Can Drinking Milk Cause Phlegm?

The belief that drinking milk causes phlegm is a common one, but scientific evidence does not strongly support this notion. Here’s what the research and expert opinions say about milk and phlegm production:

The Myth and the Reality:

  • Common Belief: Many people believe that milk increases mucus or phlegm production, particularly during a cold or respiratory infection.
  • Scientific Evidence: Studies have shown that milk does not increase mucus production. For example, research published in the American Review of Respiratory Disease found no significant difference in nasal secretions or symptoms between people who drank milk and those who did not.

Sensation vs. Production:

  • Thicker Sensation: Some individuals may feel that milk makes their saliva thicker or leaves a coating in their mouth and throat. This sensation can be mistaken for increased mucus production.
  • No Increase in Mucus: Despite this sensation, milk does not cause the body to produce more mucus or phlegm. The thickening sensation is due to the texture of milk and how it interacts with the saliva in the mouth.

Individual Responses:

  • Personal Sensitivities: Some people may have a mild intolerance to dairy, which could lead to symptoms like throat irritation or a feeling of increased phlegm. However, this is not the same as an actual increase in mucus production.
  • Respiratory Conditions: People with asthma or other respiratory conditions might feel more discomfort after consuming dairy, but again, this is typically due to the sensation rather than an actual increase in mucus.

Practical Advice:

  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated can help thin mucus, making it easier to clear from the respiratory tract. Water, herbal teas, and clear broths are good choices.
  • Dairy Alternatives: If you feel uncomfortable after drinking milk, you might want to try dairy alternatives such as almond, soy, or oat milk to see if they make a difference.
  • Consult a Doctor: If you have ongoing respiratory issues or concerns about mucus production, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment.

In summary, while drinking milk might give some people the sensation of thicker saliva, it does not actually increase mucus or phlegm production. Personal sensitivities vary, so if milk makes you feel uncomfortable, consider alternatives and maintain good hydration.