There is a common myth that singers should avoid dairy products because they create too much mucus (phlegm) in the throat. For this reason, some teachers advise singers to avoid dairy products before performing. What is the truth? Are dairy products the enemy of good singing? Let’s explore that question in this myth-buster post.
It's gross, right?
Ahem… Have you experienced that annoying feeling of sticky gunk in the back of your throat when you need to sing? Many names describe this; mucus, phlegm, post nasal drip, and “having a frog in the throat.” It’s both annoying and can interfere with your singing, cause unwanted tickles, and make you feel the need to clear your throat.
Is dairy the enemy?
Dairy and Singing: The Science
- “The evidence is very scarce to support any relationship between dairy consumption and either symptoms of mucus or worse asthma control,” said Dr. Sonali Bose, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. (3)
- “while the milk-mucus belief is prominent among the general population, at no point has it been correlated with objective scientific findings relating to either mucus production or voice function.” London doctor, Vishar Bhavsar (2)
- “Excessive milk consumption has a long association with increased respiratory tract mucus production and asthma. Such an association cannot be explained using a conventional allergic paradigm and there is limited medical evidence showing causality”, Doctor Jim Bartly from the Auckland University faculty of surgery and biotechnology (1)
Summary and Conclusion
References and further reading
- (1) Bartly, Jim (2009) “Does Milk Increase Mucus Production” in Medical Hypothesis Vol 74, No. 4. pp. 732-44
- (2) Bhavsar, Vishar (2009) “An Essay on the Evidence Base of Vocal Hygiene” in Journal of Singing Vol. 65, No. 3, pp.285-296
- (3) Callahan, Alice (2017) “Do Dairy Foods Cause Mucus Production?” in The New York Times. February 24, 2017
- Gurkaran, Thiara & Goldman, Ran (2012) “Milk consumption and mucus production in children with asthma” in Canadian Family Physician, Vol 58, No 2
- Knickerbocker, Kristie (2015) “Do Dairy Products Really Thicken Your Mucus?” in The Voice Council Magazine
- Ray, Clairborne C (2011) “Milk as Menace”in New York Times