Myth-busting: Does Milk Cause Mucus?
You may hear stories about milk increasing mucus and that milk should be avoided when you or your child has a cold or asthma. But science tells a different story.
A recent review of scientific studies found no link between milk or dairy intake and respiratory disorders or mucus production.1
Now, you may be wondering how these stories about milk and mucus got started. Milk is an emulsion, a blend of fluid and solids (protein, carbohydrates and fat). When this emulsion combines with saliva in the mouth, the saliva temporarily becomes thicker. This natural process led people to believe that milk was increasing mucus when, in reality, it was a temporary “film in your mouth” that could be rinsed away with a few sips of water. Unfortunately, moms, grandmothers, some health care providers and even the 1950s celebrity pediatrician Dr. Spock spread the myth that milk caused mucus.2 3
What is the harm in believing this myth? Parents and caregivers might think it is best to cut out dairy products to help them or their child get through the illness easier. But omitting dairy leads to missing nutrients such as protein and calcium. Dietary calcium and adequate protein intake are both important in the prevention of bone fractures, normal growth and reduced risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Three servings of real dairy each day will give children and adults the calcium they need.
So, when you hear milk causes mucus, you can set the record straight!
- Dalfour-Lynn IM. Arch Dis Child 2019; 104: 91-93.
- Kupirovic UP, et al. Effect of saliva on physical food properties in fat texture perception. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2017;57:1061-77.
- Vingerhoeds MH, et al. Emulsion flocculation induced by saliva and mucin. Food Hydrocall. 2005;19-915-22.