12 Foods That Cause Excessive Mucus In The Body (and 14 Foods That Eliminate It!)


foods-that-create-mucusIf you suffer from a chronic cough that won’t go away, wake up with puffy and crusty eyes in the morning or you have bad breath throughout the day, then you may be suffering from excess mucus production. In fact, there are over 12 foods that cause excessive mucus in the body, some that may come to a surprise and others not so much.

Excessive mucus is a sign that the body is in a state of agitation. It can come from toxins, pollutants, allergies, and food additives, and often involves the lymphatic system, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system.

The Role of Mucus in The Body

That’s not to say that mucus doesn’t play a role in the body. It is produced by different mucus cells (i.e., goblet cells) among the epithelial lining of organs like the intestinal and respiratory tracts. They are found inside the bronchi, trachea, and larger bronchioles in the respiratory tract as well as the small intestines, the large intestine and conjunctiva in the upper eyelid.

Mucus is produced in order to protect the mucous membranes where they are found. The problem occurs when there is excess mucus production, which can be stimulated by irritants like dust, smoke, other pollution, chemicals, bacteria and viruses, food additives, and food allergens. Excess mucus is produced to capture these particles and shuttle them out of the body – meaning more coughing, stuffy noses, a harder time breathing, and more.

Too Much Mucus and Health Issues

If you suffer from too much mucus production, you may experience, one or more of the following symptoms:

– You suffer from a chronic cough that won’t go away
– You are currently experiencing mucus from a cold and/or flu
– You wake up with puffy and crusty eyes in the morning
– Bad breath throughout the day (even after brushing your teeth)
– You have a constant stuffy nose
– Your senses are dulled (you requires lots of salt to make food “taste good”)
– Your senses are not sharp – your mind is foggy and thinking clearly is difficult

These symptoms are often a result of a sluggish digestive tract, respiratory system and lymphatic system, which could be caused by excess mucus production. The digestive tract contains millions of tiny microvilli that absorb nutrients from food. In fact, over 80% of all absorption takes place in the small intestine. When we have excess mucus build-up in the intestine, it causes a glue-like buildup that sticks in the folds of the intestinal walls. This accumulation deforms the intestines and results in over 9-10 pound blockages in the average man or woman. This obstruction results in absorption issues, digestive problems, and an overall sick and poor-functioning body.

Although excess mucus production can come from allergies (aka. pollen, pet dander, smoke, dust), household chemicals, pollution, or bacteria and viruses, a major cause of mucus production is from the diet.

Mucus and Your Diet

Certain beverages and foods can trigger excessive mucus production in the body. Two main foods that cause excessive mucus build-up are dairy and wheat. Casein in dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.), and gluten in wheat require strong stomach acids for digestion. Once digestion is complete, food particles are left over that are too big to be used by the body. These partially-digested food particles putrefy and become coated with a thick mucus to prevent further putrefaction in the intestines.

Seeing as how a large percentage of the North American diet is made up of dairy and wheat, many people carry bodies that are in a chronic state of fighting off a sort of “viral invasion” – the body gets confused by the foreign products entering the mouth (like dairy and wheat products), and thus naturally protects itself by fighting these food particles, causing inflammation and triggering excess mucus.

To be a little more specific, here is a long list of foods that create mucus in the body:
– Dairy products (yogurt, milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, butter, ghee)
– All corn products
– Eggs
– Sugary treats (cookies, cake, pies, pastries)
– Wheat (bread, pretzels, buns, bagels, muffins, etc.)
– Deep fried foods
– All soy products
– Safflower/sunflower oil
– Jams and jellies
– High-fat red meat
– Alcohol
– Caffeine

Eliminate Mucus and Treat Your Body Right

Eliminating foods that cause mucus is key to helping the body function at an optimal pace. Raw fruits and vegetables are one of the best mucus-cleansers out there. When I switch to a high-raw plant-based lifestyle, my mucus issues subsided and my health improved 10-fold.

Aside from that, however, there are also certain foods that can relieve excess mucus. These include:
– Radishes (red, daikon, horseradish, you name it – one of that best mucus-cleansers out there!)
– All leafy greens and herbs
– Cauliflower and broccoli
– Garlic
– Celery
– Asparagus
– Bamboo shoots
– Onions
– Ginger and turmeric
– Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges, kumquats, etc.)
– Pineapple
– Berries
– Brussels sprouts
– Hot peppers

If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll enjoy this mucus-cleansing juice recipe. One of my top recommended juices for those experiencing excess mucus build-up.


