Mucus: What You Need to Know
There are two alternatives for relieving mucus: Get rid of the cause(s) of the problem and it will probably soon disappear including, of course, the discomforts or symptoms now being experienced. Or just deal with the latter (symptoms) and continue medicating them as they comeback. If you would rather get rid of the "pain" once and for all, please, Click
How is Mucus Produced ?
In humans mucus is produced by mucous cells found in glands which produce a substance rich in glycoproteins and water. Mucus protects the epithelial cells which are part of the membranes lining the respiratory organs: nasal and sinus cavities, lungs, bronchi, etc. An important function of mucus is, as already indicated, to protect against infection--bacteria, viruses, germs--, foreign particles, and to provide moisture to the air when it is very low. The average person produces up to a quart of a watery, clear mucus every day, this is deemed to be normal.
Whenever the production increases dramatically in the upper respiratory tract it is usually a symptom of many a common ailment, for example: a cold, a virus infection, or bacterial infection. As already indicated a normal person, or animal, need to produce mucus to keep healthy. It is when mucus becomes thick and changes color that then we need to ascertain the cause and do something about it, before a more serious health condition develops.
Places Where Mucus is Produced
Specifically mucus is produced by the membrane lining the following organs:
- Stomach -- to protect it from its strong acids
- Esophagus -- the help food go down better
- Intestinal walls -- the aid the food assimilation process
Nasal cavity -- to give moisture and trap foreign particles and lubricate membranes
Sinus cavity -- same as nasal cavity
- Lungs -- protect, lubricate, moist
- Other organs -- depending on the function of the organ
All mucus is not the same because their function varies. We mucus remember that it is a very necessary part of our human physiology. When it becomes excessive it is often a signal that something is our of balance that needs to be corrected, unless it is a very passing, temporary situation.
- Protects the stomach lining from the gastric juices and acids used in the digestion of food
- Protects and lubricates the intestinal lining and eases the passage of food and waste matter
- the semen produced by the seminal vesicles contain mucus
- the mucus aids the spermatozoids to accomplish their mission
- mucus is present in the cervical area to prevent infections
- its consistency changes in relation to the menstrual cycle
- it can aid or block the spermatozoids in their mission
- Mucus catches allergens, germs, pollutants and dust particles, bacteria, viruses
With the help of the cilia it moves liquids and foreign particles so they can be ejected
- Protects the lungs against harmful germs
- Moisturizes the air we inhale when it is dry
- Prevents nasal and airway membranes from drying out
By way of color and consistency mucus also serves to diagnose illnesses. For example:
dark yellow mucus and green mucus can be signs of sinus infection
- light yellow mucus can be an indication that the air is too dry
By now it becomes obvious that the functions of mucus are quite important . Without a normal amount of mucus in those organs they could not function properly. Air and mucus must constantly be flowing from the sinus cavities to the nasal cavity, as well as through the organs making up the airways. Again, without the presence of mucus our breathing systems could not function. Yet, as we have seen, mucus produced in the respiratory organs must be constantly moving in the right direction and any accumulation which begins to build-up pressure must be relieved soon. Keeping the sinuses clear at all times is a step in the right direction to solve potential sinus problems. Acupressure, steam inhalation and sinus rinse are ways of clearing the sinuses.
Meaning of Mucus
In the Intestinal Tract: Stool normally contains a small amount of mucus. When mucus becomes visible, however, it can be associated with the following problems:
- Bowel obstruction
- Bacterial infection
- Ulcerative colitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn's disease
In the Respiratory System:
clear and watery - it's the natural color of healthy mucus usually associated with rhinitis
- brown - an indication of heavy exposure to cigarette smoke. Drinking alcohol makes matters worse
green - it's usually a sign of a bacterial infection. If you are coughing up green mucus there likely is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes
- white - sometimes it's caused by some foods, especially if you are having a bout with sinus pressure or congestion
yellow - may be an indication of:
- dry air
- an obstructed nasal passage that is causing a sinus infection
- bronchitis or nasal polyps; see your medical professional if it continues for more than a few days and with pain
- any color with blood present - a sign of a serious respiratory problem
Mucus in the Respiratory System
Temperature Changes and Mucus
Mucus normally forms in various parts of our head and it is channeled by the cilia to the back of the throat. The cilia are one cell, hairlike organelles beating--one way--at 17 times per second. When the temperature gets cold the cilia paralyses or gets sluggish impairing the cilia's sweeping function and mucus runs down the nose and drips.
