It’s that time of year... coughing, sneezing, runny nose, mucus! It’s annoying, it’s unsightly, it can even be uncomfortable but before you send mucus to the sidelines, you may want to know a bit more about it.

mucus sinusMucus, also known as mucous (which is when its used as an adjective), plays an important role in your health. You’d be surprised how many things you couldn’t do if you didn’t have mucus in your body. You couldn’t swallow effectively, you couldn’t filter toxins effectively, you definitely wouldn’t be able to poop and your immune function would be seriously compromised.

Mucus, as annoying as it may be at times, lubricates, protects, and captures. It lines your digestive tract from mouth to anus, allowing the digestive process to move smoothly. It also lines your nasal passages, keeping them moist as well as capturing any foreign objects and wrapping them in goo so they can be expelled.

There is an unfortunate belief that to be healthy we should be mucus free, however, if we were mucus free we’d be in big trouble, so it’s really best to make friends with your mucus and learn how to discern what’s good and what’s bad.

mucus kleenexA healthy adult produces anywhere from 1-1 ½ liters of mucus a day. Most of this is actually in your digestive tract so you don’t notice it. Typically, when you actually notice there is a phlegm issue, it’s not because you are necessarily producing more phlegm, rather it has changed consistency and color so it’s much more apparent. When your body is trying to remove toxins or respond to environmental insult, whether because of pathogens, allergens, or any number of other toxins, it reacts by sending in the troops. Contrary to popular opinion, if your mucus is strangely colored, it isn’t because of the toxin, it’s because of your bodies response to the toxin and it basically means your body is doing its job. When you have an invader, your body immediately deploys cells that identify what the next steps should be. Depending on whether it is a pathogen, allergen, or other issue, the color and consistency will change.

If your mucus is green, yellow, or brownish, this is typically because your body has detected a pathogen and has released mast cells and other immune system guardians to get on the job and help your body purge the insulting entity. Allergens don’t really need quite the muscle so they tend to stimulate clear or white mucus, although in seemingly plentiful amounts. Despite what the current media influence will tell you with their cute little animated mucus hooligans, using over the counter products to dry up mucus really isn’t the best thing to do. Especially, if you are taking something orally that will influence your entire system. If you take something to dry up your sinuses, you can also expect it to dry up your intestinal tract which can result in inefficient digestive function including constipation. In fact, you should worry if you have a cold, flu or other issue and mucus isn’t being produced and productively removing itself from your body.

mucus netSo, what can you do if you are producing an unsightly amount of mucus from your nose? Well, one interesting route is using a Neti pot, which is basically a salt water flush through the sinuses. If you go this route you just want to be sure to use distilled or other purified water and sea salt, not regular salts. You can also add a drop of two of rosemary essential oil. You can also switch gears with your diet if you find you are suffering from mucus overload by eating foods that decrease systemic inflammation, foods that are rich in bromelain and quercetin will go a long way towards clearing up any mucus density. Things like pineapple, cooked apples, sweet potatoes, ginger, salmon, radish, broccoli, cucumber, to name a few.