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Dairy and Mucus in the Sinuses

by
author image Shannon George
Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.
Dairy and Mucus in the Sinuses
Milk pouring in a bowl of cereal. Photo Credit payphoto/iStock/Getty Images

When you have excessive mucus, or phlegm, in the sinuses from a cold virus or allergies, the last thing you want to do is make your condition worse. During an upper respiratory infection, it's best to avoid substances like cigarette smoke and alcohol, which can aggravate symptoms such as runny nose and sinus congestion. Although some people think that dairy products like milk can worsen cold symptoms, this is untrue. Dairy products may, in some cases, help relieve mucus in the sinuses.

Dairy and Mucus Production

While it is a widely held belief that consuming dairy products increases mucus production and leads to excessive mucus in the upper and lower respiratory tracts, scientific evidence has demonstrated this notion to be false. In particular, a review of studies published by "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2005 concluded that milk products are not associated with increased nasal secretions or nasal congestion. The meta-study noted that while some people nevertheless report increased phlegm after drinking milk, these sensations are likely explained by the fact that milk's thick consistency is similar to that of mucus.

Dairy and Immune Function

If you're suffering from an unusually high amount of mucus in the sinuses due to a sinus infection or a cold or flu virus, consuming dairy products may help reduce excessive mucus by helping your immune system fight off the underlying illness. According to MealsMatter.org, a website maintained by the Dairy Council of California, dairy products such as cheese contain conjugated linoleic acid, a substance that has boosted immune function in animal studies. Yogurt and other cultured milk products may also help boost your immunity during an infection by providing beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Furthermore, early research suggests the vitamin D in dairy products may aid in cold and flu resistance, notes MealsMatter.org.

Other Benefits of Dairy for Mucus in the Sinuses

Besides providing special immunity-boosting benefits, dairy products also offer other advantages for treating an excessive amount of mucus in the sinuses. For one, drinking fluids when you're sick with a cold helps thin your mucus, which promotes recovery. Milk and other dairy-containing drinks can be used to meet your increased fluid intake needs when you're sick. According to research conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, milk that contains electrolytes and other nutrients is even more hydrating for kids than water. Frozen dairy products like ice cream can also help soothe sore throats associated with upper respiratory tract infections and provide nutrition when you might not otherwise eat.

Other Treatments

Other treatments may also help relieve excessive mucus in the sinuses. Symptoms of the common cold may improve with rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like acetaminophen and over-the-counter cold medications, such as decongestants. Seasonal allergies causing increased mucus production may be treated with antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants. If your condition has progressed to a sinus infection, however, you may require professional medical treatment including antibiotics. National Institutes of Health online medical encyclopedia Medline Plus recommends seeing a doctor if your sinus symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or if symptoms get worse after one week.

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