One of the most uncomfortable side effects of performance anxiety is a dry, cottony feeling in the mouth. Technically known as xerostomia, dry mouth is caused by your sympathetic nervous system (i.e. fight or flight), which can get amped up and start pulling moisture to your organs. When this happens, it can leave your mouth feeling as parched as an Arizona summer. If the dryness reaches your vocal cords, it can cause a coughing fit, and in some cases can even make you more likely to suffer a vocal hemorrhage. So, it’s definitely in your best interest to follow these tips for keeping your whistle as wet as possible:
This venerable product has been on the market for a long time, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a safe and reliable way to lubricate the throat. Using ingredients like aloe vera and glycerin, it mimics the three kinds of mucus that are naturally found in the mouth and pharynx. The best way to use it is to spray it directly into the mouth while sharply inhaling. You can also reach the back part of the throat by inhaling while spraying it into your nose. Buy some here.
A dry mouth can be accompanied by a feeling of phlegminess and constant desire to clear the throat. Steam is like a natural version of Mucinex; it thins out thick mucus and reduces irritation and dryness. When water is heated, its surface tension is broken, in effect making it “wetter.” If you want a humidifier that can work on the go, there’s nothing better than a MyPurMist. It’s handheld, portable and requires no preparation, waiting or cleanup.
Another excellent way to absorb more moisture in your mouth is eating food that contains natural surfactants. Much like steam, a surfactant reduces the surface tension of water, which makes it more absorbent. The two best naturally-occurring surfactants are pectin and fructose. Fruits like melon, apples, and pears are high in these elements; adding some grape, apple or cranberry juice to your water can achieve a similar effect.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in plants such as raspberries, oats, and corn. Despite its sweet taste, it has actually been shown to reduce tooth decay and to help prevent ear infections. Additionally, it increases saliva production when held in the mouth. My favorite brand of Xylitol product are Xylimelt mints. Unlike gum, these melts help the xylitol to stay in your mouth for a longer period of time, so you can pop one in before an audition and still get the benefits in the room.
When water is being lost due to dry mouth, the consumption of electrolytes helps to replenish a proper moisture balance. Electrolytes are minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate) that are responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your body. In particular, sodium cues your body to retain water; consuming a balanced electrolyte beverage will give you the benefit of this water retention without creating a bloated feeling. My favorite option is the Nuun electrolyte tablets that can be dissolved in water.
When all else fails, lightly biting the tip of your tongue can stimulate saliva production. You want to bite gently enough that there is no pain, but firmly enough that you feel a good amount of pressure.
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