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phlegm- GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

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Do you guys get a lot of phlegm happening? I get this stuff that's kind of at the base of my chords and it just won't get out until I'm like 3 songs into my gig. No matter how much I warm up, etc., I cannot get it out. So my first few songs from my gig tonight had that going. I was nervous about the gig, which is different for me, but man that is SO frustrating. had tons of water all day. No sugar. No sodas. Felt like I was fine and as soon as I open my mouth, it was like my mouth was dried out, but there was still this crappy phlegm...

It is so frustrating- what do you do to get rid of it????

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Hi Billy

The excess phlegm is really frustrating as a singer and I feel your frustration as I also suffer with it sometimes. The vocal folds rely on a thin coat of mucous membrane to keep them lubricated so that they don't get damaged whilst we use them. If that membrane gets inflamed, irritated or infected it will produce more phlegm to coat itself further. When this happens, your folds feel heavier and bulkier and it is really annoying.

Diet can sometimes be the cause but it's very personal. For example, chocolate and dairy products definitely ramp up the production in the phlegm factory for me but I know of others that it doesn't bother them :) Monitor your food intake and check for any allergies. You are drinking plenty of water by the sound of it so keep that up (2 litres throughout the day). Try to make sure that you warm up before going on stage as this will help get things moving. I will always find somewhere at a gig to loosen up (toilets, vans, cars, portaloos!!!) before going on and I think this will help as you mentioned that the problem is more apparent in the early parts of the set.

Lastly, my own phlegm problems are due to the fact that I suffer from acid reflux. This is where the stomach regurgitates a bilious liquid which can greatly irritate the entire throat area and the phlegm factory goes into overdrive to protect the place. This happens also while you sleep unfortunately. If you feel dry or tender in the mornings, this could be the underlying cause.

Hope this helps

Tony

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Billy - Tony is right - reflux can be a problem. I've got it too - as I was diagnosed as having LPR. With a modifications to my diet it is under control for me. One thing I use before a recording session is VocalZone pastilles. I suck on one of these throughout the session, and it keeps the phlem away and keeps the chords hydrated. They work great. They are licorice based - licorice works great at cutting phlem.

Geno

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thanks guys. I also have reflux and am doing Nexium and the apple cider vinegar. It feels fine and like I'm ready to go, and then there's just a hint of it that stays way low and I can't get it out. As I said, by the third song it's gone buy gees, I'm so sick of it. Been to teachers, doctors, etc. If I take Steroids, I don't seem to have the problem, but I can't do that all the time. Geno, I may try them. It was like my throat was dry from being nervous (out of my three gigs, this one's the toughest-higher tunes), but there were bad monitors at first too. Still, this is really really becoming something that's so annoying that I may just give up singing after 30+ years. Maybe it's age, but I don't want to buy into that... I cannot find anyone that can solve this problem. I will try the vocalzone pastilles.

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Hey Geno, some confusion here- Amazon has one called Aurora Vocalzone Pastilles fro 7.99 and one called Vocalzone Vocalzone Pastilles for 2.oo. the Aurora variety looks like a different size box but they hold the same amount. Anybody know the difference?

Aurora: http://www.amazon.com/Aurora-Vocalzone-Throat-24-Pastille/dp/B0006NXQF2/ref=pd_bxgy_bt_img_a

Vocalzone: http://www.amazon.com/Vocalzone-Throat-Pastilles-24-pastilles/dp/B003B3Q1HE/ref=pd_sim_bt_2

Are these like Thayers? those don't seem to do anything for me.

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If anybody (doctor, voice teacher, whatever) has any info on what to do about this, please let me know. I'm beyond frustrated and really thinking of hanging it up over this. I have a very tough time believing it's a technique issue, it seems more allergy or vocal fold related. I've been scope and am supposedly fine.

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I've done that jonpall, thinking it's gone and then it shows up during the gig. I thought I was clear, but then when you kind of 'dig deep' for lack of a better term, it's there and it just hampers you, not to mention it freaks you out about your high notes. For me, this stuff can compound.

anybody know where to get Sanderson's Throat Specific in the US?

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Hi Billy, I had the same problem until I started taking apple cider vinegar before every meal. I started that a couple of weeks ago and I'm thrilled to say it's almost gone!

One thing comes to mind though, if this is happening only during gigs, then it's more psychological than physical. Does it happen during your regular training? If it doesn't, you might need to do something about the nerves...

