What Foods Cause Phlegm? 7 Foods

Medically Reviewed on 12/8/2022
What Foods Cause Phlegm
Here are 7 types of food that can increase phlegm

Phlegm, or mucus, plays an essential role in protecting your respiratory system from viruses and allergens. However, too much or too thick phlegm can cause irritation and discomfort.

Here are 7 types of food that can increase phlegm.

7 foods that can increase mucus

1. Foods high in histamines

Foods that cause your body to release histamine can increase mucus production. However, this often only affects people who have histamine sensitivity or intolerance, which is likely to be the result of enzyme deficits in the gut. Foods high in histamines include:

  • Some types of fish, such as tuna, pike, and mackerel
  • Processed meats
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, and cream (for some people)
  • Fermented products such as alcohol, yogurt, and sauerkraut
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries

2. Processed foods

Food additives such as preservatives and thickeners can mess with your gut and cause problems such as dangerous inflammatory reactions or intestinal disease. Both excessive and inadequate mucus production can be triggered by these artificial substances.

3. Chocolate

Chocolate can also contribute to increased mucus production, particularly if you have an acid reflux disorder such as laryngopharyngeal reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Chocolate can weaken your lower and upper esophageal sphincters. These sphincters serve as gatekeepers that make sure that food and liquids flow in the proper direction (downward) and prevent stomach acid from entering your pharynx, larynx, or esophagus. You can get hoarseness, a sore throat, heartburn, a persistent cough and mucus in the back of your throat if the sphincters are weak and stomach acid gets into the wrong places.

4. Coffee

Caffeine is another chemical that can weaken your esophageal sphincters and cause stomach acid to back up into your esophagus and throat. Phlegm production may result from this irritation.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol can weaken the esophageal sphincters, creating irritation and increased phlegm, just like other foods and beverages that cause mucus. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means that if you consume too much alcohol, it could lead to dehydration and make it difficult for phlegm to drain properly.

6. Carbonated beverages

If you have a recurrent phlegm issue, carbonated beverages may be worsening the problem. Carbonation drinks are full of gas, and more gas can lead to irritation and associated phlegm.

7. Foods that trigger reflux

According to studies, foods that trigger GERD can also increase mucus production:

  • Fried food
  • Chilis
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Peppermint
  • Fatty meats such as bacon
  • Cheese

What causes too much phlegm?

  • Sickness: Your immune system starts an inflammatory response to fight off diseases including colds and sinus infections. As part of this response, your body overproduces mucus, which can lead to coughing, runny nose, sore throat, or breathing issues. Chronic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that impair the mucosal tissue can also cause excessive amounts of phlegm.
  • Food allergies: Allergies can result in excessive mucus production, which can cause congestion or breathing issues, as well as other symptoms including skin rashes, edema, and dizziness. Some of the most frequent food allergies are eggs, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts. Even if you are not allergic to them, some people find that they experience more phlegm when they eat certain foods.
  • Pollution: Exposure to smoke or pollution can also cause your body to produce excessive amounts of mucus to ward off environmental irritants.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/8/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Milk, mucus, and cough https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/milk-mucus-and-cough

Phlegm and mucus: how to get rid of it https://health.clevelandclinic.org/mucus-and-phlegm-what-to-do-if-you-have-too-much/

Too much phlegm and snot? You should eat these 6 foods more often https://www.lifehack.org/503947/too-much-phlegm-and-snot-you-should-eat-these-6-foods-more-often

Does milk increase mucus production? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19932941/