With the vast array of beautiful water bottles on the market these days, they have become somewhat of an essential accessory. Not only are they saving the planet but they’re also saving our voices! There is good awareness of the benefits of hydration but how much water should you be drinking and how does dehydration affect your voice?
The average Australian consumes just over 1 litre of water per day according to the ABS. 19-50 year olds fared best by upping their intake to 1.3 litres but intake declined in the age group above 50. The most commonly recommended intake from our health authorities is 2 litres of water per day but how much do you really need?
Your water intake needs will vary depending on factors such as physical activity, medications, climate and medical conditions. Although water is the best option, fluids in other drinks like tea and coffee and food such as fresh fruits and vegetables will also contribute to your level of hydration.
It’s common practice to reach for a drink when you feel thirsty or may be about to talk in order to “lubricate the vocal cords” but it may be too late! Your vocal cords sit tucked away inside your larynx which sits on top of your trachea leading to your lungs. In order to protect your lungs from fluids, your larynx will completely close and the liquid will (hopefully) never contact your vocal cords. It then takes 1.5-2hrs for your body to absorb the fluid and use this to create thin mucous to naturally lubricate the vocal cords. Your mouth may feel moist after the drink but your vocal cords will not!
Given your vocal cords vibrate together very quickly, they need lubrication to reduce the risk of injury during talking and singing. Adequate hydration will also reduce thick sticky mucous in the throat, reducing the urge to throat clear or cough which creates forceful impact on the vocal cords.
So how do you know when you’ve had enough to drink?
- You produce pale coloured urine
- You don’t feel thirsty
– This may not be a good indication as if you don’t usually drink much you may not feel thirsty usually
Here are some tips to help you increase your hydration throughout the day:
- Buy yourself a water bottle and be sure to take it with you. It’s no use if you leave it in the car!
- Leave a glass of water on your desk with a jug next to it and sip regularly through the day.
- If you’re home during the day, place a few subtle stickers/dots throughout the house as a prompt to have a drink when you see them.
- If you don’t like the taste of water, try placing some fruit in your bottle like lime or strawberries, use a flavour infuser or a small amount of cordial.
- Remember that if exercising you will need more fluid intake to replace fluid lost through sweat.
- If you are going to be using your voice for a long period or singing, remember that hydrating prior to extended voice use is key. Performers and speakers should focus on good hydration the day before and the hours leading up to a performance or presentation.
- For every cup of coffee or glass of alcohol, pour yourself a glass of water too.
- Don’t forget that drinking water during the colder months is also important. We often spend long periods of time indoors with heaters running that can make your mouth and throat dry.
Remember, sip regularly and often. You may find the first few days of increased hydration a little uncomfortable as your body adjusts to the increased fluid intake but you will soon see the benefits.
So pour yourself another glass…of water!
This advice is general in nature. Please follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to fluid intake. If you are currently on restricted fluid intake to manage a medical condition, there may be other options available to you to maintain vocal cord hydration. We recommend that you do not change your prescribed fluid restriction as this may have serious implications on your health.