How Food and Your Diet Can Affect Your Voice

You have been travelling all day and finally arrive at your hotel. It’s late, you’re hungry and a medium-rare cheeseburger, French fries and a soda are the only things that will satiate your appetite. Afterwards, you further satisfy your taste buds with an espresso and chocolate cake to seal the deal. With a full stomach and a tired body you enter your hotel room and find 2 chocolate mints lying sweetly on your pillow. You gobble them up and drift off to sleep.

Posted on | Jonathan E. Aviv, MD, FACS | Comments ()

You have been travelling all day and finally arrive at your hotel. It’s late, you’re hungry and a medium-rare cheeseburger, French fries and a soda are the only things that will satiate your appetite.  Afterwards, you further satisfy your taste buds with an espresso and chocolate cake to seal the deal.  With a full stomach and a tired body you enter your hotel room and find 2 chocolate mints lying sweetly on your pillow. You gobble them up and drift off to sleep.


The next morning, awoken by your 6am wake up call, you answer the ringing phone and are surprised to find the sound that comes out of your throat is barely a scratchy croak. Through the pain of the burning in the back of your throat and a cotton mouth sensation,  you clear your throat and find that you are hoarse. You have a business presentation to make in 3 hours and very little voice to give it with.


What has happened to your voice? 


Sometimes this sore/hoarse feeling in your throat can be related to the beginning of an infection. However – in the case of the late-night travel eater – you are experiencing the effects of swollen vocal cords due to the high acidity content of the meal eaten the night before. The particular meal above contained the worst offenders of a high acid content meal. The scenario above brings to light that diet can affect your voice.


The most important factors in achieving and maintaining vocal health is having a diet that focuses on minimizing foods which result in greater acid production by the stomach.

The most common offender of the healthy acid balance in one's diet is typically caffeine. Caffeine provides a one-two punch that can be very detrimental to your voice.

  • Caffeine directly increases acid production in the stomach.
  • Caffeine loosens the muscles that naturally separate the stomach from its adjacent structure, the esophagus.

One of the more common offenders in acid over-production is the deliciousness contained within foods like a burger, fries, and chocolate dessert – and that nutrient is fat.  Food with a high fat content can trigger increased acid amounts in your stomach in order to properly digest.


One must also be careful to avoid consuming alcohol (which has the same effects as caffeine on the body) and mint which directly increases acid production. For a more in-depth explanation on the types of foods to avoid, check out my blog on Treating Acid Reflux with your Diet.

Once an individual has offset the healthy balance of acid in the stomach – acid reflux occurs and acid from the stomach climbs up the wrong way through the esophagus (the tube that connects the stomach to the throat). Acid driven up from the esophagus causes the feeling of burning in your throat and swelling of tissues. Vocal cords then become inflamed and result in a weak, hoarse voice.

So next time you decide to celebrate life with a burger, fries, soda, and chocolate (dessert and/or pillow chocolate) before a day where your voice is the main event – save it for another time.


For more information, please visit www.voiceandswallowing.com.

Blog written by Jonathan E. Aviv, MD, FACS
Author of over 60 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing with Sensory...