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Phlegm 101

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Mar 12th, 2014

I know it’s gross. But phlegm is a completely normal and very necessary bodily function. I spoke with Dr. Brad Mechor, an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon about phlegm and he says we produce about half a litre to 2 litres of it every day!! Phlegm acts as a catchers mitt…catching all those bad viruses before they enter our lungs, keeping us healthy. It also humidifies the air we breathe.

But in Calgary where it’s so dry, Dr. Mechor says many of us notice our phlegm because it becomes thicker and harder to swallow. Also when we’re sick we produce more phlegm as a means of fighting infection. The phlegm actually consists of white blood cells and antibodies as we try to get better.

Besides the lack of moisture in Calgary, Dr. Mechor says there are many things that can cause your phlegm to thicken and become problematic. Medications for high blood pressure, depression and contraception ie. the pill can all thicken phlegm. If you drink too much caffeine and not enough water, as many of us do, this can thicken phlegm. Also those with acid reflux may have more phlegm because the acid can come up into the esophagus and stimulate the nose and throat to make more mucus and saliva. Post menopausal women may also have thicker mucus.

So what do we do?? Dr. Mechor recommends a humidifier in the bedroom at night, drinking more water and less coffee. He also says if you smoke, here’s another reason to quit. Smokers produce more phlegm and are less able to move it down the back of the throat and swallow it. Dr. Mechor is also a huge advocate of nasal rinsing, at least once a day.

If you are becoming worried or embarrassed by your phlegm and it’s making you socially uncomfortable, make sure to talk to your family doctor. Dr. Mechor says these simple treatment options should get your nose and throat nice and clear again!



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