Mucus has a reputation for being gross because it is dense and sticky. When you feel it is building up in the back of your throat, you know it has to go someplace. Is it then OK to… swallow it?
Mucus, also known as phlegm, is a lubricating material that coats the surface of your lungs, mouth, sinuses, stomach, and intestines. Mucus can also be called sputum. According to Aron Kandinov, MD, an otolaryngologist with ENT and Allergy Associates in Brooklyn, New York, it is composed primarily of water, proteins, and a small amount of sugar. Your body depends on it to prevent your tissues from becoming overly dry and trap and remove bacteria, viruses, or other particles that can potentially make you sick.
It has been discovered that the slimy substance is, in fact, beneficial to one’s health. However, this does not necessarily imply that you should be chowing down on large mouthfuls of mucus. I’ll explain why.
It is not harmful to swallow mucus, yet, doing So Can Be Very Annoying
There is always a tiny amount of mucus pouring slowly but gradually down your throat since the body is continually creating a fresh supply of mucus, and there is always a little bit. (Dr. Kandinov notes that this is how it travels to your digestive tract, where it may function as a lubricant.) In a normal situation, you won’t notice this happening. Thus, there shouldn’t be a problem with it. According to Dr. Kandinov, ingesting mucus does not pose any health risks.
The mucus production increases when your immune system works harder to fend off an infection or other threat. According to Dr. Kandinov, “When sick or reacting to allergies, the body secretes more mucus as a means of increasing that barrier and clearing the pathogens.” This mucus often drops down the back of the throat and is ingested. “When sick or reacting to allergies, the body secretes more mucus to increase that barrier and clear the pathogens.” This doesn’t pose any health risks either.
However, it is only sometimes pleasant. When you are ill, in addition to producing more mucus than usual, your slime tends to be thicker and stickier than normal. This may irritate your throat and cause a slight hoarsening of your voice. According to Dr. Kandinov, if you swallow a lot of mucus, your stomach may feel weird.
Despite this, no evidence supports the notion that eating mucous would cause sickness or cold to stay longer (despite what your mother may have taught you). Additionally, consuming mucus will not result in diarrhea or make a cough more severe. Last but not least, if you swallow phlegm, it does not travel back into your lungs, as we discussed earlier; rather, it travels down into your digestive tract.
How to Eliminate an Excessive Amount of Mucus
When you’re probably not feeling great, having a phlegm factory in full production gear might make you feel much worse. This is because phlegm can make you feel uncomfortable. However, there are certain things you can do to lessen the severity of your symptoms and reduce the amount of mucus you produce.
- Use a nasal saline spray or rinse. According to Dr. Kandinov, a quick spray of salt water in each nostril will swiftly clear up mucus and prevent large amounts of it from accumulating in the nasal passages. Try using the SinuCleanse Sterile Saline Nasal Mist, which can be purchased on Amazon for $11.30.
- Place a warm and damp cloth over your face and relax. Mucus may be more easily expelled from the body when the heat thins it out.
- Run a humidifier. According to the Cleveland Clinic, increasing the amount of moisture in the air inside your home may encourage your body to produce less mucus. (For a rundown of the top humidifiers, check out the comparison on LIVESTRONG.)
- Pay close attention to what you put in your body. Mucus may be broken up with the aid of warm drinks and soups that are based on broth. On the other hand, certain meals make mucus production worse for some people.
- You may give an over-the-counter medicine a shot. Expectorants such as Mucinex (which costs $22.49 on Amazon) can thin mucus, making it easier to drain out of your chest. Decongestants such as Sudafed (which costs $13.23 on Walmart) or Sinex (which costs $17.94 on Amazon) may help your body create less mucus overall; however, using these medications too frequently might result in a rebound effect. Try treating your allergies with an antihistamine such as Zyrtec (available for 11.49 USD on Amazon) or Claritin (available for 19.82 USD on Walmart).
Then Again, Is It Really That Dangerous to Swallow Mucus?
Consuming a small amount of phlegm won’t affect you in any way. You may not even be aware that you are ingesting mucus daily. According to Dr. Kandinov, though, having a lot of mucus streaming down your neck might cause it to become irritated and give you a stomachache.
Consequently, if you are severely congested due to a cold or allergies, clearing out some excesses may help you feel more at ease.