Is spicy food affecting your voice?

If you’re anything like me, the start of barbecue season also means food with a little kick. Summer just doesn’t seem right without a jalapeño or two, but is spicy food affecting your voice?
I’ve always heard about professional singers avoiding spice but it seems the issue is a little deeper than it might first appear.

It turns out there are pros and cons to spicy food, but hopefully we can break down the complexities for you.

1. Most spicy food contains oil
At some point, many spicy dishes have been mixed with oil. One way cheaper hot sauce stretches itself out is through the addition of so-called carrier oils, which dilute the flavour but bulk out the volume.
This extra grease can irritate your throat and cause excess phlegm which we know definitely affects your singing. Phlegm can cut your tone and responsiveness, interfere with your breath support and causes you to clear your throat more.
But fear not, if you’ve indulged a little, warm tea with lemon can help break that down and keep your pipes squeaky clean (or a tone more harmonically pleasing)

2. Fast food is full of salt
Let’s say you’ve gone out for a curry instead, after all, summer nights are made for nights out. Many takeaway dishes are loaded with salt to boost the flavour. This in turn can dry your throat out, just the same way as salty crisps make you thirsty.
If you find yourself feeling a little dry, it shouldn’t be surprising that we recommend drinking water. Water is exactly what has been used to dilute the salt in your body and so it’s exactly what you should put in. While beer or milk might help you handle the heat better, water is the top tipple to pair with your curry.

3. The heat can come back to bite you
Spicy food tends to be acidic and when paired with your own natural stomach acids, it can cause killer heartburn. There’s nothing worse than a sudden bout of heartburn during a performance, it can make you voice waver, it breaks your concentration and it’s just generally unpleasant.
Antacids are usually the answer but they can also dry your throat out, creating a true catch 22.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Spicy food can come with some benefits.

1. Turmeric
If we were to build out perfect throat soothing remedy, a dash of turmeric would definitely find it’s way into the cocktail. It’s been heralded as a powerful anti-inflammatory, helping soothe swelling caused by irritations.
Turmeric also contains a chemical called curcumin which may help protect the lungs from a range of diseases.

2. Garlic
You may not think of garlic as a spicy food but it’s often paired with chilli dishes, and it is often found in home remedies for colds.
Garlic seems to be able to treat a range of throat conditions thanks to a compound called allicin. Upping your garlic intake can be a way of treating congestions and the start of a sore throat.

3. Cayenne
If you’ve got a blocked nose and need to shift it fast, cayenne pepper is a wonder. There’s hundreds of places that recommend mixing a teaspoon of cayenne in warm water as a gargle to clear sore throats but isn’t a nice fajita a tastier way to get the spice in your system.

Being a singer doesn’t mean you can’t be adventurous with food, it just means being sensible. Pushing the limits and trying those record-breaking spicy dishes is probably not a great choice but if you give your body a chance to recover and you’re smart with when you make those choice, you needn’t fear spice.