Foods That Cause Excessive Mucus and Foods That Reduce Mucus
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Foods That Cause Excessive Mucus and Foods That Reduce Mucus

Mucus has a purpose, but too much mucus can cause health problems that range from annoying to making it hard to breath. Excessive mucus can be caused by allergies or the flu and colds. There are certain foods that can cause excessive mucus and also foods that can relieve mucus. Learn about the foods.

Mucus has a purpose, but too much mucus can cause health problems that range from annoying to making it hard to breath. There are foods that make it worse and also foods that can lessen mucus.

What is Mucus?

Mucus or phlegm is produced by different mucus cells in our body and organs that include the nose, intestines and other places in our body. It is a thick fluid that coats organ membranes to protect the organs from invading pollutants. Mucus is a defense mechanism that can protect us by trapping and filtering viruses, bacteria and pollutants like cigarette smoke, pollen and dander from entering our body.

Too much mucus though can cause health problems from stuffy noses, runny noses to difficulty with breathing. If someone is allergic to something like pollen, smoke or pet dander, mucus can become excessive. If there is too much mucus in the lungs and you start to cough, that is the body’s way of getting rid of the pollutants and other invaders that have caused the excessive mucus. Coughing is important when you are sick. When you have a cold or the flu, coughing is the body’s way of getting rid of the virus or irritant that has caused the excessive mucus.

Excessive mucus can also cause recurring sinusitis and postal nasal drip. A cold or flu can cause the chest to become very tight with a tight cough. It is best not to suppress the cough but you should loosen the mucus and get rid of it. A good over-the-counter medicine to relieve a tight chest and loosen mucus is called Mucinex.

Foods that Cause Excessive Mucus

Certain beverages and foods can cause excessive mucus in certain people because they have an allergic reaction to the particular food and can also worsen certain medical conditions like asthma, colds, the flu, emphysema, COPD and cystic fibrosis. These foods include:

  • Dairy products can cause excessive mucus causing the mucus to be thicker than normal. Dairy foods include milk, yogurt, cheese and the foods that have these dairy products in them.
  • High-fat red meat and processed meats can also cause excessive mucus to become a problem. This can happen with anyone, but is more of a problem with those who have COPD.
  • Gluten found in wheat products, rye and barley can also cause excessive mucus. This is especially true for those who have an allergy or intolerance to gluten or if you have cystic fibrosis [1].
  • Alcohol. Each person is different, but from my own experience, I can say that too much alcohol can cause excessive mucus and the associated sinus problems.
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine and especially soda pop that contains both sugar and caffeine.
  • Fruits and vegetables like bananas, cabbage and potatoes possibly cause excessive mucus, especially bananas.

Foods that Relieve Excessive Mucus

Other than eliminating the foods that can cause excessive mucus, there are certain foods that can relieve excessive mucus including:

  • Certain vegetables and fruits such as garlic, pickles, celery, onions, parsley, winter squash, berries, oranges, greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peppers.
  • Chicken soup can also relieve the problem of excessive mucus.
  • Fatty fish including tuna, salmon, sardines, lake trout, herring and flounder.
  • Olive oil.

Home Remedies to Loosen a Tight Chest and Reduce Mucus

I recently had the flu that tightened my chest to the point I could hardly breathe and couldn’t stop coughing due to excessive mucus and a very tight chest. I came across a couple of home remedies that loosened the mucus and helped my breathing.

  • Put a teaspoon of the real horseradish (white or red) in a bowl and mix in a little lemon juice. This horseradish can be very hot and will loosen the tight chest and cause the excessive mucus to be expelled more easily. Actual horseradish is not the type from a squeeze bottle.
  • Hot water with lemon juice can also relieve a tight chest and loosen the mucus.

You should try and get rid of excessive mucus by spitting it out when you cough. This might not be the prettiest thing to do, but this is one way to get rid of the excessive mucus. I have never heard of any problems if you swallow it instead of spitting it out.


As you can see there are certain beverages and foods that can cause excessive mucus and also relieve excessive mucus. If you do get sick with the flu, cold, sinusitis problems or allergies, you should minimize the foods that cause mucus and eat more of the foods that relieve it.

