The more you speak, the more you need to drink water but is it that simple and what is the difference between being well hydrated and de-hydrated?
The vocal folds need to be well hydrated to withstand excess vocalising. The more you speak, the more you need to drink water. To keep your pharynx healthy (the membrane-lined cavity behind the nose and mouth, connecting them to the oesophagus), drink 8-10 glasses of water a day and drink more when constantly vocalising, sweating and drinking caffeine and fizzy drinks, which are dehydrating.
It might be frowned upon to have water with you when speaking publicly, performing or when teaching, but dry atmospheres, air-conditioning, dusty atmospheres, anxiety, stress, constriction and other irritants will aggravate the voice and vocal folds.
Remember though that hydration isn’t immediate, so sip throughout the day rather than taking one big glug. Today’s water is tomorrow’s hydration.
Many vocal health manuals and voice and health sites state that if we ‘pee pale’ we are hydrated enough. However, multivitamins, medications and coloured foods (carrots, lemons greens etc) tend to make our ‘pee’ a funny colour so don’t assume you’ve taken enough water on board.
Cold or hot water?
Vocalists should drink fluids at room temperature.
Very cold fluids inhibit muscle function in the pharynx, and hot fluids may swell the pharynx’s mucous membrane lining.
Benefits of steaming
The easiest ways to steam is in that morning shower, which will set you up nicely. Other ways to steam are with a head over a bowl of water inhaling and exhaling, or with a small, handheld, portable steamer that can be taken anywhere with you.
As mentioned above, drinking water won’t give you an immediate effect, as it’s systemic. When we drink or eat, the epiglottis (trap door) moves over our trachea (breathing tube) to stop anything travelling down it and entering our lungs. Drink and food travel down the oesophagus (food and drink tube) and down into our stomach. But you can imagine this takes a bit of time to process.
However steaming is the only immediate way to hydrate the vocal folds because we are breathing in and out at the same time and the epiglottis (trap door) stays open allowing the steam to work on the vocal folds.