I have written on a wide range of issues: Urine, blood, bowel health, colons, infections, vomit, constipation, diarrhea and even skin sores. All of these are areas that for the most part, “no man has gone before.” Amazingly all of these topics, as “gross” as they are, relate to bodily functions, which relate to our very ability to survive.
Now, let’s explore the final frontier: Mucus.
Mucus is a truly wonderful thing. For most of us, it is just the stuff we spit out when we cough or blow our noses.
In reality it is a natural barrier and protector for the body. Mucus is incredibly important for our bodies. It is the oil in the engine. Without mucus, the engine seizes.
Pass the tissues and antihistamine please — ‘tis the season for holiday allergies. Like unwanted gifts, sneezing and congestion arrive, making allergy sufferers miserable and putting a damper on holiday fun. Fortunately you don’t have to be sidelined from the festivities. Whether it’s symptoms to food, pets, mold or mildew, allergies during the holidays can be beat with lifestyle changes, medication and a few simple tips.
How much mucus is normal, and how much is too much? What does its color tell you about your health? Can you just get rid of it, or at least cut down on it, and how should you do that? Here is some information that may be helpful.
Mucus lines the membranes of the respiratory tract, the eyes and the intestines. The mucus in these areas is filled with secretions from the immune system that fight bacteria and germs. In the eyes, the mucus secretions in tears protect the eyes from infection. In the airways of the respiratory system have little “hairs” that filter dust, and other foreign matter that flows in with the air.
This matter is trapped in the mucus secretions and washed away out of the lungs. We tend to cough up mucus when it is loaded with this stuff and spit it out.
Moving on down to the intestinal tract, there are a number of actions involving mucus: When we digest food in the stomach, the body produces mucus to protect the stomach lining from the acid that is produced to break down food.
There is also an anti-bacterial action to counter any such activity from contaminated food we might eat unknowingly. In people who secrete little or no stomach acid, mucus helps to interfere with the susceptibility to Salmonella poisoning.
As the intestine contract to pass food on down the “canal”, they shed old and dead tissue from the lining. Mucus is responsible for trapping this garbage and sending it on out along with your “sinkers” and/or “floaters.”
When your bladder empties, any bacteria in the urethra is once again trapped in the mucus and flushed out of the genitourinary tract with your urine.
If you can grasp these concepts, it should broaden your understanding of not only the beneficial role that mucus plays in the body and also how, in excess, it can impair your health. Any time there is excess mucus in the body, it could indicate that the body is trying to recover from some malady.
For example, let’s look at the most common example: The common cold.
What’s the first thing we do when we get chest or nasal congestion from a cold and start coughing with a stuffy nose?
Bingo! You got it; we take cough syrup to stop the cough and/or an antihistamine to stop the nose from running. How wrong can you be?
The congestion indicates that the immune system has ordered up extra servings of mucus to deal with the influx of germs or infection. Instead of drying it up, we should be doing the logical thing the assist the body in removing the contaminated mucus: drinking plenty of water daily. Keep this in mind the next time you want to “comfort” your child and pump them up with cough syrup.
By the way, the same logic holds true when an allergy causes these same symptoms.
Anytime we have mucus congestion, 9 times out of 10, it is typically the result of an increase in production to prevent some foreign invader from entering the system. So you see mucus is really a natural barrier in the true sense of the word.
Here are some mucus tips:If ever you cough up mucus that has blood in it, you should know that in half of these cases, it is the result of acute or chronic bronchitis. In the other half, where there is usually a larger amount of blood, this could indicate some kind of tumor, possibly lung cancer. See your doctor immediately.
Infection in mucus is readily identified by the color ranging from light to dark yellow or green. The dark the color the more severe the infection.
Sometimes you may notice mucus in your stools after a bowel movement. Don’t’ mistake it for fat, which could signal some sort of a liver condition.
For good general lung health, deep breathing and fresh air will help the lungs to naturally eliminate mucus.
In terms of the diet, try to avoid heavy starchy foods, pasteurized dairy products and refined foods; they are known to contribute to mucus congestion.
Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of pure water daily will thin mucus and aid in its elimination from the body.
This is but a small dent in the vast body of mucus information, so use it as a starting point to gather more knowledge for you own good health.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of “Which Doctor? and Information is the Best Medicine.” A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.