Copyright © Sam Montana May 2012


[1] University of Maryland Medical Center

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Comments (21)

I will return with a recommendation for your great article.

Very interesting, I never knew that certain foods such as those mentioned could cause problems

Ranked #18 in Allergies

This was a very interesting and informative article, Sam. Personally I have never experienced a correlation between what I eat and mucus production or the lack of mucus production. I'll have to pay closer attention in the future see if there is direct relation between them that I may have missed in the past.

I'll keep this in mind the next time I'm sick. 

Returning to award you a recommendation.

Ranked #2 in Allergies

Since rice is the staple food here in the Philippines, I hardly can not eat without rice. if I experience colds and flu I stop the intake of rice, cause it takes time for it to ward-off while eating rice, well presented article Sam.

Being asthmatic, this in a way helped which ones to avoid...

Valuable post.  I'm aware that dairy products can cause mucus, but not the other food items listed here.   Thanks for the information

Very useful article, thanks

I didn't realize certain foods lead to excess mucus. Thanks for the info!

Thanks for thishealth info. I appreciate your affectionate support. Thank you dear Sam.

Excellent information.  I am recovering from another severe bout with sinusitis and realize that excessive mucus is a prevalent culprit.  Therefore, I know that I must change my diet to reduce & eliminate mucus causing foods.  Thank you for this well written article.

I've heard conflicting information regarding foods and drinks that cause mucus, so I guess, as with everything else, this may vary from person to person, but excellent info, as usual! : )

Very interesting topic on allergies...Thanks.

Cool. Thanks for this. It just occurred to me that when I have sugary foods or alcoholic drinks I get lots of mucus in my throat. I did an internet search to verify and came across your article here! Seeing your list I must say dairy and caffeine seem to do the same for me too thinking about it now. 

Another finding from this search I've just done is that "Osmolality" helps to understand why the foods you present here as causing mucus may still affect some people even when not sick, such as myself.

Thanks again

Wonder Full- We Regularly Use= Raddish +Lemon Juice-in Hot water- to reduse excess Mucas problem since ages- Thank You Bye
This article is terrible. Where is the research? Where is any evidence of your claims beyond your own personal and anecdotal evidence. This kind of terrible writing is what causes people even more issues than they already have. Being misinformed is worse than being not informed. You list several acidic foods as mucus reducing, this simply is NOT true. Some acidic foods (oranges, lemon) can actually be too harsh and cause a response from your body to protect itself by forming additional mucus. Seriously, please post a disclaimer at the top of your article stating you have little to no scientific evidence backing up any of your claims. What I see is you're correlating acidic/astringent foods with mucus relieving, and sticky/gooey foods with mucus forming. This couldn't be further from the truth as foods change during digestion, they also change as a result of us cooking them.
To the commenter above lemons and oranges are actually alkaline, not acids. Our bodies fair better in an alkaline state. Almost everything mentioned as not to eat (sugar, red meat, alcohol) is acidic on ph scale and therefore puts our bodies at risk for sickness. In fact white potatoes are more acidic than sweet.... I don't believe this is a research article (we can all do our own research). This is just a compilation of info and people can take it and find out if it applies to them or not. There's probably no harm in cutting out the mucus producing foods mentioned even if you don't notice an immediate affect.
Soda=lots of extra mucus for me. I've recently made the connection. I eat at least 2 bananas a day and will have to be more aware of the effect, if any. Thanks
Interesting article. Where did the information about these foods come from? I have 4th stage COPD and I find oranges and grapefruit along with their juices cause severe coughing (along with lemonade). Potatoes and bananas do not bother me nor do the other things listed. Milk and citrus fruit are my two main enemies although I do eat ice cream now and then. I only eat a small portion but I always know when I have in the following days. Cheese and butter as well as sour cream do not effect me as much if at all.
Ranked #1 in Allergies
Genevia, this information came from various sources on the internet including the University of Maryland link at the bottom of the article. You can also check out my article at And you can look into the supplement NAC as a way to alleviate COPD.