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Tips For Supporting Your Vocal Health During The Cold And Flu Season

Written by: Denise Ritter Bernadini, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


When a professional voice user (singer, speaker, educator) becomes ill, and the voice can't perform in top form, it can be very frustrating. For singers and speakers, their body is their instrument. Often professional voice users don't think of themselves as vocal athletes. However, if you make a living from your voice, you will need to protect it in the same way a professional athlete protects their body. When a baseball player catches a cold, they can still play. Professional athletes are, however, very protective of their limbs. They know if they are injured, their hard work and sacrifices may have been for naught. If they break a foot or hand, they may have to sit out half of the season. The good news for athletes is that often their contracts have injury clauses. They still get paid. Not so for professional singers or speakers.

When a singer or speaker gets ill, and the vocal folds or respiratory system becomes inflamed, the ability to breathe, sing, and speak become exponentially more difficult or may not work at all. The flu, cold, or sinus infection can have various telltale signs and symptoms, ranging from fever and dry cough to more extreme symptoms such as difficulty breathing and laryngitis.

Being vigilant about the instrument's wellness and care becomes very important when a paycheck is directly affected by the professional voice user's ability to perform. "No speak" equals "no pay," a powerful motivator if your livelihood is directly related to your voice.

Given how reliant professional singers and speakers are on their bodies' health, here are some ways to stay healthy throughout the year, especially during cold and flu season.

First, a couple of things to note:

  • No vitamin, supplement, or food can guarantee you won't get ill. Being smart about washing your hands, staying out of crowds during the height of flu season, and perhaps getting the flu shot can also lessen the chances of getting ill. Flu shots are very controversial, but if you are a person who gets immunizations, then this option is probably for you.

  • Vitamins and supplements may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications. To be sure you are supplementing safely, always notify your doctor about all the drugs and supplements you are taking. You can also check out this site to be sure you are aware of possible interactions.

  • All vitamins are not created equal. As the saying goes - You get what you pay for. If you buy a generic multivitamin from a discount store, you may not get full absorption and are most likely flushing them down the toilet. It's hard to know which vitamins to take as there are thousands of brands from which to choose. If you are lucky enough to have a Functional Doctor in your area, they will probably have some suggestions for you.

  • If you take your vitamins with fat, this will help increase absorption.

What vitamins can help prevent the flu and colds? Vitamins such as B, C, and D, as well as zinc and selenium, may help boost your immune system and fight an illness in the same way they can help you get over a cold or flu. Here is why and what they do:

Vitamin C - Generally, vitamin C can help you fight a cold faster or ease your cold symptoms if you take it regularly. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C, can help lung inflammation, which is a severe flu symptom, which is why flu can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Start taking vitamin C now to be proactive.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D helps your body maintain optimal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, boosting the immune system. It is wise to have your healthcare professional check your vitamin D levels annually. Some people have difficulty absorbing vitamin D naturally and supplementing with cofactors such as vitamin and chelated zinc. According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, Vitamin D can also help you fight a respiratory infection.

B Complex Vitamins - There are several kinds of B vitamins, each with its own function. B6 is essential to keep your immune system in top condition. A methylated multi-B complex with B3, B6, and B12 is best.

Zinc - Zinc is a cofactor to vitamin D, an essential element for bolstering the immune system. Taking a chelated zinc is best because of its ability to be fully absorbed by the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc has also been found to help activate T-cells, which trigger the body to respond to infections. There is new evidence that T-cell health and activity may be the breakthrough for curing cancer and viruses like COVID-19. The correct dose of zinc is 75 mg. If you're taking more than one zinc medication, you should first check with your doctor. Taking more than 150mg per day could cause toxicity.