Made up mostly of water and packing a host of body produced chemicals--electrolytes, mucins, salts, antiseptic enzymes--mucus is a viscous, slimy mixture very necessary to keep our entire body functioning smoothly. Sinus mucus can have lubricating and protective functions; or serve as part of the body's frontline defense mechanism against unwanted intruders: germs, dust particles, irritants, etc. It can also act as a sign or symptom that something in the body is not functioning right. Knowing the meaning of the color of mucus can be beneficial. Unknown to many is that mucus production can be affected by the food we eat.
Without sinus mucus our breathing system, for example, would soon shut down--like a car that has neither oil not water in its engine. Mucus is secreted by the body all the time, but we don't notice it. Phlegm, on the other hand, is a specialized kind of mucus. The amount of mucus we normally produced in the respiratory organs every day might surprise you: About a quart a day. Unless the mucus is constantly moving it will accumulate, create pressure, stagnate and probably cause an infection. Knowing the symptoms of sinus pressure can be very beneficial in diagnosing sinus problems. Therefore some learn to quick-fix sinus pressure to bring sinus pressure relief, so it won't build up.
Besides being vital to the respiratory system membranes and organs, mucus is also found in other body tissues and organs, for example: the urinary tract, digestive system, reproductive system.
Mucus and Excessive Drainage
The sinuses, nasal cavity membranes, bronchial area can become irritated by a number of elements. For example:
Any of these can cause the nasal and sinus membranes to produce excessive mucus drainage in order to wash away the irritant. Some of those items are controllable. Thus avoiding them would solve the sinus problem. Rhinitis, on the other hand, is usually accompanied by "runny nose" which is, actually, excess histamine produced by the nasal membranes and not mucus per se. Rhinitis is often a chronic condition which is difficult to eradicate completely and often symptoms only are addressed. Yet there can be mucus production also in connection with diseases of the sinus or nasal cavities that one should be aware of. For example, chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps. A prolonged excessive mucus conditions should always be watched and medical help sought if home remedies do not seem to work. Excessive mucus and post-nasal-drip (PND) are often associated with allergic reaction to the environment which ca be exacerbated by some foods we eat.
Nasal Cavity and Upper Respiratory Tract
a - vertebrae, b - esophagus, c - trachea
d - cricoid cartilage, e - laryngopharynx, f -
pharynx, g - nasopharynx, k - tongue,
l - hard palate,
o - superior turbinate,
p - middle turbinate, q - inferior turbinate
Sinusitis and Mucus
One of the cardinal rules for healthy sinuses and avoid congestion, pressure, is that mucus and air must be flowing all the time through the sinus and nasal cavities. Whenever this flow is slowed down or stopped pressure builds up. Should the latter condition last more that a few days the accumulated mucus will create sinus pressure and headache. If it stagnates it can become a bacteria breeding place. Thus the importance of re-establishing soon the flow of air and mucus whenever it has stopped. Many sinus infections would be nipped in the bud if this would be done. Once an infection has set in the only way to eradicate it, assuming it is a bacterial one, is by the use of antibiotics. If the infection is viral the latter medication would not do any good. Fortunately viral sinus infections usually last just a few days. While coughing yellowish-gray mucus can be associated with and infection in its middle stage, green snot can be an indication of infection in its last stage. One should recognized,as already stated, that a sinus infection can develop from congestion and sinus pressure not cared for timely, and that a sinus infection is often accompanied by post-nasal-drip (PND.) Knowing the meaning of the color of mucus can help diagnose the excess mucus problem. It should be well understood that sinus pressure, if allowed to remain for long periods of time, can develop into a sinus infection or sinusitis.
