Mucus is an inevitable reality of life. At one point or another we have all been hit with phlegm causing ailments. Whether it's seasonal allergies, a common cold or a full-blown sinus infection, mucus is there in all it's gross glory. Aside from being unpleasant, congestion is problematic because it constricts the airways making it difficult to breathe. Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, can cause snoring, coughing, postnasal drip, and a runny nose. In addition to typical solutions, natural approaches, such as food choice, can help to prevent or eliminate mucus when sickness strikes.
What is Mucus?
According to SinusWars.com, mucus is a thick fluid that lines the organs, and pathways of the body. It is composed of water, salt, mucin, and various microscopic cell types. In healthy amounts and consistency, mucus is beneficial-- it keeps our bodies hydrated.When we get sick, however, mucus is produced in larger quantities in an attempt to flush out pathogens. This excess of mucus is what causes trouble. It blocks up our sinuses, leading to increased pressure, difficulty breathing, and an overall sense of not feeling well.
The Food Connection
Food choice plays an important role in the build-up and break-down of mucus. In general, dairy products contribute to the build up of thick mucus, while fresh fruits and vegetables help in eliminating and loosening mucus. Temperature of food also plays a role. Cold foods tend constrict the sinus passageways, while warmed foods thin and open airways.
The Perfect Choice for Sinus Sufferers
Pineapple is an excellent food choice to stave off excess mucus. It contains bromelain; a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down the proteins in mucus. Pineapple also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce swelling in the passageways--making breathing and draining easier.
Other Mucus Relieving Fruits
Other citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges contain high amounts of vitamin C. In adequate doses, vitamin C can prevent and lessen the effects of a cold. Grapefruit is particularly beneficial in that it reduces the amount of salt in the body and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. For best results squeeze any these fruits into a cup of hot water and drink immediately. The combination of fruit and warmth will help to thin and drain mucus.
Vegetables provide a wonderful defense against excess mucus. Unlike other processed foods, fresh veggies contain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that aid in combating illness. Vegetables such as: asparagus, onions, cauliflower, celery, and garlic have powerful healing properties. Mix up some of these hearty vegetables in a hot cup of soup for quick relief. Again, the addition of hot liquid will help move the mucus from your system. Dark green vegetables, like spinach and kale, contain chlorophyll; an antioxidant that boosts immunity.
Warm and Spicy
As mentioned previously, heat eliminates mucus by breaking down molecules that give it it's thick consistency. Both warm temperature foods and spicy foods qualify as mucus eliminators. Hots soups with spices like garlic and ginger added are the perfect mucus killing combo.
Foods to Avoid
Dairy is the main food group to avoid during a bout of sinusitis. Foods like milk, cheese and yogurt should be consumed sparingly. Products with refined sugars, like chocolate and white flour, also contribute to mucus production, and should be avoided. Keep it simple-- stick with whole, unprocessed, foods. Whole grains, fresh vegetables, citrus fruits, and spices are the recipe for fast relief from mucus producing illness.
Michelle Goss began writing professionally in 1999. She has contributed regularly to regional publications such as "Dalton Magazine." Goss received a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in history from Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga.