Does Milk Increase Mucus Production?

Have you heard the old wives’ tale that drinking milk will result in excess mucus production, or that it’s dangerous for children with asthma? If so, have you ever wondered if it’s true? Research shows that milk consumption does not, in fact, impact mucus production, and that it actually plays a beneficial role in children’s diets.

Where Did the Milk Myth Come From?

A pitcher of milk.

The notion that milk causes congestion most likely stems from 12th century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, who wrote that drinking milk causes “stuffing in the head.” This idea has kept hold for centuries, and was even published in the 2011 edition of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare.

A 2004 American survey found 59% of parents believed drinking milk increases mucus production, 20% weren’t sure and 22% knew it does not.

What Do the Studies Show?

One 2012 report from the BC Children’s Hospital states that “studies have not been able to provide a definitive link” between milk and increased mucus production, and that “milk should not be eliminated or restricted.”

“Milk does not cause lots of extra mucus to be produced when someone has a cold or any chest disease, including asthma,” confirms Balfour-Lynn. “Milk is an important source of calcium, vitamins and calories in the young. It should not be avoided.”

In fact, an eight-ounce glass of milk has eight grams of complete protein (as much as an egg) and 300 mg of calcium, which is a third of the recommended daily amount. So next time you’re at the Downtown Topeka’s Farmers Market, don’t forget to support your local dairy farmer.

Why Do I Feel Like Milk Causes More Mucus?

You may be skeptical if you experience the sensation of increased mucus production after you drink milk. What you’re actually feeling when it seems like there’s a coating in your mouth is your oral enzymes interacting with the fat in the milk.

“The mucins in the mouth appear to cause emulsions to form aggregates, which means the volume increases and it gets stickier,” explains Balfour-Lynn. “It is likely what some people feel in their throats, which they mistakenly believe is extra mucus.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Topeka ENT today.

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