Excessive Mucus Relief
The best thing to do is to remove the cause that irritating the mucus producing membranes. Many of them are listed in a section, above. The following can be done whether to relieve excessive clear mucus, or mucus of other colors:
Drink as much water as possible to keep mucus thin and replace the water loss and keep mucus thin
- pure, room temperature water is best
warm herbal teas are also recommended
- the herb thyme is considered to be a decongestant
- sugary drinks and milk should be avoided
- Rest, relax all you can to give a chance to the immune system to recharge itself
Do not eat mucus producing foods during this time
- this is far more important that most people realize
there are many foods that can produce mucus, but three particular
Fasting for a day or two, on the other hand, can detoxify your body and boost your immune system
- if not sure consult your physician
- follow a fasting program recommended by an expert
- unless otherwise recommended by your doctor, drink lots of water during the fast
You can get some OTC remedies like antihistamines to curb the flow of mucus. For example, loratadine (Claritin)
- despite the ads loratadine tends to cause drowsiness
- do not depend on it to solve your mucus problem
- use only for temporary relief of symptoms
Use some botanicals to boost your immune system
- garlic has been used as "nature's antibiotic" by many different cultures
- beta glucan 1,3 / 1,6 is reputed to be a very strong support to the immune system
Sinus pressure points (acupressure) can help guard against an infection, drainage, sinus pressure, etc., by boosting the immune system
Watch for sinus infection symptoms like: pain, fever, odor in the mucus, bad breath, etc.
- nip the problem in the bud, do not wait for it to get worse
- learn the meaning of the color of mucus
- Do not allow sinus pressure to remain uncared for
If the problem is caused by a virus it should be gone in a few days.
Mucus and Food
Have you experienced sinus drainage or sinus pressure? Often mucus is produced in the sinuses and other organs of the respiratory system as an allergic reaction to the environment. But more often than most people realize, foods can heavily exacerbate excessive mucus. You can make some common sense tests by eating certain foods and see their reaction on your sinus and nasal cavities mucus. There has been some debate as to whether some foods can cause mucus. We have no question about it: certain foods can produce sinus mucus, pressure, drainage.
Our belief that some foods we have been led to believe are necessary in our diet may be harming us was recently confirmed. Although not specifically mentioning sinus disorders, a recent Harvard School of Public Health strong message sent to the U S Department of Agriculture and other nutrition experts, made it clear that dairy products are really not good for humans. In fact it left this food item out of its "Healthy Eating Plate" food guide completely; thus replacing the outdated and misguided food pyramid. While the Harvard study did make reference to certain types of cancer risk, etc., as being as being increased by the use of dairy products, we have known that respiratory disorders, too, such as excessive mucus are definitely worsened by the use of dairy products.
The sooner you learn what they are the sooner you will be able to determine to what extent they could be affecting your excessive mucus production, sinus pressure, sinusitis, drainage, etc.,3 Steps to Sinus and Mucus Relief, discuses this item in detail and offers specific recommendations. Wrongs foods can also cause sinus pressure and exacerbate allergic reactions. No matter how hard you try otherwise, unless you address the matter of food as a potential cause of excessive mucus--often as sinus drainage--other steps alone may not suffice to bring you the permanent relief you may be seeking and deserve. Here a list of foods that produce excessive mucus or even sinus pressure, and others that can be mucus cleansing:
Foods which can produce mucus:
- Edibles containing food additives
Sugar containing foods
- soft drinks
- ice cream
- most desserts
- cold breakfast cereals
- Cow's milk
- white bread
- white rice
- pastas, etc
- processed grains and legumes
- Fresh fruits in general
- highly prized for its healing and cleansing properties
- bromelain is its active medicinal ingredient
- it's available in any super-market
- cruciferous are known for their cleansing and medicinal properties
- other vegetables are needed daily for a balance diet
- considered by experts as a "miracle herb"
- considered also as nature's "antibiotic"
- it has anti fungal and anti cancer properties
- the list of remedial benefits is long
- thousands of scientific research attest the validity of many claims
- together with other hot spices it clears the sinuses and breathing passages
- it's inexpensive and readily available
- Cayenne pepper containing spices - see under "chiles", above
Mucus friendly foods
For those suffering from excessive mucus or those wanting to prevent excessive mucus, here is a list of mucus friendly foods:
- lemons and limes
- has cleansing properties
- promotes general health
- green-leaf vegetables
- yams, etc.
Some spicy foods
they can act as decongestants
- jalapeno peppers
- other "hot" peppers
- they should be used with moderation
- other health issues should be considered
- pecans, etc.