The following suggestions may be a little out of the mainstream but may help keep you healthy and combat colds, flu, and bacterial infections such as a sinus infection:


Elderberry - Some studies suggest that elderberry extract reduces the duration of the flu. Full of antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, elderberry syrup is used to remedy colds, flu, and bacterial sinus infections. Elderberry reduces swelling in the mucus membranes. The vocal cords are considered a mucous membrane. Swelling in the vocal cords causes the voice to be hoarse, raspy, crack, or unable to phonate in extreme cases.

Astragalus - Astragalus is an herb root often used in medicine. Astragalus is typically used to treat the common cold, upper respiratory infections, seasonal allergies, swine flu, bacterial infections, and viruses. However, according to, one should take 160 mg of astragalus root extract by mouth daily for 3-6 weeks to improve symptoms such as a runny nose, or itching, and sneezing associated with allergies. Many immune-boosting teas will list astragalus as one of the ingredients.

Andrographis - A plant used in medicine for various ailments, andrographis is frequently used as a painkiller and fever reducer to treat colds and flu. Taking andrographis extract combined with ginseng may improve symptoms when started within 72 hours of feeling sick. In a double-blind placebo study, researchers found that patients with the flu who took a specific andrographis extract combined with Siberian ginseng felt better more quickly than those taking a drug approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The test subjects also experienced fewer complications like sinus pain, breathing problems, and bronchitis. Not certain if it should always be capitalized

Licorice root - If you have a sore throat, licorice root may be used to soothe the pain when used as a gargle. Licorice root may loosen congestion and reduce swelling in the throat. You can find it in many common teas.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Licorice might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don't use licorice. High blood pressure: Licorice can raise blood pressure.

Pelargonium sidoides - Also known as Umckaloabo, a flowering plant that is native to South Africa. Its roots are used for medicine. Pelargonium sidoides is commonly taken by mouth for upper respiratory infections and the common cold. Taking extract of pelargonium sidoides seems to help reduce symptoms and clear up the common cold after ten days of treatment.

Curcumin - Curcumin, derived from the Curcuma longa plant, is commonly known as turmeric and is used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic activity. Curcumin can help fight inflammation and aid the body's immune response.


Mushrooms - Mushrooms are an excellent natural source for selenium and B vitamins. They also contain polysaccharides, riboflavin, and niacin, which help to keep the immune system optimal.

Garlic - Garlic's antiviral properties may help reduce the severity of symptoms in colds and flu. A study from the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that people who took garlic supplements during the cold season caught fewer colds than those who took placebo pills. For even more garlic potency and antimicrobial magic for your immune system, eat garlic raw. Try crushing a garlic clove and let it sit for about 10 minutes before eating it; this will release vital enzymes that convert into allicin. Allicin is similar to antibiotics and will kill bacteria. You can also find raw garlic in powder, oil, extract, and tablets.

Brazil Nuts - Brazil nuts contain selenium, which is a mineral and potent antioxidant with various uses, including preventing bird and swine flu. However, some autoimmune conditions react negatively to selenium and may impact their immune system. Three brazil nuts a day will give you your daily allowance of selenium.

Acai berry - Acai berry is such a potent antioxidant and stimulator of the immune system. Researchers are studying it as a potential treatment for all kinds of conditions. It's often touted as support of general health and immune function. Try them covered in Dark Chocolate - It's a win-win.

This ongoing flu season try adding the above foods, herbs and vitamins to your daily regime and see if you can stay off the bench. It’s really hard to say “put me in coach” if you can’t talk.

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Denise Ritter Bernadini, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini has taught voice on the University level for over 20 years. She holds degrees in Vocal Pedagogy/Science and Vocal Performance. Her focus on voice science, resonance, athletic training, and the power of the breath has given her students the ability to go on to international careers. Her experience as an international performer, her training in voice and breath anatomy, and her work with Speech-Language Pathologists give her the expertise and knowledge necessary for an award-winning coaching practice. Dr. Bernardini’s passion is biohacking, and helping singers and speakers maintain optimal vocal health. Her book Mindfulness of Singing: a transformational journey using the power of the voice is due to be released in 2021.



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