It is an age old idiom that we are what we eat. Yet, many of us seldom think deeply about the food we eat everyday. Most decisions are influenced by taste and that somehow never seems to be a good idea. When we have puffy eyes, we tend to blame it on the lack of sleep. Or when we catch a cold, it is generally the shift in the weather. But several of these problems are actually caused by the excessive mucus produced by the food you eat.
Chronic cough, crusty eyes, and a bad cold can all be because of excessive mucus in the body. Here’s a lowdown on everything you need to know about mucus and the foods that produce mucus.
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What is mucus?
Mucus is not limited to the dirty ‘nosey’ that flows out when you have a cold. Also known as phlegm, mucus is produced by different cells in our body and organs like the nose, intestines and other places. It is rich in glycoproteins and water and is typically produced by cells found in the mucus glands. It also contains antiseptic enzymes such as lysozymes, immunoglobulins, inorganic salts and proteins such as lactoferrin.
Why do we have mucus?
Though you may typically look down on this dirty icky fluid, it has a very important function in our body. Mucus forms a thick fluid that coats organ membranes to protect them from infectious agents like fungi, bacteria and virus. Particularly, it protects the lungs by “trapping” foreign particles that enter during the normal breathing process. The mucus produced in the respiratory tract is specifically called ‘phlegm’.
The average human nose produces about a liter of mucus per day!
Excessive mucus can be produced because of a number of factors. During cold weather, the cilia that sweeps mucus away from the nostrils becomes sluggish or stops functioning resulting in a runny nose. It can be triggered by an allergy too. Your body triggers a bout of cough in order to help you expel the invading virus and rid your mucus from it.
Foods that cause excessive mucus
Some foods and drinks can trigger the production of excess mucus in the body. Dairy and wheat are considered to be the main culprit foods behind the act. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt contain an element called Casein. Similarly, wheat contains gluten and gluten intolerance is fairly common in the developed parts of the world. Both gluten and casein require strong stomach acids for digestion.
For people, who can’t digest these properly during the digestion process, some big food particles remain in the body and begin to putrefy. To stop the putrefaction process and prevent infection, the body surges the production of mucus which then coats the food particle to stop the process. Many people have chronic illnesses due to this and strictly avoid wheat and dairy in their food.
Here’s what you need to stay away from if you have a mucus problem
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, cheese and the foods that contain these can trigger a mucus problem. Which means you’ll have to find a way to stay away from pizzas and pastas. (Tough one!)
- High-fat red meat and processed meat: These are foods that are not very easy to digest and hence, can trigger a mucus problem
- Wheat and wheat products: All products that contain gluten including rye and barley are out of your plate. Though manufacturers are now clearly warned to mention the presence of gluten in their processed foods, it is mostly in a blink and you miss format. You’ll need to read the extra fine print to be sure
- Alcohol: It can trigger sinus related problems. This differs from person to person and it is up to you to see how much your glass should hold
- Sugar: The culprit that is responsible for a number of diseases also triggers the problem area of mucus. Many times during a rough cold, we would love to relieve it with a cup of hot tea or coffee. But if these contain sugar, you may just end up worsening the problem in the long run.
- Caffeine: Speaking of coffee and tea, both have an additional mucus worsening agent – caffeine. While you may begin to feel nice and warm with a hot cup of coffee, it won’t really solve your mucus problem and instead aggravate it.
Fruits that trigger mucus
Banana: Doctors often tell mothers to avoid bananas if the child already has a running nose. Bananas aid in mucus formation creating a blocked or runny nose. The rule applies to the adults too.
Other fruits like mango and papaya can sometimes work to the body’s benefit by generating heat from the inside.
As such banana are considered highly nutritious but certain foods work to not suit the body under particular circumstances and weather conditions. It is best to keep a note of how your body reacts to the foods to know what you can eat and avoid.