16 answers

Did milk increase mucus production and worsen nose congestion?

My mother always said to avoid dairy when you're congested. She said it increases you mucus production and just makes you stuffier. Is this true?

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Summary

Mucus is produced de novo, by that I mean from mucus producing cells right in the bloodstream. Mucus has nothing to do with drinking milk fat or eating dairy products. Dairy should be avoided at times with stomach bugs because it can cause more irritation in the bowels. It does not increase mucus or make you stuffier.

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I definitely agree, & just to give you an idea.... I've been trying to have a baby for about a year now & I'm supposed to avoid dairy (especially milk) because of the increase in mucus thickness. It always makes me stuffier & the mucus thicker if I'm sick with congestion. One thing that does help loosen the mucus is just plain Robitussin (no initials after - with Guifenesin). It makes it thinner. Good luck!

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No this is a myth. I have asked my Pediatrician as well as an ENT about this. Dairy should be avoided at times with stomach bugs because it can cause more irratation in the bowels. It does not increase mucus or make you stuffier.
For those that are legitimately allergic that could be a symptom of the allergy.
Unfortunately milk/diary has had bad rap over the past few years and now kids are lacking lot's of Vitamin D and are suffering the consequences of the anti-dairy campaigns. It may seem like it makes you stuffier just because it is more thick of a liquid then water. However it will not make any cold symptoms worse and kids still need lot's of it daily in one form or another.

Milk Myth #2: Drinking milk causes mucus.

Myth Buster: Milk consumption does not lead to mucus production or occurrence of asthma.

The belief has been held for years that milk causes mucus formation, although the few studies on this topic have failed to demonstrate any effect of milk on mucus production. Many people confuse the temporary, slight thickening of saliva after drinking milk with mucus. There is no scientific research showing that milk produces mucus in the airways or the throat. It will not worsen cold or asthma symptoms. In fact, drinking lots of fluids when you have a cold is important in speeding up recovery and may do your immune system some good.3

Dr. Dean: Way back in the 1920s, Arnold Ehret wrote a book called the Mucusless Diet System in which he put forth the idea that dairy products make mucus and cause colds. Well, this caught on big and has not let go. One reason for the tenacity is that drinking a big, ol' glass of milk does leave a mucusy feeling in the mouth. There is no truth to Ehret's theory though.

Mucus is produced de novo, by that I mean from mucus producing cells right in the bloodstream. Mucus has nothing to do with drinking milk fat or eating dairy products.

Ear, nose, and throat doctors were being asked about this so frequently, that about six years ago they decided to do a study to finally put it to rest. Researchers loaded people up with milk and cheese and measured mucus flow rates. They found that a dairy diet didn't make a lick of a difference.

Now, some people can't have dairy products because they are lactose intolerant, but that has nothing to do with mucus and colds. Lactose intolerance causes gas, cramps, and diarrhea.

1 mom found this helpful

I see several replies on both sides of the debate here. Kind of interesting.

I just wanted to point out that, when you are sick with a cold or the flu, mucus isn't really the bad guy. Mucus helps to trap the virus and flush it out. It helps keep out other bugs as well. If milk does increase mucus production, it's not by a whole lot, and it's not going to make you sicker (maybe just feel a bit stuffy for a short time). The benefits of milk generally outweigh that (calcium and vitamin D, the B vitamins, etc). Unless, of course, you're dealing with a milk allergy. Then its a whole different ball game.

I have heard that this is true, and I've also heard it refuted, both by experts. I have no idea which is right. It is interesting how you can have opposing views on something like this, when it should be a fact: it either does or it doesn't! :^{ Drives me crazy. I guess at that point, we're left to draw our own conclusions based on what we observe. I've never worried too much about it for myself or my children, and we seem to weather colds, etc. ok. I guess just do what you're most comfortable with.

That is true, but certain types of dairy, like milk and cream based products, have more of an affect than others, like low fat yogurt. If you eat something acidic, like citrus fruit, at the same time, it lessens the effect. The best thing to help clear up a stuffy nose is zinc. Vitamin Water makes a water containing zinc and vitamin C that makes it a little easier to take. Good luck!

Our doctors have always told us it did, but our pulmonologist and ENT have both said for our son the calcium is more important than the problem of the extra mucous. I just give him extra calcium and still cut out the milk. Cutting out milk has always helped our kids when they've been congested.

I am pretty sure that is true. I notice a difference after I drink milk and when I have been sick and really congested I have had my doctor tell me to try and stay away from dairy. But you could test it out yourself. Try drinking some milk. If you don't notice any change maybe it doesn't affect you and you can see if this is really true.

You might find the info at www.notmilk.com interesting. It's a bit hysterical in tone, but if you can sift through that you'll find lots of actual data.
I'm no scientist, and my study pool (my family) is pretty small, but food allergies run in our family and I do think cow's milk does provoke reactions, including extra mucus production. Maybe the reason there are so many conflicting opinions is because different people have different reactions. (Although I will always be mystified as to why Americans think drinking the milk made for the young of another species is "healthy." Broccoli and oranges have as much calcium, and a few minutes of mild sun exposure gives your body plenty of Vitamin D.)
BTW, if you're weaning, you'd love the books "How Weaning Happens" and "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler," available to borrow for free through La Leche League or cheap online, I'm sure.
Best wishes!

Hi M.,
Yes it is true. My son was congested frequently when he was about 2 years old, the Dr. had me take him off dairy, started using soy milk for awhile. He is fine with milk now but if he gets a cold or is congested I definitely take him off of milk, yogurt... for a few days so it doesn't add to the congestion.

I am lactose intolerant so use mostly soy milk, the Dr.'s took me off of cows milk because I continually had sinus infections that would become bronchittus and I would be on atibiotics for weeks, this would happen at least 2 to 5 times a year. Since using soy I have had only 2 sinus infections in 7 years. I still eat some cheese and occassionally yogurt so I am not completely cow milk free, but when I eat cereal or make a latte, where I drink a whole cup of milk at a time I use soy. This also works if you are sick, use soy for a couple of days instead of cows milk until the congestion is over. It helps to start with the chocolate soy to get used to the flavor and slowly add regular soy, pretty soon it doesn't taste bad. I like Silk and the costco brand Kirkland that only needs refridgerated after opening. Both of these soy milks are higher in calcium and protein than cows milk so your not missing out on your vitamins!
A long answer for a simple question!
Good luck,
SarahMM

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