FULL CLAIM: Excessive mucus causes bronchitis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and glaucoma; “Summer is acidic [whereas] cold is alkaline [and] a detoxification process starts”
A widely-shared Facebook video, which originated on TikTok, made several claims about the role of mucus in causing various diseases. As this review will explain, mucus may be a symptom of some diseases but it is not the cause.
Mucus is released by the body to lubricate and protect the linings of the digestive and respiratory systems. The thick fluid can trap small particles or bacteria as part of the body’s defense against disease.
Excess mucus is usually associated with respiratory or sinus infections, allergies, or irritants such as smoke or pollutants. Claims that mucus in the body causes disease has been shown to be incorrect in a previous Health Feedback review.
Bronchitis can cause excess mucus, not the other way around
The video claimed that mucus in the chest causes bronchitis. However, this is the wrong way around—excess mucus is a common symptom of bronchitis, but it isn’t the cause. Bronchitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, although it can also be due to exposure to irritants such as smoke or air pollution.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways, which leads them to produce more mucus than usual. As a result, people with bronchitis often cough up mucus to clear the airways. However, it is important not to confuse the resulting mucus with the original cause that triggered the inflammation.
Overactive immune systems cause psoriasis and multiple sclerosis
The video also claimed that mucus could break down skin tissue to cause psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that causes the skin to form flaky patches. The cause is thought to be immune system problems triggering excessive growth of skin cells. Excess mucus isn’t considered as a cause of psoriasis.
However, respiratory infections and bronchitis can trigger psoriasis flareups by affecting the immune system. As mentioned previously, these conditions can also cause excess mucus, but this is a symptom of illness, not the cause.
The video also claimed that mucus in the nerves causes multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, potentially limiting a range of abilities, including movement, cognition, and vision. This is caused by the immune system attacking the nerves, removing the protective layer that helps signals to pass along the cells. Scientists currently don’t know what causes the immune system to attack the cells. However, leading risk factors are genetics, low vitamin D levels, smoking, teenage obesity, viral infections, and being female. There is no available scientific data suggesting that excess mucus causes the immune disorder leading to MS.
A review of research into the impact of neurological disorders, such as MS, on the gut found that the mucus composition can change, altering the bacterial populations colonizing the gut and gut function. However, the change in mucus composition is a symptom of the underlying neurological issue, rather than mucus being the cause of the disease.
Mucus is not the cause of arthritis or glaucoma
The video also claimed that mucus in the joints causes arthritis. As explained in a previous review, neither osteoarthritis nor rheumatoid arthritis, the two main forms of the condition, are caused by mucus. Osteoarthritis can lead to mucous cysts forming in joints, but this is a symptom rather than a cause of the disease.
The video also claimed that mucus in the eye causes glaucoma. Glaucoma is the name given to a range of conditions that damage the optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss and blindness. This is typically due to high pressure inside the eye as a result of a build-up of fluid called aqueous humor. Medical experts don’t consider mucus to be related to the onset of glaucoma.
There is no need for most people to “detox” mucus
The video claimed that coughing up mucus in winter is a “detoxification process” caused by cold weather. As mentioned before, mucus is used by the body to trap infectious bacteria and is a healthy part of the body’s defenses. However, excess mucus leading to sneezing and coughing is typically caused by an infection and not the cold weather. This is how the body removes the microbes from the lungs.
Mucus isn’t a toxin that needs to be removed, except for people with cystic fibrosis, who produce thickened mucus that cannot be cleared and which can damage organs. For most people, a build-up of mucus in the nose and sinuses can be annoying if it remains for several days, but decongestant medicine or rinsing the nose with salt water can help to clear this.
The video also claimed that “summer is acidic […] the cold is alkaline”. Acid and alkaline refer to the pH of an object and are meaningless labels to apply to seasons or temperatures.
The false claims of mucus causing disease and the benefits of alkaline agents appear to derive from the late herbalist “Dr. Sebi”, whose real name was Alfredo Bowman and who had no medical training. Health Feedback previously published reviews explaining why his claims are incorrect on mucus, alkaline diets, and vitamin C.
There is no basis for suggesting that mucus is the cause of bronchitis, arthritis, MS, psoriasis, or glaucoma. While excess mucus can appear as a symptom or in conjunction with some of these diseases, it is not involved in the initial trigger. Cold weather doesn’t “detox” the body of mucus and this wouldn’t prevent any of the diseases listed.
- 1 – Herath et al. (2020) The Role of the Gastrointestinal Mucus System in Intestinal Homeostasis: Implications for Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.