzymes are preserved. There have been a number of studies that indicate raw honey improves the body’s ability to process glucose. Raw honey doesn’t drain or stress your system’s reserves in breaking the glucose down. On the other hand, refined sugar negatively affects your body’s ability to process glucose as time goes by because it continues to tax your system. Freeze The Sneeze + Wheeze Several studies indicate the use of raw honey for lessening the severity of seasonal allergies. Findings have shown this works best if the raw honey you use is from the region you live in most of the year. I know several people that get raw honey from the area where they grew up. There are some studies that suggest it’s best to purchase raw honey made by bees in that region of your childhood, formative years. The bottom line is: use raw honey instead of refined sugar or processed honey. But still, use it in moderation. Clearing The Throat For generations it’s been suggested that a mix of honey, lemon, and hot water is helpful for ridding your throat of mucous or soothing irritation. But proceed with caution. Because lemon can dry and irritate the throat, use it sparingly. Remember that hot water can scald or irritate the throat. So, warm water with a touch of lemon and raw honey is safest. And at all costs, absolutely avoid ice-cold drinks, whether it’s water or herbal tea. That frigid state jolts your system and constricts the throat. There is a simple, safe fix for addressing throat irritation or mucous that sounds like something your great-grandmother likely used as a multi-purpose remedy for throat irritation, stomach acid, as well as a cleaner and freshener for her bathroom and kitchen sinks. Now that we have you sold – this simple remedy starts with adding a small amount of baking soda – between ¼ and ½ teaspoon – to a full cup of warm – not hot – water. Then, you gargle, in small doses as you finish the cup. It’s recommended that you gargle with your voice at a higher pitch. This is suggested because your epiglottis will keep the solution from entering into your vocal folds. This baking soda gargle also can help relieve a touch of indigestion due to acid in the stomach. Anxiety + Other Irritants Speaking of indigestion, it often goes hand-in-hand with pre-performance jitters or anxiety. Aside from meditation, warming up, or various mind games, there are some nutritional aides to keep the nerves and stressors in check. Calming herbal-teas that contain chamomile are very soothing. But avoid caffeine, sodas, processed fruit drinks, and non-herbal teas. An often overlooked calming resource is the banana. It is rich in potassium which is a natural relaxing agent. Also, when you’re nervous or anxious, you may perspire more or have to use the bathroom more. The loss of potassium in those fluids can make you even more on edge or even irritated. So, having a small banana an hour or two before show time or your studio session can be a benefit if you’re prone to serious stage fright. The Nose: A Slippery Slope Here’s one final note since it is the season of colds, the flu, and allergies. If your throat is irritated by that steady drip of nasal drainage, don’t go running for over the counter antihistamines and decongestants. Certainly, follow your doctor’s orders if such medications are prescribed or recommended. But most of these medications will dry out the throat and invite further irritation. A recommended solution for helping you minimize reliance on such medications is to clear your nasal passage using a saline solution, and then apply a lubricant to the nose such as Vaseline or a similar product. The lubricant will help to act as a filter to trap allergens such as pollen while soothing the lining of the nasal passage and keeping the throat from drying out due to various cold, flu, and allergy medications. A lubricant with menthol-eucalyptus can be soothing as well. Remember to drink lots of water. Keep your system hydrated. Get plenty of rest and avoid eating for at least three hours before bedtime. By following these tips suggested you will help nurture your body and keep your voice primed for its fullest potential.