- it is loaded with medicinal properties
- it can help prevent and relieve sinus infection
- it has much potassium
- it is credited with bodily cleansing properties
Next time you have excessive mucus, a headache, drainage, sinus pressure, or if your allergies flare up within a few hours after eating a hefty meal, remember, there could be a connection between the last meal eaten and those sinus miseries. Get as much sinus and mucus information as possible. There are many books available on this subject. Reading on this subject is how the author of this web site learned to overcome his sinus issues.
What Causes Mucus
We must recognize that there are two basic sources that cause mucus: internal and external sources. The most popular source that most people are concerned about is the external one. For example:
Pollens in the air can trigger an allergic reaction producing irritation, congestion, sinus pressure,and mucus in the nasal and sinus cavity membranes and can eventually cause rhinitis ("runny nose")
- House dust is another potent allergen which can cause sinus drainage, etc. If you suspect you are allergic to it and depending on the severity of the allergy, you may want to consider an allergy test
- Household cleansers
- Washing detergents
- Chemicals used around the house
- Animal dander
As a remedy antihistamines, nasal sprays, etc., are used. These, of course, relieve only the symptoms. And in some cases this is sufficient. But when dealing with a chronic mucus problem then the logical approach is to go to the cause of the issue, rather than just continue to relieve symptoms. If a mucus chronic is allowed to continue it can potentially causes other health issues such as: irritation and infection of the upper respiratory apparatus (URA), etc. But even more important, perhaps, is that the chronic condition could also be a sign or symptoms of a serious illness or disease--depending on the presence or absence of other symptoms. Thus is those cases where the problems is chronic it should be directly addressed.
The internal source's main item that should be considered is food. Should this be taken seriously many mucus issues could quickly be a thing of the past. For there are some very specific mucus producing food categories. For example, fermented foods which would include such items as:
- Fermented oriental foods, etc.
Another very common internal source of mucus is infection. Especially sinus infection, and in other parts of the URA.
Stop clear mucus
Clear mucus is often abundant antihistamine that the body has produced to wash of irritants of the nasal and sinus cavity membranes. Sometimes clear mucus is also produced by viruses, colds, etc. Here are some tips which can help stop clear mucus:
- Drink lots of water
Cut down significantly on the following foods:
- cow's milk
- Rest as much as you can
Try to ascertain to what one may be allergic to from the environment. For example:
- house dust
- Try to distance as much as possible from sources of allergens
- I would take an antihistamine especially during pollens season
- If not sure about antitoxins I would talk to my pharmacist about OTC antihistamine to determine a suitable one
Prevention of Excessive Mucus
To maintain healthy sinuses and prevent disease I would do the following:
Keep the sinuses clear at all times by doing acupressure points regularly
- by using a humidifier when air is very dry
by doing inhalations when sinuses cavities are not draining and acupressure did not work for me being careful of steam temperature
by nipping sinus pressure in the bud
- watch closely what I eat--no mucus producing food
- take an antihistamine when really needed
- drink plenty of water every day
Try to keep the sinuses clear by addressing sinus pressure, congestion early on
- Blow your nose gently to avoid swelling of nasal cavity membranes
At the first sign of a sinus infection, or for chronic congestion or sinus pressure boost your immune system by using:
- immune system boosting herbals
- antioxidant supplements
- eating fresh fruits and vegetables
Make sure nerve energy flowing through the spinal cord is not impeded by misaligned back bones:
- correct alignment can also help general health and well being
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Prevention has always been better than curing. Mucus in many cases is avoidable in others it is necessary for the well functioning of then organs, like in the respiratory system; and food can play a very important role in avoiding excessive mucus in the form of PND, sinus drainage, sinusitis, sinus pressure, etc. Remember that knowing the meaning of the color of mucus can help diagnose the mucus problem; and also that phlegm should never be swallowed, but spitted out.
