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Milk and Phlegm: A Relationship?

Published on Mar 01, 2011 with 47 comments

imageThere is a wide-spread and accepted notion that there is a cause and effect relationship between the ingestion of milk and increased phlegm production.  But, the truth is that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support such a claim.  And, there is no truth to the notion that milk makes asthma worse, unless one is truly allergic to milk protein.

Yet, despite the lack of evidence, many people claim such a relationship, especially during an upper respiratory virus or when they are having allergy symptoms.  This claim is so pervasive that many physicians recommend stopping milk during these episodes.  Even though such anecdotal evidence does not stand up to the scrutiny of scientific trials, The Online Allergist does not rule out the possibility that there is a subset of susceptible individuals who may indeed have increased mucus production when exposed to milk.  This is clearly not an allergic reaction, but other immunologic or contact responses may be operative.  There is even a recent article that suggests that some milk from certain breeds of cows contains a protein that causes the mucus glands of the gastrointestinal tract to over-react on contact.

Fact or old wives’ tale?  It is difficult to say.  Regardless, if you are one who believes that milk increases the amount or thickness of phlegm during an upper respiratory infection or allergies, there is certainly no harm in stopping milk during that episode.


Hi Julie! I sent you an email to make sure you get this response but I’ll aswenr it here for others as well. The pediatric naturopath that we worked with recommended a three-week elimination diet to identify issues. Unfortunately, you might not always notice improvement when you remove foods, but after the elimination part, you might notice a range of reactions when you reintroduce the food. The reactions can range from sleep and behavior, to emotions and rashes and tummy troubles. The few situations where my son has had food dye (even just a drop in a science class lesson) since we’ve gone through this process, it has taken about a week with tons and tons of water and healthy foods for him to fully recover, with each day seeing improvements.  Let me know if I can help with anything else!

By Cecile on 2013 08 24

Sarah,It was so nice meietng you at the MOCHA meietng tonight.  You have a way with words and your ability to unpack the scientific world behind allergies is pretty amazing as well!  I, especially, loved this entry because I was having a hard time not throwing myself a pity party while driving home from the MOCHA meietng.  I hate that my daughter can’t be as care-free as other kids but I am really thankful for 1) the character this experience will build in her and 2) the people you meet along the way that change the way you think and offer hope in a desperate situation.  Thank you for sharing your life.  You put into words what my heart has been struggling with for some time.Ava was so excited about the allergy-free jelly bean samples I brought home tonight that she jumped up and down on the bed until she gave herself a little asthma attack.  Oh Boy. But instead of ruining all of her fun by giving her the I told you so look, we grabbed her inhaler and just giggled at the prospect of eating those jelly beans tomorrow.  Thank you for that it was a pretty great moment!God bless!Esther

By Andryy on 2013 08 26

I just found your blog tonight, but will definitely be a frequent follower now! Thank you so much for this post. I cried as I read it, but that’s not a bad thing. My daughter’s milk allergy was diagnosed 8 months ago just after her 3rd birthday. I haven’t struggled too much with guilt in terms of my causing it, but rather guilt over how could I not have seen it sooner. In retrospect it is so blatantly obvious, but then there were so many other factors. She had been premature and had to be on the vent and so many things we just attributed to her prematurity. It wasn’t until we got a new pulmnologist who agreed that there was a deeper issue that we were missing and that upping her steroids (which was almost at an adult dose and still not working and our previous MD’s answer for everything) was not the solution. I wish I had realized sooner as once milk was removed from her diet, her asthma is completely gone. It’s hard to let go and not blame myself for not seeing it earlier.Your post was a good reminder for me; my daughter does not see it as missing something, she gets that she feels better; she just wants to be able to have fun and do the same things as her friends. I have the emotional reaction to her allergy; she doesn’t. She just matter of factly asks, “Does it have milk? I’m allergic you know” anytime she is offered food. She loves the Bugabee Friends with Food Allergies book and thinks it’s so cool that she is a “Bugabee.”  Keeping it positive is so important. auto insurance life insurance online

By Valinda on 2013 08 29

Hi, just one more terrifying incident, after my four year old granddaughter, ate a small piece of Red velvet Duncan Hines cake. First incident was, she fell of the chair, right after she finished it, and we put it down to being tired or just try to get off the wrong way, but my uncle noticed it was very unusual fall, like thrown down from the middle of the chair.Next one , she was having a small piece of the same cake ,packed in her lunch at school, the teacher found her on the floor with her tongue swollen, and just hanging out of her mouth, eys shutt closed, and they could not wake her up.This terrified phone call came from her school, and my daughter almost had a heart attack on the way to school, she is the youngest of her four daughters.They rushed her to emergency where she was given the epi pen, and some anty allergy medicine, so after a few hours she was give a popcikle and by pressing down on her tounge, the swelling subsided, and thank God she has recovered.After many tests it was established she reacted to R E D# 40, color in the Duncan Hines mix., red velvet.It was a very scary experience for the whole family, and we hope it will never happened, again, to anyone.So , please informe all your readers, and warning should be on all the labels, or better , yet, all chemical coloring , should be removed from human consumption, as is band long time ago in Europe and UK.I talked to Duncan Hines co., and they assured me , they will remove the Red # 40, and I did suggest to use natural red color from beets, or purple kale.. auto rental insurance cheap life insurance quotes

By Hayle on 2013 09 01

The comments here have been so helpful to us today that I thought I’d comment in case it helps someone else. My nearly 7-year-old son is now sleeping after a massive meltdown. This morning he was literally kissing us and telling us what a wonderful time he was having (on holidays) and how appreciative he was for the treats we were having. By 11am he was not listening, kicking us when we held his hand, kicking the car, screaming repeatedly in a frightening way and telling us he hated us. He continued to scream and yell as he was bundled into his room and eventually went to sleep after all-body trembling, saying things were pinching him etc. This has happened previously after sucking on strongly coloured ice (science experiment) and today was a blue strap lolly. He is a highly intelligent and affectionate boy, but we have always struggled with his behaviour and today, after finding this blog and reading the comments, we feel like it truly is the start of a new beginnning! Step 1 is no more blue colour!! car insurance quotes car insurance quotes

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I am so pleased I have found your blog I am so so sad at the mintue my beautiful boy had his first anaphlaxis reaction last week and my head is spinning and my heart is heavy   i so hope we can find our way and lead a happy healthy life with inclusion for him in everything i keep focusing on the things that he cant do or wont have at the mintue I know i will adjust and so will he it sucks but i take comfort in others who have found their way .Much loveLaura

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