Does drinking milk increase the production mucus and phlegm when you have a cold?
As we come into the cooler months and those cold and flu bugs start to get around, this seemed like the perfect myth to bust.
The idea that milk increases mucus and phlegm is pretty common, but to cut what could be a long story short, it doesn’t. Plain and simple, this issue has been the focus of multiple research papers, including a review study in 2005, which found no link between milk consumption and an increase in mucus (1, 2, 3, 4). In one study participants were infected with the common cold virus and their mucus production measured. This totally gross science detected no difference in mucus production and concluded no association between milk consumption and mucus production when infected with a common cold (4).
It was noted in another study however that participants reported sensations such as a “coating/lining over the mouth, throat or tongue," the "need to swallow a lot," and "saliva thicker, harder to swallow than before," with the consumption of milk. These sensations however are likely to be result from the texture and thickness of the milk as opposed to an actual increase in mucus production (2).
So if milk doesn’t increase mucus production when you have a cold, is it a good drink choice?
The sensation of 'thickness' and a difficulty to swallow milk when you have a cold as previously described by study participants is something I can definitely relate to, but putting this aside, milk is actually quite a good drink choice if you are feeling a little under the weather.
It definitely isn’t the first food that comes to mind when you think of battling a cold or flu, but much like the electrolytes found in that soothing chicken soup, milk is fantastic for keeping hydrated and as a ‘complete’ food is also very nourishing when your appetite dwindles. Of course if you can’t stomach it, there is no harm in avoiding it until your cold passes but if you are up for a tall cold glass of the white stuff, go ahead, it actually could do you the world of good.