Mucus in the Reproductive Organs
Cervical mucus is a jelly like substance that looks like egg white. It is produced by very small glands found in the cervix. Its volume and texture change during the menstrual cycle due to the various levels of estrogen present throughout the latter. By recognizing these changes accurately it is possible to predict with accuracy ovulation. This is why the "cervical mucus method" is used in planned parenthood. It is also called the ovulation method. It should be noted that the cervical secretions change before ovulation in order to create the right environment for the sperm which travels through the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, to the egg. As we have seen, once the changing characteristics of the cervical mucus are understood and properly interpreted, then a person can predict when ovulation will take place.When a woman is hoping to get pregnant, she can use the cervical mucus method to find out the best days to have sex. On the other hand, if she is trying to avoid pregnancy, then she can use the cervical method to figure out the days to avoid unprotected sex. Whenever this method of birth control is used motivation, diligence, obtaining the right information will be needed. Furthermore, it should be noted, especially by those avoiding pregnancy, that en estimated 22 out of a 100 women who practice the cervical method of birth control for one year will get pregnant.
It is mainly found around the cervix area keeping a certain level of moisture there at all times. The color, consistency and volume of it changes with the menstrual cycle. Its viscosity, chemical characteristics, color change during this time. For example, a clear, slimy, egg white-like consistency would indicate that the woman is ovulating. On the other hand, dryness would, ordinarily, indicate an infertility state during the menstrual cycle. It should be recognized that during sexual arousal the blood vessels in the vagina become congested. This in turn brings more fluids--mostly sweat--to that area, thus increasing the level of moisture which acts as lubricant to facilitate penetration.
Cervical Mucus Plug
It is formed during pregnancy as cervical mucus accumulates a small amount of mucus and forms a plug that fills and seals the cervical canal to protect it from bacteria and germs trying to enter the uterus.
This mucus plug is expelled as a woman gets closer to labor and the cervix dilates. It comes out simply as a vaginal discharge or as red, pink, or brown mucus sometimes called "bloody show." This event does not mean that labor or delivery is forthcoming.
Mucus in Other Areas of the Body
Mucus in the Stool
Stool may normally contain a small amount of mucus since the intestines make a jelly-like substance to moist and lubricate them. On the other hand, if the amount of mucus becomes excessive, especially if there is bleeding or change in bowel habits, then one should see the doctor. Intestinal infections are often accompanied by mucus and severe diarrhea. And in more serious conditions like cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, mucus in the stool can be bloody or accompanied by abdominal pain.
Mucus in the Digestive System
In order to facilitate the passage of food or other material over body membranes--for example the esophagus, nasal passages, etc--mucus is produced by those membranes. Because of its strong acidic environment the stomach wall membranes produce mucus also to protect it. Yet this mucus is not digested in the intestinal tract. Mucus is also secreted in the rectum by glands there when its mucus producing membranes are stimulated this, of course, facilitate the passing of fecal matter.
Mucus and Illnesses
Good mucus, the clear-watery kind, is always being produced in our respiratory system and runs its normal course to help us breathe and to protect us from invaders such as germs, dust, pollutants, etc. However when it turns green or yellow it is indicative that the body is in the process of fighting a bacterial or viral infection such as the common cold or flu. Sometimes a bacterial secondary infection develops when a virus severely irritates the membranes lining the sinus and nasal cavities. Antibiotics can do nothing to combat a viral infection, but it can be used to do war against a secondary bacterial infection.
By now we realize that effective mucus relief entails more that just stopping the mucus flow with a pill, to do the same thing a few hours later. We saw we need to go to the cause of the unwanted mucus and eliminate it. These are the ways, in summary, to tackle the mucus challenge and obtain true mucus relief:
- Make it a habit to drink 4-6 glasses of water a day
Avoid, as much as possible, mucus forming or exacerbating foods:
- sugar in all its forms
- fermented foods
- dairy products
- eggs, etc.
- Do self-applied acupressure daily to keep sinuses and passages clear
Whenever sinus pressure begins to appear:
- do additional acupressure
- consider inhalation therapy
- if any of the above is not effective consider guaifenesin, an OTC remedy
- Nip any sinus infection in the bud
- dink extra water
- rest and relax all you can to help immune system fight for you
- eat fresh garlic or take allicin supplement to strengthen immune system
- take a hot bath and perspire all you can to detoxify
- go to bed asleep all you can
at the first sign of the flu or cold:
- take a tablespoon of elderberry extract
- follow, basically, the above protocol for sinus infection
- More serious illnesses as cystic fibrosis can be detected by symptoms of mucus in the lungs. This mucus is very thick and difficult to eject