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Hey Geno, some confusion here- Amazon has one called Aurora Vocalzone Pastilles fro 7.99 and one called Vocalzone Vocalzone Pastilles for 2.oo. the Aurora variety looks like a different size box but they hold the same amount. Anybody know the difference?

Aurora: http://www.amazon.com/Aurora-Vocalzone-Throat-24-Pastille/dp/B0006NXQF2/ref=pd_bxgy_bt_img_a

Vocalzone: http://www.amazon.com/Vocalzone-Throat-Pastilles-24-pastilles/dp/B003B3Q1HE/ref=pd_sim_bt_2

Are these like Thayers? those don't seem to do anything for me.

Billy - those both look like the same thing. Just different prices. I really like these - they put my voice in a good consistent state. I don't use them for practicing or anything. I only use them during a recording session when I want all the "stars to align" in my favor. If I was still doing gigs I would use them too. Give them a try, they might help.

I'm not sure about thayers - never tried that. I did try one of those vocal sprays, thinking it would be more convient than sucking on these pastilles, but it didn't work for me.

Never tried the apple cider vinegar - sounds interesting.

Geno

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I do the apple cider vinegar in the AM and early evening. If I do it later than that, it makes you have to get up in the middle of the night to hit the restroom. Last night was my gig and I hadn't eaten since lunch time, so food or meal stuff shouldn't have been an issue. Psychological, maybe, but I dunno....

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Billy - the ENT also prescribed Nexium for me. The LPR created a redness in the muscles around the vocal folds. The nexium finally got rid of it and the phlem went away. I still use the vocalzones just to keep the perfect hydration during recording sessions. Licorice to the voice is like Talcum powder to a gymnast. It's a primer for the voice.

However - back to reflux - have you gotten a clean bill of health from your ENT? Did the redness go away? What wasn't apparent to me at first is the need to take nexium or prilosec (which is much less expensive now and over the counter) on an empty stomach. That is at least 2 hours after your last meal and at least 45 minutes before your next meal. If not, the nexium won't do what it is supposed to do. I'm just wondering if you've completely gotten rid of this problem yet?

The other thing is spicey foods. I LOVE spicey foods and it is a real drag for me to stay away from them. Last friday I had spicey pizza and some Ginger beer (which I love). I couldn't sing worth a crap the entire Saturday. By Sunday I was back in shape.

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Yeah, I've been on 40mg of Nexium twice a day now for years. I don't feel any of the symptoms, but supposedly, that's what I have. I'm trying the apple cider vinegar on top of that to try and give extra help. Hey gang, I hate to whine all the time, but I'm just having a heckuva time and I work all the time. It's not like I have a gig a month or something. This is really getting me down.

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I live in Texas, allergy capital of the world. We get dust blown in from the desert west. Humid air and pollens from the Gulf of Mexico, central Mexico, and south Texas. And we get mountain cedar blown in from Colorado. Weather starts here.

So, before I sing, I blow my nose. Keep hydrated. And live with it. One thing I learned from Jaime Vendera is to swallow between lines, with your lower lip drawn in. It helps create a vacuum to pull the phlegm off the folds. You don't want it all gone, however. You need some moisture on the folds.

Some people swear by over the counter meds, like Benadryl but I would be careful with those for a few reasons. First off, they could dry you out too much. Secondly, it reacts differently with different people and could make you sleepy or groggy, aka "medicine head."

I would not advise expectorants as those will make you cough with the express purpose of getting rid of mucus but then, you can't turn the cough off. I just live with it. In live performance, no big deal, pull the mic away and cough or clear your throat. In recording, I sometimes have to record all over again because I don't want the "ahem" recorded for all posterity.

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Hey. It sucks, doesn't it.

When I get phlegmy, or if I have a cold, which I did for my gig last night, I hit it with all the below. Between it all, I get some real results. And I also live in a hot, dry, dusty environment where we are in the aircon alot.

Lots of water

Lots of hot water with honey and lemon in it.

A tub of good, natural honey that I can stick my finger into and suck off my finger.

A humidifier in my room at night, with menthol based stuff in it.

Extra sleep, including a lunch time sleep whenever possible.

No dairy,

Herbal cold remedies (even if it's not a cold) I like the Triple C, Garlic, Horseradish, Fenugreek and Marshmallow - and take it in much higher doses than you are supposed to. You get diarreah when your system is saturated with Vitamin C - that's when you back off.

If a cold - Zinc

When really bad: Get my head right into the steam for the vaporizer a couple of times a day and really breathe the steam.

