Friday, June 3, 2011

Kashu-do (歌手道): Detox Day 3: Diet 4 June 2011

It is early June 4th in Berlin and believe it or not, Day 2, 3 June already shows progress.  At one lesson, one of my students said: "I don't know why, but you look like a different person!" I first thought it might be because I have regrown my goatee after two years (Now grey-streaked, it gives me a slight Paolo Coelho look--not a bad thing), but a few hours later, a friend who knows me rather well said that my face had slimmed down, as if no longer swollen.  As previously discussed, among the anti-bodies that are released, when undigested proteins get into the blood stream, is histamine, which causes swelling.  I did not think this a coincidence.

Not to worry! I don't believe I am nearly there yet, but I do believe I am on the right path.  The vegetarian diet feels right. I do not feel overly filled after eating.  I feel satisfied, but the food feels light. I have not had any acid reflux symptoms since I started three days ago.  This morning I woke up with a clearer voice. Not totally clear, but I could speak normally upon waking up, which has been rarely the case over the past few years.

More importantly, I noticed a discernable difference in my voice the past couple of days.  My voice stretches much more easily to the top.  I still have excess mucous, but it is reducing every day.  High C felt easy yesterday even though the vibration was mucous-ridden.  There are two mechanisms at work in phonation.  There is the balance of the two main muscle groups that determine the ability to muscularly set up the appropriate fold posture, which feels extremely easy now, and the vibration of the mucosal outer layer (what is commonly called the thin edge of the folds, Randstimme auf Deutsch), which is still problematic.  The mucosal edge must be flexible.  That means well-hydrated and devoid of swelling.  I can feel the folds becoming healthier and the logic of my problems became very clear.

It is possible that I have had this swelling to some degree as early as my teens, when I started singing.  I remember always dealing with phlegm to some degree and it got worse over the years.  This gave my voice a somewhat husky quality that made me sound very baritone-like even bass-like.  Discovering my tenor voice must have happened at a time when I was somewhat clearer and less hampered by bad foods.  I was in the South of France at the time, where the food tends to be better. Italy is better still.  I can remember times when I had little sleep and ate poorly in Italy and sang beautifully nevertheless.  In retrospect, food intake has had some influence.  Somehow I managed to land several academic jobs, for which I had to present audition recitals, performed with many regional symphony orchestras and opera companies on three continents and presented more than 300 recitals successfully.  This should be a confirmation that voice is not everything.

But voice is the determinant of a high-level career.  I believe I always had the rest of the package, but despite my technical knowledge there was something that eluded me.  It takes a level of courage to do not only a technique overhaul but a health overhaul as well.  In some ways, becoming a tenor did not scare me technically.  I knew I was a tenor that day in Nice, and so I knew I would find my way technically, but I did not count on the health challenges.  Indeed, had I not taken the challenge to be true to the tenor voice, I might have not have become aware of the severity of the health issues.

True discipline in anything forces us to face our fundamental weaknesses.

My diet today began with chasing protein.  I visited the fruit and vegetable store near my house on Bundesplatz, Berlin and brought home a treasure trove of fruits and vegetables.  Lots of Pinto beans with whole grain rice (You may take the boy from the Caribbean but you cannot take the Caribbean from the boy)!  I began the day with organic raisins and by the time my rice and beans was done, it was lunch-time.  I complemented it with a prepared carrot, and a green beans and corn salad, both found at the vegetable store.  I made two servings and packed the rest for afternoon snack (or second lunch as the Hobbits might say).  Unfortunately I left the house without my packed second lunch and felt hungry midway through my teaching day.  I held on and met a friend at an Indian restaurant where I had a wonderful mixed vegetable soup and rice with a lentil-based sauce from the vegetarian menu.  Both very tasty!

It was also remarkable to see how knowledgeable my students were about these dietary things.  Of my four students today, none eats gluten!  One suggested chlorella, a Malaysian sea-weed that is particularly high in protein.  I will be hunting for it when I return from Sweden on Tuesday.  My student and host in Sweden is a committed vegetarian, which will make it very easy for me to continue with my diet there.

To say the least, I am excited about this prospect and am starting to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Stay tune for more!  I hope to post vocal clips soon!

© 06/04/2011

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this journey. I have been a vegetarian for almost 5 years now. I made the change because my son wanted to do so with me, and I felt like it would be a good bonding activity for us. I was not having any health problems nor was I even singing at the time. I have luckily not been aware of any health problems that have affected singing for me.

    You said that people commented that your face seemed less swollen and slimmed down. I have noticed that difference between me and others, particularly my sister, who eats meat. My theory has been it is the removal from the diet of the toxic things that are being put into and fed to animals such as antibiotics. Of course you are eating meeting in a country where its production is more closely regulated, but I feel that here in the USA the meat supply is not safe.

    I do not and have not craved meat or been tempted by it in any way. The challenge for me on a daily basis are some of the other things on your list for elimination, which I eat a lot of -- peanuts and peanut butter, eggs, some dairy like cheese and yogurt. Tofu will be your and my best friend. Beans as well. I do not think the peanuts, etc. are affecting my health, but they are more highly caloric so thus I'd like to cut back on them. I would also like to cut back on any carbs, whether gluten containing or not, again for weight/caloric reasons. One thing you mentioned in the first post which is very definitely a problem for me is salt and sodium which so definitely permeates our food in the US. I am very salt sensitive and the wrong meal can cause me to literally gulp glasses of water followed by a lot of bloating. I find avoiding salt to be so difficult and the salt content of things to be somewhat unpredictible.

    So I will be very interested in reading about what choices you find for your diet especially here in the U.S. and I'll try to share mine. I have never felt better since not eating meat. I attribute continued energy despite my chronological age to that choice.
    --Mary Ellen