Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kashu-do (歌手道): New Blog, Kashu-do Detox Diet

Dear Friends,

Most of you have been through my change to tenor with me and have been (just as I am) very ready to sing: "Vittoria, Vittoria!!!!" (That is from Act 2 of Tosca for you non-tenors). 

It has been just over three years since I started the transition to my real voice and everything I know says that I have accomplished what I need to technically.  But I have also said that great technique begins with great health.  For this reason I took up Kung Fu one year ago, and it has been the most wonderful new element in my life.  I have gone through various periods of giving up certain things, which I thought were the cause of my health issues but it has become very clear that I am dealing with something systemic, as probably a great number of people in the world are dealing with.

Gluten: For those who are sensitive to gluten, digestion can become totally compromised.  And I think mine has been.  It takes such a long time for this to become a problem that we do not allow ourselves to consider that the foods we eat every day can be a problem.

Dairy:  Many singers have issues with dairy and so do I.  This was identifiable in my young singing days before anything became so systemically problematic.  But it was not a big issue.

Alcohol and Caffeine:  Those things affect every singer I know.  Some less than others.  But the issue is irrefutable. 

Peanuts and eggs:  Cause many people allergies.  

Sugar and Salt:  Refined sugar can be problematic.  I went to a homeopath who felt I should avoid sugar cane products altogether.  Salt content in package foods are extreme, particularly in the two countries I live (USA and Germany).

I will be avoiding these common problem-causers, so I can give my body a chance to recover from 40 years of unconscious eating.  The truth is I do not eat that badly.  I eat rather well.  But these elements in our food sources cause problems, which hinder my progress as a singer.  If I were not a singer, I doubt this would be a big issue.  However, for better or worse, I am very sensitive to something.  I cannot figure it out without doing a total cleanse of all these products that could have progressively hindered normal digestion, causing ultimately a leakage of undigested proteins into the blood stream causing the body to send out anti-bodies like histamines, etc.

I have suffered from what feels like a mild case of acid reflux, and I believe that this problem which has become so present in our society is a a symptom of generally poor nutrition.

I do not thing that everyone needs to go on a vegetable, vegan or raw food diet.  I am doing this to 1) eliminate the undigested foods that have accumulated in my system and thereby return my digestive tract to proper functionality.  Once I feel I am back to a normal state, I can then add certain foods gradually so I can figure out what my body is unable to process.  

This will be an adventure.  I will document the process here, so as not to interfere with the normal flow of the original Kashu-do (歌手道) blog.  This is also a way of keeping myself on task with this new adventure that is bound to present challenges.

I welcome your participation and commentary.

JRL

7 comments:

JW said...

Jean-Ronald,

First off, I wanted to thank you for all the work you put into your blog. I’ve studied with the 'best' teachers in NY and LA, and few can speak about vocalism so comprehensively.

I relate to your journey on a number of levels. In my 20s, I sang as a bass-baritone, something I could get away with because of the dark color of my voice. However, after moving out to LA (at 29), and opting to take a break from my singing, I've truly reevaluted the way I make sounds. Was I breathing correctly—and what was the mechanism? Was I depressing my tongue, or jutting out my jaw? Was the phonation too squeezed? Was my larynx unstable? Was my vibrato produced incorrectly? Did I make enough vertical mouth space while trying to preserve the ‘speaky place’ my preferred teacher in NY ranted about?

I worked with a teacher or two out here (getting what I needed from them and then parting ways—I’d had too many teachers with whom I’ve produced no results after years of study), started voraciously reading as many pedagogy books as I could find, and finally managed to start singing above the staff. Despite a top teacher’s assessment that I was ‘an A-E’ guy (referring to my passaggi) and F# was the top of my voice, I knew it wasn’t. I could just feel it (and it didn’t feel good).

Anyway, after getting a better handle on some of what needed to happen technically to sing baritone arias, I still felt (and feel) there are good days and bad days. I've had asthma since childhood, and reflux for years. I didn’t know how to measure how bad my reflux was though—I’d gotten used to the sounds coming from my stomach/throat at night, and elevated my head as a necessity when needed. Finally, I saw an ENT who said I had a lump of tissue underneath my cords that had developed because of reflux, possibly affecting my vocal cord motility. He prescribed tons of medications. A second opinion from an ENT at the time--a pretty famous doc named Charles Schneider--suggested that I was a highly allergic person, and should combat my symptoms through allergy shots, a daily nasal spray and a HEP filter (I still use the filter).

Needless to say, I just couldn't swallow pills every day, or routinely take expensive shots; it just felt unnatural and indirect. A month ago, still wondering what might be going on with my body, I went to see an allergist who said I was allergic to cow's milk, eggs and soy. Gluten seems ok. Right now I'm on the Paleo Diet, essentially, and hoping to see some kind of results. Of course, it's difficult to measure the impact vocally, but I think the questions I'm going to ask myself are:

-Do I feel less bloated after meals—does going horizontal immediately cause reflux (sounds and discomfort)?
-Am I generally less phlegmy in the mornings?
-Does it take me less time to access my top when I start to vocalize?
-How is my asthma? Can I make it through an uphill bike ride without feeling like I am breathing through a coffee stirrer? Can asthma really be helped or eliminated through dietary changes????

I try never to eat after 8 pm if I can avoid it, though that is difficult. I never eat overly spicy foods and avoid red wine (I do have the occasional cocktail). I work out 5 times a week (sometimes I do wonder if lifting weights puts stress on my throat—but I try to avoid locking my breath).

Anyway, it’s a full body challenge and one that I’ve decided to take a much more scientific, calculated approach to. I know my technique is not perfect. But I also know I have a few physical challenges that likely create some trouble in the phonation and breathing department.

Best of luck--thrilled to hear thoughts on this from someone with such a sound tech understanding.

JW

Jean-Ronald LaFond said...

Dear JW,

Committing to being a singer is a lifetime's adventure and very energy consuming, which is why my only criteria for teaching anyone is that they "must" sing. It is amazing what we will do for the sake of our talent/passion!

My reason for doing the cleanse is to eliminate everything that could be a problem. I don't fully trust doctors only because they are predisposed to diagnose certain things and not others. I recommend you try no gluten as well. It can be so insidious on so many levels.

Wishing you well on your journey and happy to have company! Feel free to share on the new blog whenever you wish!

badenska said...

Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I too am on the Paleo diet and it has CHANGED my body, mind, spirit and voice. Cutting out grains and dairy was the best thing I could have done for myself. I no longer struggle with terrible reflux and have lost a considerable amount of weight as a bonus. My energy is through the roof. Good luck to you. I look forward to reading about your progress.

Love,
Jessi

badenska said...

I too have been following the Paleo diet and it has changed my body, voice and spirit. I no longer struggle with debilitating reflux. Cutting out grains and dairy has even cleared my mind. I look forward to reading about your experiences. Feel free to ask if you are interested in Paleo.

All my love,
Jessi

Arachne said...

I too will follow this thread with great interest. My chronic reflux and allergies have now reached such a peak (aggravated by near-drought conditions here in the UK since March) that I went deaf in one ear for two weeks. I don't know which is worse for a singer: phlegmy folds or blocked eustachian tubes!

JW said...

I'd love to hear feedback on diets and what people think about them! I'm not lactose intolerant...and really just wanted to improve reflux, allergy/sinusitis and asthma symptoms. Of course, the ability to measure the effects is a talent in itself :)

Curious to hear about gluten-free and Paleo reactions....

Best,
J

ralphswurld said...

where can I find this?
Is it good to take a detox diet with a slimming pill? I dont want to overload myself, im taking slimlike pills right now.





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