Have you ever felt the persistent need to clear your throat or not been able to stop coughing? If so, your body may be producing excess mucus. Mucus is a viscous, slippery substance that is secreted by the mucous membranes as a protective lubricant coating. But excess mucus can cause throat discomfort, nasal congestion, coughing and even breathing difficulty. The common cold, influenza, sinusitis, allergies, food sensitivities and diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema or cystic fibrosis can all increase mucus production. Certain foods and liquids can help alleviate excess mucus and its associated symptoms.
Chicken soup, long a folk remedy for the common cold, was studied at The Nebraska Medical Center. The results of the study, published in 2000 in "Chest," showed that chicken soup inhibited the movement of immune system cells called neutrophils. This inhibitory activity results in decreased inflammation, which may explain why chicken soup can reduce symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, including mucus production.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits high in beta-carotene and vitamins C and E can decrease airway swelling and congestion through their anti-inflammatory effect, according to Dr. Mary L. Hardy of the Cedars-Sinai Integrative Medicine Medical Group. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits are the best options. In addition, a compound in apples and grapes called quercetin has been found to inhibit inflammation. Dr. Hardy also recommends spicy foods. They work by increasing blood flow, which increases oxygen to the nasal passages and helps thin mucus. Try hot peppers, onions, garlic and horseradish.
Cold Water Fish
Cold water fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3s can reduce mucus production due to their anti-inflammatory effect. Sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna are some good choices. Other sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseeds, walnut oil and flaxseed oil.
Increasing your intake of water can help thin mucus and speed its removal. Hot liquids can be particularly effective at reducing mucus. They work by increasing the movement of cilia in the mucous membranes, which helps to clear mucus out more quickly. Try drinking hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Beneficial herbs that can be consumed as herbal tea include peppermint, rose hips, fenugreek, lobelia and mullein. These herbs act as expectorants, which thin and help expel excess mucus.
- MayoClinic.com: Cold Remedies - What Works, What Doesn't, and What Can't Hurt
- Chest: Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis in Vitro
- Fitness Magazine: 13 Ways to Alleviate Sniffling, Sneezing and Headaches
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Bronchitis
- Starwest Botanicals: Herbs for the Respiratory System
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cystic Fibrosis
Based near Boulder, Colo., Amber Olson has been writing health-related articles since 2009. She has served as a respiratory therapist, exercise specialist and yoga instructor. Olson holds a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and recreation from South Dakota State University and an associate's degree in respiratory care from Dakota State University.