Long hot steamy shower

Vocal fry in the morning

Humming lightly off and on all day, over just two or three really easy notes.

When really desperate - antiinflammatory drugs.

Lastly, I'd say perhaps you should get a second medical opinion if you are unhappy with the results from your current doctor.

Good luck!

SH

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Ronws-0n this particular gig this week, it's a LOT of ballads and a LOT of high notes and a LOT of just me out there. If I "live with it", it's going to make those songs extremely difficult, not to mention extremely subpar.

SH, Yeah, I do the same stuff you list and more. The medical opinion may be where it's at but I went to THE guy up here and he couldn't find anything.

I'll just have to keep plugging away or, when it just gets so difficult make the decision on if I'm just not able to do the gig anymore.

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Well, if you have an overabundance of phlegm, perhaps something that will reduce it could help. Tea dries me out but someone else might do fine with it.

I know one singer who was doing progressively worse while recording an album, thanks to the girlfrind of someone handing him all these teas and throat remedies. So, he took a break, went to a pub, drank a Heineken (beer) and came back and nailed it. Maybe because the tea amped him into getting tense and the beer relaxed him enough to sing. I'm not saying you should drink a beer. But I am saying that you should try some different things until you find one that works.

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My wife uses mucinex to clear the phlegm she gets from allergies. And she coughs and clears her throat because that is what mucinex will make you do. Fine, if your not singing. Yes, she does sing along with a cd or radio once in a while but I am the one that sings nearly every day for sometimes an hour or more. I can't do it if I am coughing or have to keep clearing my throat. Sometimes, I find, singing will loosen up my sinuses. Then I blow my nose and continue on with it. So, yeah, I "live with it." Whether someone else took that the wrong way or not, I can't help that. I drink a diet Coke quite often. It seems to keep me clear enough but that's just me. Each person is different. But it's a good idea to research which meds might help decrease mucus production. Just as there are people who don't produce enough, there are some who produce too much and I don't want anyone to think that I take this lightly. I will repeat, Texas is allergy capital of the world. Add to that that we have very hot and humid summers and air conditioning is a must. I know that dries some people out but not me. But maybe I am acclimated to air conditioning. I noticed a number of singers that don't like air conditioning and feel it dries them out come from northern climates where it's not needed as much. Such as Geoff Tate. He lives near Seattle, Washington. I gurantee if he lived in La Grange, Texas, he would be using some air conditioning and finding some way to deal with it. "Live with it," as it were.

What I am not understanding is how the doctor mentioned in this thread couldn't find anything. If phlegm is there, then it is there, for some reason.

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Unless you, Billy, are over-exerting yourself because of bad monitors, bad acoustics, what-have-you. Do you have the same problem in studio with controlled air quality and cans for monitoring? At these gigs, are people smoking like chimneys? You could have an inhalant allergy particular to whereever you are performing that is causing mucus production which is, believe it or not, to protect you be trapping inhalants that you can cough out. Arlo Guthrie plays small clubs nowadays and he doesn't allow smoking during his performance. He also has the right gear and set-up for what he is doing. And being a singer, he will take care of himself, first.

It could be, at the doctor's office, a clean, comfortable environment, things were fine. The doctor should be there at the club to look at you between sets. If I tell the doctor my right shoulder is sore, it won't mean anything to him unless he sees me at work, carrying a bundle of pipe on my right shoulder.

But he was intuitive. I had a torn intermedial cartilege in my left knee and he had suffered the same thing. Mine was from having my feet stuck in mud when I turned to grab a stick of PVC pipe. His was from the stop and starts of playing tennis. Same difference, so to speak.

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Last fall I had bronchitis and was taking Mucinex. It is a good quality drug to help with coughing, but it made my chords feel like leather and it dried me out. I had a difficult time making a seamless transition from chest to head.

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Thanks, Geno, for chiming in and proving my point that some of the meds can have an effect that you don't want. I really do care what is happening to Billy. Nothing sucks worse like having your voice not do what you want it to do. Been there, done that, a few times. And it sucked.

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When all else fails - try alternative medicine. Perhaps natropathy or acupuncture or something could help you, Billy. Really, get that second opinion at least. Also, don't take this the wrong way, consider the possibility of psychosomatic. Personally, I believe that the brain is simply an extension of the body and that it is powerful in the ways it influences the body, not just deliberately, but on all sorts of other levels too. This phlegm is obviously causing you quite a bit of distress, which is very understandable amongst us singers, anyway. Perhaps you should consider this angle, and please understand I mention this with the utmost respect.

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