It is cold and flu season across the United States now. Let’s face it, somehow it always seems to be cold season for singers. Let’s discuss our best tips and tricks however before we jump off the deep end regarding hypochondriacs in our field. We spend time winterizing our homes by caulking windows, weather-stripping windows and doors, and blowing foam insulation into obvious gaps. We must also prepare our instruments for seasonal changes. Whatever your preferred method, and every singer has them, today is the day – Day 15 – to challenge yourself to weatherize your voice.
Water is by far our best friend during the winter’ season, and helps to curb over-indulgences. Aim to take in about 10 glasses a day. Have a glass before you take that second cocktail and/or helping, and you will be amazed at how great you feel!
— HOLLY LUCILLE, N.D., R.N., a naturopathic doctor in West Hollywood, Calif. ¹
This step is a no-brainer for singers who are used to lugging around water bottles wherever they go. The winter months are often dryer outside as well as inside. So, keep your preferred water vessel close by but remember not to over-hydrate. You run the risk of flushing your body of electrolytes and diluting your normal sodium level. A healthy adult would have to drink around 2 gallons of fluids to reach water intoxication so aim for a balance throughout the day. Also, if you are not doing so already, run your humidifier at night when you are most apt to get dehydrated while sleeping. Do not cancel out the benefits of a humidifier by keeping a dirty filter. Get a brand new one or clean it before pumping the steam.
Boost Your Immune System…
…with food! Do not wait until you come down with something! Adding different natural foods will benefit your overall health and not to mention your waistline! Definitely shoot for getting your vitamins through real food instead of supplements. For example, blueberries are packed with antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C but they are also an anti-inflammatory. Instead of popping an ibuprofen try eating blueberries for very mild inflammation. Don’t forget all the positive powers of dark chocolate (as if you could...) Boosting your immune system is important especially if you have any air-travel scheduled during the season. All those Typhoid Mimis breathing in tight quarters. Ugh. Your mom’s advice may be simple but still holds true: wash your hands and do not touch your face!
Use lots of fresh ginger root and garlic in your cooking to boost your immune system and protect against viruses. Toss hot peppers, which are good for enhancing circulation and keeping you warm, into your stir-fry. Put a spoonful of black ginseng paste extract, which has a stimulating, immune-enhancing effect, into your herbal tea, add honey and drink. If you do wind up getting sick, try the Chinese herb Andrographis paniculate. It’s one of the most potent cold-fighting herbs on earth, and the World Health Organization recommends it. Take two 250-milligram capsules twice daily. I’m also a big fan of Umcka, an herbal syrup that knocks out colds in record time. — CHRIS KILHAM, medicine hunter and ethnobotanist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst¹
Care for Your Sinuses
This is an especially challenging time of the year for the mucous membranes because of cold outdoor temperatures, indoor air pollution (since heaters are on and windows closed) and dryness caused by forced hot-air heating systems. We breathe an average of 23,000 times a day, and if the air we’re breathing is particulate-laden and dry, the act of breathing itself creates chronic irritation to the mucous membranes and makes us more susceptible to viruses. Mucous membranes thrive and maintain a strong defense against viruses when the air is clean, moist, warm (65° F to 85° F), oxygen-rich and filled with negative ions. So use a botanical saline nasal spray, such as Sinus Survival Herbal Nasal Spray (sinussurvival.com), which contains saline along with four medicinal herbs, every two to three hours throughout the day, especially in heavily polluted and dry conditions. It keeps the mucous membrane moist, washes out inhaled particles and has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. I also recommend a highly medicinal eucalyptus oil, which you can inhale from a tissue held over your nose or through a steam inhaler. — ROBERT IVKER, D.O., co-founder and past president of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, author of Sinus Survival: The Holistic Medical Treatment For Sinusitis, Allergies, and Colds (Tarcher) and founder and medical director of Fully Alive Medicine in Boulder, Colo. (fullyalivemedicine.com)¹
Many people who suffer from sinus issues swear by nasal irrigation or sinus rinse. The technique for all systems is basically the same: the user manually pours or sprays a saline fluid through the nasal cavity which rinses out infectious agents. If you choose this method, do not be like those people who contracted brain-eating amoebas because they couldn’t be bothered to clean their devices or use distilled/sterile water. We’re all smarter than that, right? Now protect those clean sinuses when you venture outside by wearing a scarf to keep those nasal passages warm.
Work it, Girl!
Exercise keeps us healthy and helps us avoid bacteria and viruses. If you play an outdoor sport, chances are that your winter time workouts aren’t happening as regularly or intensely as they do in other seasons. If you have a hard time getting out to run in the winter, try taking up an off-season workout like barre-cardio, kick-boxing, or maybe it’s time to join the CrossFit bandwagon. Repeat after me, “summer bodies are made in the winter.”
In the winter, when it gets dark at 4 p.m., it’s harder to motivate yourself to go outside and exercise. Make a pact with a friend that you’ll take a walk every day. A winter walk, even at night, can be rejuvenating and wonderful. Make it your reward to come home to a nice fire. Winter is also the time when many new dance classes start. Sign up for a tango or salsa class — or just dance around your house for fun. It’s festive, and it can help lighten your mood and provide a good opportunity for socializing. — CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist in Yarmouth, Maine, and author of The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam)¹
The shorter days and colder weather can get you down in the dumps but you do not have to suffer. Staying healthy throughout the season will help you be more prepared and will also prevent you from having to cancel gigs, lessons, and auditions. Do not let those little viruses take away your hard-earned money, sweeties! Add these simple steps to your everyday routines in the winter months and you will start to see a model immune system emerge. I bet you also have some tried-and-true tips for battling sniffles, coughs, and sore throats. Please do not be shy. Give us your best or most unusual in the comments below. Let’s talk shop…