Foods to Avoid With a Cough

A cough can be irritating and disruptive to your day and keep you up at night. A cough can be due to illness, infection or pollutants, or it can be a side effect of medications. Avoiding certain foods might help reduce the inflammation and throat spasms that trigger certain types of coughing.

Woman coughing in bed (Image: Samo Trebizan/iStock/Getty Images)

Milk May Increase Mucus

If you are coughing to clear phlegm in your throat, avoiding foods that produce mucus may help relieve the problem. A study published in the journal "Medical Hypotheses" in 2009 noted that for some people, drinking milk appears to stimulate mucus production in the respiratory tract, including the lungs and throat. A protein from the digestion of milk stimulates excess mucus production in the intestinal tract. Milk and other dairy foods may have a similar effect on respiratory glands, particularly if there is already an infection or inflammation, researchers said. If you have a cough, eliminate milk from your diet to determine if that helps.

Food Allergens and Triggers

If your cough is related to asthma, a condition that affects the lungs and causes wheezing, shortness of breath and other symptoms, avoiding certain foods may help. Asthma UK notes that in some cases, certain food allergens and triggers can worsen asthma symptoms, including coughing. Your doctor can determine if your asthma is linked to diet. Possible food allergen culprits include cow's milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, yeast and nuts. Some foods, such as wine, fizzy drinks, processed meats and prepared salads, contain chemicals that also can trigger asthma. Keep track of your diet and avoid food allergens and triggers that worsen your symptoms.

Caffeine and Dehydration

A dry throat can cause discomfort when you swallow and leave you with a raspy cough. Keep your body well-hydrated to help soothe a dry throat. Drink plenty of fluids but avoid drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and some sodas. Caffeine is a mild diuretic that stimulates urination, causing your body to lose water.

Immunity and Processed Foods

A review published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2002 advised that nutrition plays a key role in how well your immune system can fight infections and illnesses that lead to coughs and other symptoms. Poor nutrition inhibits your immune system and suppresses some of its protective functions. Give your immune system a boost -- and beat your cough -- by avoiding processed and refined foods. Foods such as white bread, white pasta, baked goods, chips, packaged snacks and sugary desserts are low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Replace these foods with nutrient-dense whole foods to optimize your immune strength.

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