8 Foods That Reduce Mucus, Phlegm and Snot

Carly Fraser has her BSc (Hons.) Degree in Neuroscience, and is the owner and founder at Live Love Fruit. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a determined life mission to help inspire and motivate individuals to critically think about what they put in their bodies and to find balance through nutrition and lifestyle. She has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals to re-connect with their bodies and learn self-love through proper eating habits and natural living. She loves to do yoga, dance, and immerse herself in nature.


  1. Good article, and thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Do you have any other articles on how to introduce a detox, as I feel absolutley s..t due to an extensive chest infection and antibiotics that made me worse than I was. So my diestive tract is dead from input to output. I have started juicing, and wheatgrass along with Chorophyl. So anything that can help excellerate it would be a blessing. As I have gone from running with my ruck sack (ex Paratrooper) to feeling like I am one a foot out of the grave.

    My breathing is heavy all due to mucus and I must get rid of it. So any articles or even books that you know of could be fabulous and along with my thanks.


    • Hey Stephen, I would focus on eating a high-raw plant-based diet with lots of fresh green veggie juices and lots of juicy fruit. Rest, plenty of sleep, adequate water consumption. Mucus is from eating too many animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) and wheat (gluten).

      • Hi Carly, have you considered the very high oxalate levels in the foods you are recommending everyone should eat? These high levels of our superfoods cause kidney stones, arthritis and UTI symptoms if a person does not have good gut flora or is Celiac. Do you think you could find out more so that I feel safe eating these foods from my vege patch? I would really love to sleep easy at night knowing I am not consuming amounts of oxalates as well as dairy, wheat and nitrites,, sulphites etc… Thanks Linzi

        • Hey Linzi,

          I would not be concerned about oxalate levels in plant foods – you would have to eat a VERY large serving, plus the other vitamins and minerals in these plant foods are very alkalizing, and things that our body needs. Don't get so hung up on little things like oxalates, I would be more concerned about the things like wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, etc.

          • Says someone who has never experienced a kidney stone. Oxalates are an issue if you are predisposed to kidney stones. Can you tell where your nutrition education is from?

          • I have my honours degree in science from the University of Winnipeg. Despite the fact that oxalates are a pre-cursor to those predisposed to getting stones, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people following a plant-based eating pattern had a lower occurrence of kidney stones (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19679672). If you drink plenty of fluids, consume a clean, balanced (preferably plant-based) diet (that means not eating all-oxalate foods the entire day – which most people don't do), and meet your RDA for calcium, you really aren't going to be bothered by a kidney stone.

    • Hi Carly,
      I like your online article about foods causing mucus. I trying to start eliminating those foods from my diet to help improve my symptoms. I noticed in the article you mentioned high fat red meats are one of the foods that cause creation of mucus in the body. Would that include chicken as well? I know it is not exactly red meat in all lol. Thank you ahead of time for your response.

      • Most animal products do create mucus in the body, so if you are really looking to switch to a mucus-free diet, I would try plant-based for a couple weeks and see how that feels!

  2. Hi Carly,
    Please could you let me know whether "Dairy" includes Goat and/or Sheep milk proucts?

    Thank you.
    Marion Styles

  3. Any advice for a teenage athlete who needs to gain weight? If dairy and wheat which create bulk for athletes need to be avoided, then how can one gain weight without it?

    • Hey Allie,

      I would just up your calorie intake of fruit and veggies, especially super calorie-dense ones like dates, bananas, mangoes, etc. But think in quantity. You don't need wheat, meat and dairy to bulk up – that's a huge myth. Look at all the vegan athletes out there! If you eat cooked, you could do lots of rice and beans, avocado, lots of salads, and plenty of fruit for breakfast and lunch. It might take some researching, but it will do your body good, and you'll build clean, lean, muscle instead of muscle built off animal hormones present in all animal meats and dairies.

  4. Comment: hi thanks for this update but please am a singer and i always have this cough claouning my throat and, i try taken honey, ginger, galic and fruits but still eat things that causes me caugh like tea, bread and some other things what food should i be eating to regain my peach? Would beans and rice be ok for me please? Thanks.

    • I gave up all Dairy 35 yrs ago.
      It was instant & great how I felt, but, You need to read ALL labels, and be dedicated to the cause.. It’s very worth it
      Recently I developed a cough, ocassionally, that was annoying.
      I decided to give up the Wheat, because I was developing sore joints.
      Again, the results were excellent.
      No more irritating cough. It had never been a chest cough, or sore throat, just croaky voice & phlehmy throat.
      This went away, along with the sore hip & joints.

