Mucus plays an important role in keeping your body healthy, but producing too much of it may indicate an underlying condition. Find out the connection between dairy and mucus buildup, as well as what foods increase mucus production.
The Role of Mucus
Whether you call it snot, phlegm or mucus, it's not particularly fun to think about it. However, most people deal with mucus at some point. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your body normally produces about one liter of mucus daily.
This substance plays a role in lining and protecting your tissues, moisturizing and even trapping things like dust, pollen and mold. You probably don't think about it unless you are producing too much, such as when having a cold or flu. This issue is usually temporary and goes away quickly.
The Cleveland Clinic reports that other conditions may cause excess mucus as well. For those with chronic bronchitis or asthma, excessive mucus can sometimes make breathing difficult.
Irritable bowel syndrome and certain infections may sometimes cause the mucus to appear in your stool. On the more serious end of the spectrum, cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs.
Read more: Reasons for Coughing Up White Mucus
Dairy and Mucus Buildup
A common belief is that dairy and mucus buildup are related. However, that is actually not the case.
According to a July 2018 study in the BMJ, there is no evidence that milk creates mucus secretion. Its authors acknowledge that the creamy and thick texture of milk can make it feel like it produces mucus. If that's your case, then avoid milk, especially if you have a cold.
Another common belief is that a dairy allergy causes mucus, but the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy reports that dairy allergies don't cause this issue. The most common symptoms of a dairy allergy include hives, throat and/or tongue swelling and a drop in blood pressure, not mucus production.
Furthermore, milk or dairy doesn't affect lung capacity in those who have asthma. Researchers say that some people with asthma may cough after drinking cold beverages like milk, but they report it is from the cold irritating the airways and not from the dairy.
Foods That Create Mucus
The myth of dairy and mucus buildup in the throat has been refuted, so what foods should you avoid to prevent mucus? A June 2019 review in_ Nutrients _reports that eating a diet high in sodium, refined carbohydrates and meat may increase the chances of developing a cough with mucus.
Additionally, the Lung Institute reports that alcohol and soy products, such as soy milk, may also increase mucus production. Researchers suggest avoiding soda, pasta and sweet desserts to prevent this issue.
An April 2016 study in the FASEB Journal indicates that a histamine response due to an allergy, such as a food allergy, may also cause mucus hypersecretion. To see if a food allergy and the subsequent histamine reaction is the cause of your problem, talk to your doctor about being tested.
According to an April 2018 report in the Annals of Dermatology, foods that can often cause a histamine reaction include the following:
- Fermented foods, such as cabbage
- Wine and beer
- Citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, tangerines, pineapples
If you're experiencing mucus production, keep a food diary and monitor your symptoms. Talk to your doctor to get tested to find out whether it's a food allergy or an underlying condition that's causing these issues.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Mucus and Phlegm: What to Do If You Have Too Much"
- BMJ: "Milk, Mucus and Myths"
- Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy: "Milk, Mucus and Cough"
- Nutrients: "Role of Diet in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Prevention and Treatment"
- FASEB Journal: "Histamine Stimulates Mucus Secretion Through IL-4 Induced TMEM16A in Human Nasal Epithelium"
- Lung Institute: "21 Foods That Trigger Mucus Production (and 21 Foods That Reduce It)"
- Annals of Dermatology: "A Histamine-Free Diet Is Helpful for Treatment of Adult Patients With Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mucus in Stool: A Concern?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cystic Fibrosis"