Mucus can be a good thing, helping to trap dirt and germs and keeping you from getting infections. However, in larger amounts it can be irritating, making you cough and giving you a sore throat. Avoiding certain foods can help minimize mucus production, but it can also make it hard to get enough of certain nutrients, so only do this for a short time or with the help of a registered dietitian or doctor.
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Foods You May Be Allergic To
Eggs, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, tree nuts and milk are the foods most likely to cause food allergies. If you're allergic to these foods, eating them could lead to an increase in mucus. However, avoiding these foods if you're not allergic to them is unlikely to reduce the amount of mucus you produce. This is even the case with milk, despite a common belief that milk and dairy products increase mucus production. A study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2005 found that drinking milk didn't cause people who had the common cold to produce more mucus.
Foods Containing or Producing Histamine
Histamine may cause your nose to make more mucus, especially when you have an allergy or are under stress. Some types of fish, such as anchovies, smoked fish, sardines and mackerel, contain histamine. Tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, avocados, mushrooms and dried fruits also contain histamine, as do aged cheese, alcohol, cider, yogurt, vinegar, sour cream, processed meats and fermented foods. While strawberries, shellfish, papayas, pineapple, bananas, chocolate and eggs don't contain histamine, they can cause your body to release it, making them foods to avoid on the anti-mucus diet.
Other Foods That May Increase Mucus
Other foods you may want to avoid, at least temporarily, to limit mucus include sugar, excessive amounts of salt, food additives, preservatives, cabbage, meat, potatoes and corn. Eating fewer processed foods, less salt and sugar and less meat will make your overall diet healthier, as long as you take extra care to get all of the essential nutrients in appropriate amounts. An anti-mucus diet limits so many foods that this can be difficult.
Foods That Decrease Mucus Production
Besides eating less of foods that may increase mucus production, eat more of foods that may decrease the amount of mucus your body makes. These include nuts, seeds, lemon, pickles, onions, garlic, horseradish, watercress, parsley, rose hips tea and celery. Many of these foods can be used to add flavor to your food without salt, which can increase mucus production. Make a salad that includes watercress, onions and celery topped with a dressing containing lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. For a snack, make hummus with chickpeas, parsley, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini and serve it with your favorite dipping vegetables.
- Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy: Milk, Mucus and Cough
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Food Allergy
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cystic Fibrosis
- Michigan Allergy, Sinus & Asthma Specialists: Foods That Contain Histamine or Cause the Body to Release Histamine, Including Fermented Foods
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Milk Consumption Does Not Lead to Mucus Production or Occurrence of Asthma