In the past month or so I’ve had several students horribly troubled by allergies to the point that they could not move forward with their sessions.
The facts are this: allergies can be incredibly debilitating – a very serious challenge for a voice over artist – and many of the over the counter allergy solutions actually dry up the vocal chords and negatively affect your resonance, tone, and expressiveness. Not to mention the exhaustion, congestion, and mental degradation they can cause. Add to this the fact that as climate has been changing, every single year in the past decade or so has had increasingly severe pollen seasons, and more and more people have felt the effects of severe allergies who had never had a problem with them in the past.
So, what’s an allergic voice over artist to do?
While I will pre-empt this with the standard ‘I’m not a doctor’ routine, I will say this: I have gone from a constant state of ‘Couldn’t-breathe-through-my-nose-to-save-my-life’, and two emergency room/ICU allergic experiences, to breathing, smelling, and feeling better than ever, mostly through diet.
That’s right. Diet. (Okay, not only diet. But mostly.)
Anyway, here are some of the helpful things I’ve become aware of that have had a real impact on reducing my allergies:
1) Sinus washes: Neti pot, various sinus rinsing devices
These are invaluable. When allergens accumulate in the sinuses it continues to exacerbate that allergic response, and sometimes the best way to overcome this response is just to wash the allergens out. There are varying opinions on which ones are best. Neti pots are very gentle, and usually made with safe ceramics. Plastic bottles can pose their own problems environmentally and with potential toxins, but can add a bit more pressure to the situation if you’re very congested. Health food stores and drug stores are good places to look. Or search online for options.
It’s important to try to wash with lukewarm ph balanced water. Many experts say it should be distilled. Pre-mix packets with pre-measured amounts of salt and baking soda help make it easy. Some mixes may even add essential oils to help fight infection or open the sinuses. They are worth looking into.
2) Alkalol: An amazingly powerful approach to sinus drainage and sinus health!
Many drug stores have started to carry this. A concentrated sinus mix, similar to a neti pot, but with powerful ingredients that help open up sinuses and fight infections. (Infections are unfortunately a frequent result of severe allergies, and they can be dealt with naturally as well.)
3) Vegetables: Enzymes, fiber, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, vitamin C, etc.
I went from being forever blocked to breathing like a dream through the rigorous use of almost exclusively raw veggies for about 4 days or so.
4) Additives, preservatives, chemicals, hard to pronounce ‘food products’
They can be a killer for any of the good things you’re doing for your body. In fact, at this point in time, I can frequently handle formerly allergenic environments quite well – cats, dogs, pollen. Until I eat junk food. Then all those allergies I was having before begin rushing back.
5) Anti-inflammatory diet
There are a host of articles written on this subject. But it’s clear. Allergies are an inflammatory response. And there are foods that support the lessening or elimination of this response. And they work!
Probiotics have only recently begun to receive the recognition they deserve in being a very crucial part of everyone’s health. They can help with digestion, immune system, reducing allergies, rashes, and even help increase happiness and reduce depression. Numerous studies have been done to show their effectiveness.
Where do you get them? Yogurts, kefirs (an especially potent source!), miso soup, sauerkraut, kimchi. There are also drinks that are adding them like Good Belly. I prefer liquid, food, or refrigerated sources myself. I can feel the effects more immediately and I have more trust that these delicate organisms will not be destroyed through manufacturing.
(Things that also help attack these good bacteria in the gut are sugar, yeasts, wines, beers, etc, so balance is key!)
6) Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities: Dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, soy, etc
Let’s face it. Everyone is unique. But really understanding your own body is key to having control over how it responds.
Options for testing: There are a couple different types of responses a body can have to foods that bother it IGG and IGE.
Most people have heard of food allergies, the extreme, and sometimes life threatening negative reactions that some can have to common foods, but many are less clear about food sensitivities which are much more subtle and sometimes harder to detect. The negative effects can accumulate, causing achiness, inflammation, fatigue, spaciness, and allergies. You can ask your doctor to test for both IGG and IGE responses to common foods. Nutritionists can take you through a food elimination diet, and kinesiologists may be able to uncover these responses through muscle testing. Kinesiology happens to be my favorite method, as a good kinesiologist can also frequently uncover other deficiencies, and particular dosages of supplements to get you back on track.
Bottom line, if you seem to be doing everything right, and you still feel terrible, this could be a missing link. It’s important to find someone knowledgeable in this area who you trust to guide you.
7) Acupuncture: Many people have found profound relief through acupuncture. Finding the right practitioner is key, of course. So ask around for recommendations and do your research.
This is not a complete list, but these are all things I have found integral in my search for optimal (and voice over supportive) health! And as a result, I am no longer a slave to my surroundings. Good luck on figuring out what works for you, but with the help of supportive practitioners, the power is within your reach!
(Other areas you may want to research more if need be: candida (www.stopyeast.com) parasites, metal toxicity, alkaline diet.)
Aria McKenna is an award-winning actress who has worked in films, TV, and the stage. She’s also a sought-after voice talent who has worked for major brands like Disney, Chevy, Fiat, Chanel, Yokohama, and more. You can find her work at ariamckenna.com.