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Do Dairy Products Really Thicken Your Mucus?

Do Dairy Products Really Thicken Your Mucus?Today we examine the widely held belief that mucus will “gunk up” vocal cords -says Speech Language Pathologist Kristie Reece Knickerbocker

Recent publications have demonstrated that dairy products do nothing to chemically increase mucus production or viscosity, but why does the myth remain?


Studies suggest that airway resistance is not altered by milk consumption

A group of investigators from New York examined 21 individuals, half with asthma and half without, to see if milk increased mucus. It suggested that airway resistance was not altered by milk consumption – so, no thicker mucus here.

Perhaps if there is a milk allergy, the body will have a reaction to it? That might explain the widely-held belief that mucus will “gunk up vocal cords” and should be avoided.

Unfortunately, I could not find any research studies about mucus thickening after eating or drinking dairy. Another study states that some people with asthma may see an improvement after eliminating dairy from their diets, however, it does not definitively prove that mucus production increases because of dairy products.

Bottom Line: You can throw science at your patients, but they may remain convinced that milk will gunk things up. You might be fighting a losing battle, but hey, at least calcium comes from other sources.

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Kristie Knickerbocker.
Previous article: What’s the Impact of Whispering on Vocal Rest?
Next article: Which Foods Will Improve Your Singing Performance?

Kristie Knickerbocker

Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She provides voice, swallowing and speech therapy in her own private practice, a tempo Voice Center, LLC. She also lectures on the singing voice to area choirs and students. She belongs to ASHA’s Special Interest Group 3-Voice and Voice Disorders. She keeps a blog on her website at www.atempovoicecenter.com

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This article is adapted from Kristie’s blog which first appeared on The American Speech Language Hearing Association site www.Asha.org

  • Marshall

    I didn’t believe first that milk gunks things up and then start having problems after drinking milk. To suggest that this is all in a persons head based on the limited amount of information which comes form “investigators” examining 21 people. First, that is not science. Science won’t convince me because after I consume milk I have about a 15-20 minute episode of choking on my own phlem until I can get it all cleared out. Water speeds up the clearing process. And I am not alone. I have allergies but not asthma, so maybe they need to look at folks with hay fever issues. Maybe the research needed to start by using subjects who claim to have a problem with it. Obviously there are folks that milk does not affect, but to recommend that throwing science at those who claim to have that experience is very condescending, especially when the author states the following: “Unfortunately, I could not find any research studies about mucus thickening after eating or drinking dairy.”

  • Diana Rosalind Trimble

    I really think it is down to personal lactose intolerance that some people claim to have health benefits from eliminating dairy. I went through a period of several months of extreme mucous production at one time and tried going dairy-free which made absolutely no difference. It was probably caused by other environmental sensitivities/allergies, the fact I don’t naturally drink a lot of water and was having trouble getting over a persistent cold. I think it’s insane that this myth of milk causing mucous in the general population still persists! I was just reading an interview with Neil Patrick Harris, currently on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, in which he described the vocal hygiene regimen his vocal coach had him on, which included no dairy in order to protect his voice! Poor guy! How cruel to deprive a person of cheese based on misinformation!