What naturally gets rid of mucus?
Source: Getty Images

Natural Methods for Clearing up Mucus

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Aug. 11 2021, Published 1:13 p.m. ET

Having a buildup of mucus isn’t just about how stuffy your nose is or how much phlegm you feel in the back of your throat. Mucus tends to build up due to inflammation, causing common problems like congestion and sore throats. However, a heavier buildup of mucus can result in labored breathing, difficulty sleeping, and tightness in the lungs and chest. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to get rid of mucus without resorting to complex machines or questionable medications.

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Please be aware that none of the natural remedies presented here are meant to be a replacement for actual medical care. If you are having persistent problems with mucus buildup, and especially if it’s impacting your respiration in any way, please consult with your doctor. Also, please contact your doctor before attempting any remedies that require you to ingest any unfamiliar foods or over-the-counter medications.

Sore throat caused by mucus
Source: Getty Images

What causes mucus?

According to Medical News Today, the most frequent causes of mucus buildup have to do with inflammation in and around the respiratory system. This inflammation can be caused by common conditions such as allergies or asthma. Symptoms of the common cold, the flu, and other bacterial and viral infections commonly include inflammation and increased mucus buildup.

However, serious respiratory ailments such as chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, pneumonia, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acid reflux, cystic fibrosis, and the smoking of tobacco or other products can affect mucus production in a similar way.

Natural ways to get rid of mucus

These natural methods are the easiest way to break up mucus and to prevent mucus buildup from becoming an uncomfortable issue.

Use a humidifier

Our sinuses are particularly sensitive to how wet or dry they are. The drier the air in a place is, the more irritated our sinuses become and the more likely they are to create mucus as a way of lubricating them. According to Medline Plus, using a cool-mist humidifier in your home will help your body to break up the mucus so that it can be coughed out. Humidifiers will also moisten the air enough to help to lubricate your sinuses as well as alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

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Drink liquids

Woman drinking water
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Remember when your mom told you to drink some hot tea or warm soup while you were sick? There was a reason for that. According to Healthline, drinking liquids helps to thin out mucus, thereby making it easier to dislodge or be reabsorbed by the body. Warm liquids are particularly effective at relieving congestion, but drinking more water, in general, is also a great way to stay healthy and speed up the healing process.

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Gargle with salt water

Cup of salt water for gargling
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As it turns out, you don’t always need to drink liquids to clear mucus out of your throat. This method, taught to me by my own grandmother and reaffirmed by countless other grandparents the world over, is to gargle with salt water.

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This method, courtesy of A. Vogel, involves stirring a tablespoon of table salt into a glass of hot water and gargling with it for a few minutes. The salt and heat should break up the mucus pretty handily. Just remember not to swallow the salt water, or you’ll be in for a bad time.

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Take a hot bath or shower

Running a hot bath
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According to SmartVest, you can help clear out the mucus in your chest by taking a hot bath or a shower and inhaling the steam. This works similarly to the gargling with salt water method, in that the heat from the water vapor will help break up the mucus and clear it out of your sinuses. The steam option will also relieve sinus pressure and make it easier to breathe.

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Engage in gentle exercise

Woman jogging
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MedicineNet recommends getting exercise to help loosen the mucus that builds up in one’s chest. We’re not saying you should go out and jog a few miles if you have a fever, but a brisk walk or slow bike ride has sometimes been shown to alleviate some conditions that cause mucus. Note that if you have exercise-induced asthma or a similar condition, this probably isn’t the remedy for you.

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Eat foods that aid in respiratory health

Garlic bulbs
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Eating certain foods can also help break down mucus, according to NDTV. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper and flavorful ones like ginger, cardamom, and onion are all good at thinning out mucus. Garlic is a natural anti-inflammatory and expectorant, and it contains antibacterial compounds that kill germs and can help you feel better when you’re sick.

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The same enzymes in pineapple that work to aid in digestion contain anti-inflammatory compounds that have been known to help respiratory problems such as asthma. According to NDTV, that same bromelain can help to expel and eliminate mucus as well.

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