by Deborah Lynn Blumberg April 20, 2023 3 min read

If you're dealing with sinus or other common allergen responses like congestion, a runny nose or an irritating postnasal drip, you might be wondering what the different colors of mucus mean?

The different colors can tell us a lot about what's going on inside the body, as can the consistency of our mucus. That's why it's important to understand the purpose of mucus and pay attention to how it changes over time.

What Is Mucus, and What Colors Are the Most Common?

The primary function of mucus in our body is defense. It helps protect the body from exposure to unwanted microbes and other particles that could cause harm, trapping them before they make their way to our lungs and potentially make us unwell. Mucus also serves a major role in keeping surfaces of the body moist including the lungs, nasal passages, mouth and gut. It acts as a lubricant that stops these areas from drying out.

Our body is always making mucus and it plays an important role in keeping us healthy by filtering anything you breathe in through your nose like dust or allergens. Mucus is fluid, meaning it's constantly moving around the body as a defense mechanism. For example, after mucus traps particles in the back of our throat, it then slides down into the stomach and will be eliminated out of the body.

You likely to become more aware of mucus when you become unwell or are exposed to allergens. This can increase mucus production or create a change in the consistency. Changes in the color and consistency of mucus are always worth considering, as the shift could indicate a change in health and a sign you need additional support. Let's take a look at the common colors of mucus and what they can tell us.

The colors of mucus:

  • Clear: Typically, clear mucus is normal and isn't anything to be concerned about. However, sometimes, people who deal with allergens can also have clear mucus.
  • White:If you have white mucus, you might be congested. This can happen if your nose tissue swells, making it harder for mucus to flow and leaving it stagnant, thick and discolored. This could be a sign of a cold or more inflamed sinuses.
  • Yellow:When mucus turns yellow, it often means the body is working to fight off some type of infection. The yellow color is from white blood cells that arrive to fight off the intruders.
  • Green:Green mucus is full of dead white blood cells and can indicate the body is working increasingly harder to fight off an invader.
  • Pink or red:Mucus that's tinged pink or red can be due to nasal tissue in the nose that's been broken. It's often the result of dryness or irritation of the nose after excessive blowing.
  • Brown or black:When mucus is brown, it's most likely something that has been inhaled into the nasal passage, like dirt. It's the same for black mucus; however, in very rare circumstances, black mucus can also signal a serious fungal infection. It can also be more common in heavy smokers or in some cases of more severe lung conditions.

Thick mucus can also be a clue you're dehydrated — this could mean you're not drinking enough water or that you're drinking too much caffeine or sugary drinks. If you become concerned, notice a change in color or have mucus that persists more than ten days along with other symptoms, like a fever or difficulty breathing, you may need to seek additional support from a certified health professional.

How To Support the Body Naturally

If you're dealing with congestion, you might also feel more tired than usual and have aches and pains if your body is using energy to defend itself. You can help, by supporting your immune system every day with nutritional supplements and herbs.

Boosting the immune response can help strengthen the body to break down mucus and enhance its ability to eliminate pathogens promoting clear nasal passages. Licorice root has shown to be an effective vasodilator that can help open up the airways. When airways are more open, mucus can drain better, which helps the body to rid pathogens.

Berberine, andrographis, and thyme may also support congestion, and turmeric can help with an increased inflammatory response. When nasal passages are less inflamed, there's more space for mucus and the pathogens it has trapped to flow through and ultimately out of the body. You may also want to include the top immunity boosting nutrients in your daily routine, including vitamin D3, vitamin C and zinc.

If you want to understand why you may be dealing with ongoing sinus, chest or lung congestion and learn more about the specific anti-inflammatory herbs, adaptogens and drainage protocols that have been known to help - take a listen to this podcast.

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