8 Foods that Cause Mucus

March 19, 2019
Dairy, animal products,and other foods are rich in fats and proteins that can promote the accumulation of mucus in the throat and airways.One of the things we can do when we're suffering from excess mucus is to avoid certain foods that can cause mucus production.

Mucus is a viscous secretion that covers membranes in the body and contains antiseptic enzymes and immunoglobins. In the respiratory system, mucus is responsible for trapping tiny particles, like bacteria and dust, that enter through the nose. Certain foods may cause mucus to build up more than usual.

Because it works to protect the lungs, mucus often accumulates in the airways when an infection is present, as is the case with the cold and flu, as well as allergies.

Excess mucus is an annoying symptom that can leave you feeling weak and sick during the day. What’s worse, if not properly treated soon enough, it can spread to other areas of the body like the nose, chest, ears, and throat.

This symptom is a defense mechanism against viruses and bacteria that affect the respiratory system. For this reason, it’s important to treat the problem at its source to keep the body from producing it in excess.

One of the things we can do when we’re suffering from excess mucus is to avoid certain foods that can cause mucus production. Below, we’ll share which foods should be avoided when mucus is present.

Dairy products

These types of products top the list of foods that increase mucus production. There are a lot of myths surrounding these products, but what is known is that dairy products cause there to be more mucus than normal, which can cause breathing problems and throat irritation.

The products you should avoid are:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Ice cream which contains milk
  • Cream
  • Condensed milk

Animal products

Red meats and eggs can also cause an increase in mucus and phlegm. These foods contain high levels of proteins and this can cause mucus to accumulate in the throat and airways.  Red meats and eggs are also known to create as much mucus as dairy products can.

Animal fats and oils

The majority of diets include large amounts of animal fats and oils, like butter, lard, and omega 6 fatty acids. It’s really important to avoid animal fats and opt for healthy fats like olive oil and foods with omega 3 fatty acids.

If you want to know more about the beneifts of the omega 3 fatty acids and some food options that have them, follow this link:

Omega 3: More Foods then Just Oily Fish

animal fat,lard, in a small bowl

Some varieties of fruits and vegetables

We all know that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and we should eat them daily to take advantage of all their benefits. However, a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that some fruits and vegetables are not the best choices if you’re suffering from excess phlegm. These include:



Many nutrition experts agree that wheat increases mucus production. It contains so many compounds that it’s difficult to know which of them causes excess mucus. Despite a lack of research to support this affirmation, avoiding wheat products is recommended to reduce mucus and congestion.

Drinks that dehydrate the body

When you have a respiratory infection, it’s essential to increase your liquid intake and eat foods with higher water content. Some people might consider drinking soft drinks a great way to hydrate the body; however, soft drinks contain high quantities of sugars and other compounds which can dehydrate the body. According to a study conducted at the University of Texas in San Antonio, dehydration can cause more mucus and thicker mucus.

Read: 8 Positive Health Changes When you Give Up Soft Drinks

Peanuts and Nuts

Peanuts effect on causing mucus

Nuts can increase the production of mucus and phlegm in certain people that have an intolerance and are highly allergic. The same occurs with other types of food intolerances. Certain foods naturally contain histamine, which is a compound that our bodies release when we’re having an allergic reaction. More mucus can be created when there are increased levels of histamine in our bodies.

Processed foods

Processed foods like sugar and flour are difficult to digest and can make congestion problems worse. Because sugar is a pro-inflammatory, the body can react to the inflammation by creating mucus. Likewise, those with a gluten intolerance should avoid these products because along with causing digestive problems, they can also create discomfort by causing mucus and phlegm levels to increase. 

  • Bachert C, Calus L, Gevaert P. Rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43.
  • Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 42.
  • Butler, L. M., Koh, W.-P., Lee, H.-P., Yu, M. C., & London, S. J. (2004). Dietary Fiber and Reduced Cough with Phlegm. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200306-789OC