  5. Any advise for a breastfeeding mum of 9week old. The baby has been struggling with clear mucus most of his life, this causes him to vomit it up a lot and sometimes he has choaked on it. I think it’s mainly in his stomach and head, we have been to the doctors many times and it is not in his chest.

    I have dropped dairy, wheat, gluten and soy but it still persists. I am a bit worried to eat the raw veges only as a lot of the foods can cause babies to be gassy.

    Any suggestions please?

    • Hey! My only suggestion would be to switch to a plant-based diet but it seems you’ve already done so. I would experiment with foods you are eating, and dropping them one by one until you find the trigger!

  6. I’m running out of foods I can eat diet, I have a dilemma. I am disabled (Schizophrenia and severe clinical depression) (56 years old) and don’t have the energy to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables etc. so I resort to frozen vegetables and canned fruit like peaches and pineapple with 100% juice. I kind of like it because I am paranoid of getting bacteria infected fresh fruit so I also rely on V8 low sodium and all of their V8 fusion juices. It was only 20 days ago I discovered my 8 or more years of breathing problems was due to mostly wheat and dairy, I still take Whey protein isolate powder for protein and usually make a dream sickle drink using orange juice. I was also using it for my milk for my cereal but now wondering why I am up tonight and can’t lay down with breathing problems and thick mucus again? What did I eat now? I suspect oatmeal or dry Cheerios (I did the chocolate one tonight so was it the chocolate? , Chex (all those gluten free cereals) I was fine until tonight or maybe I just ate too much of it? I’m also a fan of Theralac probiotics, can’t live without it.
    So what do you think? Is cold cereal bad but regular oatmeal you need to cook O.K. I also tend to have a general rule , If it causes gas it’s obviously not digesting so why is that considered food? etc.like diet sweeteners (major gas producers)
    Now I say the same about mucus thickening foods. I still eat lean chicken or pork but now making Chinese food with stir fry vegetables in olive oil with my special sauce of Sriracha and Ambrosia raw and gently filtered honey – yum I was using cayenne for the past 4 years to clear my lungs but that stopped working and finally discovered the wheat and dairy problem especially since I was drinking wheat beer Doh ! I do already feel pretty good these last 3 weeks but? Am I doing most things right now due to my lazy situation?

  7. Would gluten-free grains be okay to eat? Or are grains the problem too regardless of whether they contain gluten or not?
    Also I see rice is mentioned a lot in the comments. Is brown rice okay to consume when trying to clear mucus?

  8. Anyway thanks i will do this. Will u pls guide me as i am male of 32 years n suffering from cold from last 14 years and got removed my nasal polips two years back but now again facing problem of nasal blockage and huge productive cough at night atleast for an hour and this year now facing breathing problem also. Pls give me solution. Thnx

  9. Hi Clarly
    Only one question,do you think 1 glass of radishes juice a day is enough to clean my body from mucus?

  10. […] Even at your healthiest, your body produces about 1-1.5 liters of mucus every day. However, when battling with an allergy, infection or something just too spicy, your body goes into a mucus overdrive – resulting in a runny nose or the urge to hock. Coughs and colds are your body’s way of throwing out the infected phlegm and snot, though a lot of it also travels to your stomach and gets thrown out by the digestive system. You have excess mucus when battling an infection or allergy and obvious signs include a stuffy nose, coughing, crusty eyes and believe it or not, bad breath. […]

  11. The article mentions "soy". I find it hard to believe that Edamame, raw soya bean, and Tarami (wheat free fermented soya beans) would be on this list.

    Will you explain this please? 🙂

      • Thank you. That's what I've always practised in my personal eating.

        For those who do not know, it may be useful to stipulate this difference so the do not pass up on the soya that does have benefits!

        Thanks again for the reply, and the article!


  12. I don't have a question Carly, I just wanted to thank you for passing along your knowledge and wisdom. It's very refreshing to read all the positivity this site promotes. I got rid of 70 lbs 3 yrs ago and I'm still at it except during the holidays I tend to be more loose with family cookings but this year I went off track and gained 25 lbs and now I have the flu so I'm attacking it from all angles except taking antibiotics as I don't want to go see the Dr for this. I've been off asthma steroid inhalers for 3 years and although an inhaler might help right now, I still want to heal the natural way, I've found many helpful remedies researching online and I think I struck gold with this page. anyway, I just wanted to thank you for being a breathe of fresh air 🙂

  13. Right now I have persistent mucus in my throat. I’ve had a cough for a month but its been 2 months since its stooped but mucus still there. I’ll try eliminating some of the foods on the list. I’ll find it difficult to reduce diary, latte is my favourite drink.

