Truth or Myth: dairy increases mucus?

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    I heard all my life that if you have a cold, you should avoid dairy products because they increase mucus production. That if you're already 'phlegmmy' you shouldn't have any dairy.

    And then an acquaintance tells me that that's all horse-poo, that the latest research indicates all that is either a myth or old wives' tale, or whatever. I only listened because he's quite the track and field athlete, and seems he'd know if dairy did increase the secretions; he swears by all dairy products and doesn't avoid them when sick and never had an issue with extra mucus production.

    Anyone know for sure, not just what they believe because they were told this? What's a reliable source to find out if it's FACT, or CR*P? Would love to know!
  2. 47 Comments so far...

  3. 1
    Dunno about any official research but in Middle School DD's chorus director used to instruct the kids not to have milk before a concert.
    hiddencatRN likes this.
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    My mother always told me this. Recently one of our doctors told me the same. Not sure if it's true.

    I know that milk products taste yucky when I have a cold. I think it makes mucous, that's my personal opinion.
    Last edit by FireStarterRN on Apr 19, '08
  5. 6
    This is a myth that refuses to die. The myth can be dated back to at least the middle ages. Many double blind studies have been perfomed and all have indicated that milk does not cause increased mucus production.
    teeniebert, dishes, RN BSN 2009, and 3 others like this.
  6. 2
    Quote from RNsRWe
    Anyone know for sure, not just what they believe because they were told this? What's a reliable source to find out if it's FACT, or CR*P? Would love to know!
    This one is a CR*P.

    Wuthrich et al report in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that "milk consumption does not lead to mucus production of occurrrence of asthma."

    http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/24/suppl_6/547S

    There may be many reason why a person might wish to avoid milk - high calories, lactose intolerance. But mucus production it bunk. Sadly this myth continues to be propagated by many alternative medicine practitioners.
    dishes and RNsRWe like this.
  7. 3
    Seems to me that we were taught last year that dairy products do not cause phlegm to form, but can make present phlegm thicken. Here is a supporting link:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phlegm/AN01455

    Others advise against this practice:
    http://www.itmonline.org/arts/dairy.htm

    This is a chicken-egg argument with dime thrown in (food allergies). I think it will be debated for a long time. Personal experience has taught me that dairy does not cause phlegm, but it does make it worse. And sour cream makes it the absolute worst. If I have no phlegm from asthma or GERD, dairy does not bother me.

    Just my
    sunny261, RNsRWe, and SaderNurse05 like this.
  8. 1
    I agree with the previous poster... it doesn't increase mucous production but does make mucous thicker. I have experienced this myself when I have a cold, as well as, with many patients at work with RSV who do better in the worst stages of it taking Pedialyte instead of their formula.
    SaderNurse05 likes this.
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    So, although it does NOT increase mucus production, the warning away from the dairy products might be warranted in that it thickens secretions. Which, to the average person, is equivalent (we know it's not the same, but you get the layman's general idea).

    If someone's already congested and snotty, chances are they aren't going to want to have thicker secretions (even if there's not more of it). I'd like to look into it further, and will read the link about the thickening "00000" posted, but can't just this minute.

    If anyone else has anything factual to add, it'd be appreciated. I know the personal anecdotes, would really just like to have that definitive, evidence-based stuff to throw out at my patients when needed. Thanks!
  10. 0
    Quote from RNsRWe
    So, although it does NOT increase mucus production, the warning away from the dairy products might be warranted in that it thickens secretions...
    If anyone else has anything factual to add, it'd be appreciated...would really just like to have that definitive, evidence-based stuff to throw out at my patients when needed. Thanks!
    The paper I cited above suggests that mucus is not increased nor is it thickened. They did, however, find that dairy can make mucus whiter in color. Because the mucus is more visible pt's think there is more and/or thicker. This makes sense.

    I hate to move off topic (well not really) but the misinformation spread by some (and I repeat some, not all) alternative practitioners contravenes logic. Food is largely broken down to a molecular level by digestion. So if the fats, proteins, and sugars contained in milk are broken down how could they affect the body differently than a steak? To my knowledge the only thing "different" about milk is that it has lactose.

    Another one I come across a lot her in Cali is the from the colonic irrigation advocates. They suggest that meat somehow gets "stuck" in the colon, remaining there for "years." Colonoscopy has long shown this to be false, yet the myth persists. And folks spend a lot of money lavaging their gut - silly IMHO. There are many sound reasons for not eating meat - having it stick in your colon is not one of them.
  11. 0
    I looked this one up. I googled "milk vs mucus, milk and mucus".
    Milk is thicker than water thereby giving mucus a thicker sensation but does not make mucus thicker.


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