Why do I Have So Much Mucus (Snot)

By: Cat Ebeling, RN, MSN-PHN, co-author of the best-sellers:  The Fat Burning KitchenThe Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix

It’s called, “phlegm,” “mucus,” “snot,” “loogies,” or even “boogers,” and some of us have more than others. We sniff, snort, clear our throats, cough, and spit it out. And it can be pretty gross.

We all have about 1 to 1.5 liters of it that pass through our system every day, and some of us have more mucus than others. It can be thick, green, yellow, brown, or clear and thin. It’s all mucus and it serves some vital functions in the body.

What is this slimy stuff?


Mucus is a lubricating, protective substance made mostly of water and a gel-forming molecule called mucin. Mucus lines the nose, sinuses, the eyes, the mouth, the digestive system, the vagina and more.

Mucus serves to protect the sensitive areas, remove dirt, pollen, and other pathogens, and keep tissues moist. Mucus also lubricates organs and cavities in the body, allowing you to move freely without things sticking to each other. Ouch!

Some of the cells in these areas of your body release a mixture of proteins, salts, fats, and immune molecules, and other cells covered with tiny hair-like projections called ‘cilia’ sweep the mucus along. Sort of like automatic house cleaning in your body.

We tend to notice the mucus in our nasal passages and throat the most because this is the stuff that catches dirt, dust, pollen, and pathogens and gets thick and gooey. Sometimes it can run down your throat, causing you to have to clear your throat often.

Phlegm is also mucus that ends up down in your lungs due to breathing irritating air, having a cold or lower respiratory infection or pollen that you breathe in. Phlegm helps you cough up some of those things you’ve inhaled.

Phlegm also happens when you are sick, and a virus gets down in your lower respiratory passages. This irritating virus and the resulting immune reaction cause thick mucus to deposit in your bronchial tubes and lungs. Result— you cough up, thick chunks of yellow, green, or brown mucus, called phlegm.

Our bodies make mucus all the time, but we only tend to notice it when it’s excessive and thick. In fact, your body normally produces about 1 to 1.5 liters of mucus a day.

What causes excess mucus?


  • Dairy products, especially conventional dairy
  • Inflammation from grains, i.e., gluten
  • Nightshade sensitivity
  • Vegetable seed oils, like sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, soybean, corn, canola, etc.
  • Colds, flu, covid, and other respiratory infections
  • Inhaling smoke, dust, animal dander, mold spores, and air pollution
  • Certain medications, like birth control pills, or blood pressure medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Acid reflux
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • COPD
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol
  • Excess inflammation, anywhere in the body

Stop the constant drip, drip, drip…

Many people have ongoing mucus issues and don’t understand the cause—nor understand that it can be eliminated. But you can reduce and/or eliminate this annoying goo.

There are a variety of ways to reduce or thin your mucus secretions, both naturally and medically. Let’s dig in…

1. Diet


Diet is the biggest factor in causing excess mucus secretions, and this can vary from person to person. However, there are a few foods that create more mucus for most people.

These include conventional, processed dairy, which can be a big issue, especially if you tend to have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy. Dairy can cause everything from stuffy nose, to blocked sinuses, and even coughing up phlegm. Switching to raw dairy, or even A2 type of dairy can eliminate this mucus clogging food.

Other foods that contribute to mucus include all grains, especially gluten, corn, and soy. Processed, refined grains are the worst for mucus production. Grains are highly inflammatory to the entire body, and this causes excess production of mucus.

An often-overlooked food that causes excess mucus are nightshades. Many people are sensitive to one or more of these foods, and don’t even know it. You don’t have to have a dramatic reaction to these foods. In fact, the mucus production may be the only reaction you notice. Nightshades include white potatoes, all varieties of peppers, tomatoes (often canned or cooked ones are more of a problem), eggplant, okra, and even goji berries.

Other foods that can cause excess mucus are certain fruits and vegetables like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. While you wouldn’t think of these foods as causing inflammation, for many, these foods can inflame the digestive system, creating more mucus or phlegm. Examples of fruits or vegetables that increase mucus include spinach, kale, cabbage, bananas, and potatoes.

One of the worst offenders for causing mucus and inflammation includes vegetable seed oils such as sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, corn, canola, soybean, grapeseed, or just ‘vegetable oil’. These oils are known to be highly inflammatory to the body and the lungs. Many people who have asthma report increased inflammation and difficulties breathing when ingesting vegetable oils.

Refined cane sugar can really exacerbate inflammation as well as mucus production. On top of that, sugar can totally knock out or reduce your immune system responses to viral and bacterial infections. Lowered immune function results in catching more colds, flu, and bacterial infections—all of which cause increased mucus and phlegm.