    • Just gotta go for it and see if it works! There are really tasty vegan cheeses on the market like daiya. Also, try drinking almond milk instead of regular milk, and coconut yogurt instead of regular.

  14. Hi i been coughing everyday and my boogers or cold are green they said it means my immune systems is fighting back but i coughing while immunes are fighting it what should i do? ??

  15. hi please help me out with this and correct me if i am wrong but the list that you've made of the foods to avoid for mucus building leaves me with very few options of foods to eat anyway being a vegetarian. i mean, should i eat like raw green vegetables thrice in a day and also does this means that i cant have these kinds of ever in my life because my body produces mucus.? or if i can eat them ,how often can i?

    • Yes, you will have to increase your consumption of fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and pseudograins (soak and sprout all nuts, seeds and pseudograins).

  16. Also flesh foods (meat,fisch,foul and eggs) are almost mucoidforming as cow´s milk dairy products.
    Millet is a special grain (gluten free) in that its mucoidforming activity is very low!

  17. Carly, thank you for such an informative article! My neighbor–who kept insisting that I had a nasty cold–because I was constantly coughing and blowing my nose–would not believe me when I was telling her that the mucus was from the bread I'd been consuming! So I challenged her to do her research about the negative effects of wheat on the human body! and that shut her down! However, the reason I am so thankful about finding your site, is because The Lord had directed me months ago to leave alone the baked goods and recently the bread. So when I read your article, I was just Praising God, because I was asking The Lord in prayer for an answer as to why my breath was still so foul–even after I had just brushed my teeth, my tongue, gargled, and scraped my tongue! The Lord was giving me the answer all along! But your article gave confirmation to His answer! I am just so thrilled, because I feel that The Lord led me to your site! And Carly, all before, I was eating a lot of cheesy omelets, bread, bagels, butter and cookies! Now, that I am better informed–I look forward to fresher cleaner breath! And better health!

  18. Hello, I have tried a minced ginger product and I notice after using it I getreally "mucusy" for a while, mainly excessive runny nose.
    It usually comes on within an hour or so of cosnumption. I have only used it twice and noticed the same reaction.

    I drink ginger tea in the past no issues. I decided to try this as apposed to capsule to increase ginger intake.
    Main reason for me trying to increase ginger is for some joint pain and i have been reading ginger as an anti inflammatory.

    this product has 2 other ingredients such as organic cane sugar, fermented rice vinegar.

    Im not sure if I used too much or a allergic to this particular product, I just mixed it in with my meal.

    Question Is this excessive mucus I am experiencing a good thing as in a detox sympton? or does it sound more like an allergic reaction.

    I tried searching the net but i can find simillar situations

    Thanks in advanced with any advice.

  19. Hi, was diagnosed of sinusitis some years back,saw a specialist for some time but for the past four months have been battling with mucus and excessive phlegms in my throat which is making me feel uneasy . Please, can u help me? I am a teacher in a village with untard road

    • Just avoid wheat and dairy if you can, and eat plenty of vegetables, leafy greens, herbs and fruit! Ginger and turmeric help with expelling phlegm and also radishes!

  20. Hi, i have a viral cold and I have alot of mucus in my throat, I also I have a swollen throat so it gets stuck and I can't breath, each time I cough mucus comes out then it gets stuck and it goes back down somtimes, my throat is really raw so it hurts and my ribs hurt from coughing to much and to hard, could you plz give me some tips to get rid of the mucus and swollen throat?

    • Yes they are good for protein – if you soak dry beans and sprout them before cooking, you will increase their ability to absorb in the body better, and therefore reduce mucus production.

  21. duncan
    May 6, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I would say stick with the ginger tea and ditch the product with sugar in it. For me sugar is the most mucus forming of all
    Good luck, Kate

  22. Hi I m suffering from sinus since childhood almost 15 yrs back… due to mucus my beard and hair goes grey in just 30..
    allergy test shows pollen in spring..I hope I stopped eating dairy milk and let c howz improvement..what about wheat ?? is there any alternate option for gluten free wheat as main food?

    • Hello – yes, I would try to avoid wheat as much as possible. There are many great alternatives, if you google "gluten-free flours" Bob's Red Mill has a good gluten-free flour to make your own breads and other goods.

  23. Thanks Carley

    Is any milk alternative option? Like almond or other?

    What u say any tea and coffee?? It is his for health?

    • Tea and coffee are acidic, so are mucus producing. Organic herbal teas are okay. You can use almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk or whatever plant based milk you please.

  24. Hi, I was having an extra build up of catarrh in the throat after a heavy cold. Someone told me to suck/chew a piece of fresh ginger. I can honestly say within an hour I could see a remarkable difference. Yes it may make your mouth tingle a little….but the results were amazing.

