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  • Writer's pictureVal Bastien

Milking The Truth: Breaking Myths And Soothing Persistent Coughs For Singers

Updated: Jan 14

If you've been experiencing a prolonged cough, you might have attributed it to a past cold or flu, unaware that the medication you believed would alleviate your symptoms might have, in fact, worsened your cough, leading to its persistence. As singers, our vocal health is of utmost importance, and an unexpected cough can throw a wrench into even the most meticulously planned performances. The challenge lies not only in identifying the root cause of the cough but also in finding a remedy that won't compromise our vocal cords.

singer drinking milk to sooth a persistent cough

In this blog entry, we'll explore the frequently overlooked benefits of drinking milk for singers who find themselves grappling with coughs. These coughs are often inadvertently triggered by medications, especially antihistamines used to combat cold and allergy symptoms, which can, in turn, exacerbate acid reflux.

Understanding the Culprits:

Before we explore the potential benefits of milk, let's first understand the two primary contributors to lingering coughs in singers: acid reflux and antihistamines.

Silent Acid Reflux:

  • Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is not always accompanied by the typical symptoms like heartburn. Many singers may be suffering from silent acid reflux, unaware of its presence, as it doesn't always manifest in the traditional manner.

  • Silent acid reflux can become apparent when a person catches a cold or experiences allergies, leading to a persistent cough that they may not immediately associate with underlying reflux issues.

  • Singers often encounter allergies or catch a cold, prompting the use of antihistamines to alleviate symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and congestion.

  • However, the drying effect of antihistamines can lead to a parched throat, causing persistent coughing and discomfort for singers.

Navigating the Dairy Dilemma:

Singers are commonly advised to steer clear of dairy products due to concerns about mucus production and the potential to impact vocal clarity. However, when it comes to addressing coughs induced by acid reflux, allergies, and exacerbated by antihistamines, the story takes an unexpected turn.

Milk as a Natural Antacid:

  • Contrary to the misconception that dairy products trigger acid reflux, milk, in moderation, can actually serve as a natural antacid.

  • The calcium content in milk helps neutralize stomach acid, providing relief to the irritated esophagus and potentially alleviating cough symptoms.

  • An unsung hero in milk, casein, plays a crucial role in stabilizing the muscles, including the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscular valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, and proper functioning is essential to prevent stomach acid from regurgitating into the esophagus.

  • Studies suggest that casein enhances the tone of the LES, making it more resistant to the backward flow of stomach contents. This added benefit can reduce the likelihood of acid reflux and, consequently, alleviate persistent coughing in singers.

  • The soothing properties of milk extend beyond its antacid effects. A warm glass of milk creates a coating on the throat, reducing irritation and offering comfort to singers grappling with persistent coughs.

  • Singers often face dehydration due to intense vocal exertion and the drying effects of medications like antihistamines. Milk, with its hydrating properties, can help combat this dehydration, providing relief to a parched throat.

Scientific Insights:

Let's delve into the scientific rationale behind the role of milk, especially casein, in addressing coughs caused by acid reflux, allergies, and medication-induced dryness.

Calcium's Antacid Properties:

  • Calcium, abundant in milk, is known for its antacid properties. It reacts with stomach acid, neutralizing it and preventing further irritation of the esophagus.

  • This action is particularly beneficial for singers experiencing coughs linked to acid reflux.

Mucin Production and Throat Coating:

  • Milk contains proteins, including casein, that stimulate the production of mucin, a natural lubricant that helps coat and protect the throat.

  • The coating effect can mitigate the discomfort caused by a dry and irritated throat, offering relief from persistent coughing.

Hydration and Vocal Health:

  • Dehydration is a common concern for singers, and medications like antihistamines can exacerbate this issue. Milk's hydrating properties, combined with the muscle-stabilizing effects of casein, can help replenish lost fluids, promoting overall vocal health and comfort.

Practical Tips for Singers:

Incorporating milk into your routine to address coughs caused by acid reflux, allergies, and medication-induced dryness requires a thoughtful approach. Here are some practical tips for singers:

Choose Low-Fat Options:

  • Opt for low-fat or skim milk to minimize the risk of excessive mucus production, addressing the concerns associated with dairy consumption.

Timing Matters:

  • Consume milk strategically, especially before bedtime or after taking medications. This can provide a protective coating to the throat during periods when coughing is more likely.

Experiment with Warm Milk:

  • Warm milk can enhance its soothing properties. Consider drinking warm milk with a touch of honey before bedtime to ease throat irritation.

Monitor Your Body's Response:

  • Every singer's body reacts differently. Pay attention to how your body responds to milk consumption and adjust your intake based on your comfort level.

Combine with Vocal Hygiene Practices:

  • While milk can offer relief, it is crucial to complement its benefits with good vocal hygiene practices. Stay hydrated, practice proper vocal warm-ups, and avoid known triggers for acid reflux.

In the intricate world of vocal health, singers often face the challenge of deciphering the cause behind a persistent cough. When grappling with coughs triggered by acid reflux, allergies, and intensified by antihistamines, milk emerges as a surprising ally. Its antacid properties, throat-coating effects, and the role of casein in muscle stabilization make it a multifaceted solution for singers seeking relief without compromising their vocal performance.

Remember, individual responses vary, and it's essential to listen to your body. If cough symptoms persist or worsen, consulting with a healthcare professional is paramount. In the journey toward optimal vocal health, let milk, enriched with the benefits of casein, be a soothing elixir that harmonizes with your vocal prowess, providing respite from the challenges singers often face.


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