Alcoholic beverages—especially beer and wine can increase mucus production as well. Because alcohol inflames the digestive tract, this causes excess mucus to be produced. The worst alcoholic beverages for mucus and phlegm are dark beers and red wine. Both contain high quantities of yeasts and molds, along with histamines that create a stuffy nose and sinuses.

2. Irritating Allergens in Your Environment


This may be easier said than done, but when pollen, dust, animal dander or other allergens are floating around in the air, it’s best to reduce your exposure. If it’s pollen from plants and trees that bothers you, spending time indoors with air conditioning or an air filter may be best. If it’s indoor allergens, vacuuming and dusting frequently may help.

One thing that makes a huge difference during allergy season, is eliminating any foods that increase inflammation and mucus. I personally have found that avoiding eating any grains or sugar, as well as certain nightshades makes a huge difference in my reaction to other environmental allergens. So, before you lock up the dog and lock yourself inside, make some healthy tweaks to your diet, and you may find that your runny nose, cough, and watery eyes disappear during allergy season if you are avoiding inflammatory foods.

Another helpful practice is to use a Neti pot during allergy ‘season’ or when exposed to allergens in the air. It can wash out the irritating substances and reduce the mucus in your nasal and sinus pathways.

3. Medication


Conventional medical doctors will want you to try taking decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays. However, I am not a big believer in these remedies as they often have unwanted side effects (no surprise here).

Decongestants–Common decongestants can be effective but also are extremely drying to your body and can cause dehydration, since they work systemically. Decongestants even dry out your eyes and make them feel irritated and scratchy.

Decongestants have a common side effect of making you feel jittery and anxious—kind of like having too much caffeine. While feeling this way is not fun at any time of the day, feeling jittery at night can wreck a good night’s sleep. Decongestants also constrict blood vessels, causing a possibly dangerous increase in blood pressure.

Antihistamines–On the other hand, antihistamines can not only be very drying, but they have the added side effect of making you feel extremely groggy and drowsy. While you may have less mucus, you may not even be able to function with these medications.

Nasal Sprays–The three most often used types of nasal sprays are steroid, antihistamine, and decongestant. While nasal sprays can temporarily clear your nose, you can actually become physically addicted to them—very quickly.

Nasal sprays have a ‘rebound’ effect, and while they can constrict the blood vessels in the nose, helping to shrink your nasal tissues and helping you breathe easy, once they wear off, breathing and mucus production will be worse. Nasal sprays, like decongestants, can also dangerously raise blood pressure, so beware. A saline nasal spray may be the best option to thin mucus.

Expectorants–Expectorants can help to loosen and break up phlegm in the chest, helping you cough up and clear out your bronchial tubes and lungs. Conventional medical expectorants can encourage a cough, while other cough suppressant medicines stop a tickling cough. Elderberry cough medicine, which is a natural-based cough medicine, uses elderberry extracts to help break up the phlegm for a more productive cough.

4. Natural Solutions


Besides dietary changes, there are a few effective treatments you can do to reduce the amount of mucus secretions and the viscosity (thickness).

Hydration—The simple act of drinking more water or fluids can help to thin out secretions. Since mucus is a body fluid, anything that helps to increase bodily fluids will help to thin mucus. Approximately 60% of the human body is water–plus or minus 15%. Losing only 3% of your weight in water can result in dehydration.

Neti pot—Neti pots help to clean allergens, dust, and animal dander out of the nose, while flushing out the sinuses. Neti pots clean the nasal passages with a salt and water solution and are easy to use. You can also purchase an over-the-counter saline nasal spray which basically works the same as a Neti pot.

Essential Oils—One of my favorite methods is to use essential oils to help clear the sinuses, and even the bronchial tubes and lungs. Eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil, rosemary oil and oregano oil all work well to help reduce congestion and mucus. One of the best ways to use these oils is to put several drops into boiling or almost boiling water, lean over the pot and cover your head with a towel to trap in the essential oil and steam. Breathe deeply.

Natural Supplements—Anything derived of elderberries works well to break up and reduce mucus. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a popular lung supplement that has been found to help patients with advanced COPD by reducing phlegm and thinning mucus. Ginger—either fresh ginger, or in a capsule is also effective at reducing mucus. Bromelain and pancreatic enzymes are often recommended to reduce and thin out phlegm and mucus in the body.

Making the above changes in diet and lifestyle along with adding in the necessary natural supplements will help you reduce your production of mucus and stop that annoying urge to clear your throat or blow your nose.



About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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