  25. Very helpful . I'm a ova-vegetarian I stay away from dairy I had ten pounds to lose I went on low carb meat/egg/cheese diet I dropped the weight fast, but the issue was mucus I was up all night coughing up mucus. I even got a sinus headache . I stopped the diet and went back to my vege diet with lot's of chili peppers and I was fine no more mucus. I think it is amazing how many people were sold sinus surgeries which I think can be very risky , when they could just do some of the simple things you've stated here see if they don't get well. Coconut milk is the richest of the milks I think so that is wonderful to have hot spicy chai drink

    • That's funny. I've had the opposite experience. I've been on a low carb diet for several months now, but before going low-carb I always suffered from allergies and was congested most of the time. I even went to an allergist who said I was just allergic to everything, and I just accepted that was my lot in life. But since being on the low carb diet, I've had no allergies, no congestion. However, I was travelling and was hungry, my options were limited, so I caved and had a burger and fries, big mistake! I've been congested since I ate it yesterday and phlegmy. I went online looking to see if anyone else experienced this and came across this post.

  26. Thanks for this very useful information.
    Please continue this good work with a post on causes and cures of itching all over the body indicating role of garlic consumption daily.

  27. Hi, Carly
    I like beans and I had pinto beans and black beans , can you tell me if that’s why I have the gas? Also I eat papaya, mango and pineapples with flaxseed ground for breakfast is that gas forming also?

  28. Carly, I do appreciate your article and the answers you have given. I have been battling mucus for maybe two years and now my breathing has become quite laboured. I will be following your advice to eliminate wheat and the little dairy I still use, go green and see how it pans out. Thanks for the help.

  29. Hi Carly, the past couple of weeks I've been dealing with acute bronchitis. And Alot of mucus in lungs. I will admit I've eaten subway and fried chicken and mushrooms this week. I even made cabbage soup. Didn't realize that was hurting me. I drink green tea alot, like Lipton and others. Does it have to be organic tea. What's a good brand that you can recommend. I have a hard time coughing up phlegm and swallow it 80% of Time. It gives me stomach spasm and anxiety. So it's a struggle.

    • Hey Lynn – Yogi and Traditional Medicinals are two great tea companies. I'd stay away from conventional brands like Lipton, Red Rose, etc. Fried foods and everything else you mention is probably not helping your mucus issues. Stick with the suggestions in this article and see if your conditions improve.

  30. Hi Carly, great article thanks for sharing.
    Quick questions, what is your take on the book Prof. Arnold Ehret's mucusless-diet healing system?
    I love my coffee but every morning I wake up and immediately start to get a running nose and need to blow as my digestive system starts to wake up is this normal?
    Also I love my morning jolt of caffeine is there a good substitute for that instead of coffee? Would Matcha or Yerba Mate tea be a good substitute?
    I could go on an on but I am convinced that a plant-based diet is the way to go as it can have a HUGE impact on overall well-being. I remember my tinnitus went away after a few weeks when I started juicing and focused heavy on leafy greens etc. It was like someone turned a switch off but it's back again and I know these long hard cold Canadian winters drive me to eat the wrong foods 🙁

    Thanks again

    • Hey Bruno – I have never read that book, but based off an ingredient list online of what he recommends, it looks great to me! If you're looking for a good coffee substitute, definitely go ahead and try getting some maca powder. That stuff will give you a serious buzz! Hope you can do your best to stay plant-based! 🙂

    • Almond milk should be made fresh, if you can, as store-bought almond milk has fillers in it that could create mucus. You also don't need to put yogurt in green smoothies – omit it, or substitute with plant-based yogurt like coconut yogurt.

  31. Hi Carly,
    Ever since a neck operation, I've had mucus buildup in my mouth so much so that it makes talking difficult to talk. I don't have lung or sinus buildup. Are there ways or foods to focus on reducing the mucus in the mouth? And what about vinegar a a reducing food?
    Thank you

  32. Uh Carly, hate to burst your bubble on avoiding certain animal products on the basis of "they make you produce more mucus", but I'm gonna have to.

    A paper on Mucus production affecting the upper respiratory system with rhinovirus-2 and milk was published back in 1990, and there was no discernable difference in mucus secretion weight between those infected with rhinovirus-2 (one or many rhinoviruses that cause the common cold) between those who consumed dairy milk and soy milk. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/2154152/

    What is actually happening is one's secreted saliva is thickened by the milk, resulting the in throat being coated by that mixture which could feel like mucus.


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