Mucous is well-known for its regular appearance when we are experiencing a cold. Every surface in our body not covered by skin h...Mucous is well-known for its regular appearance when we are experiencing a cold. Every surface in our body not covered by skin has a mucous membrane. For example, the lungs, stomach, eyes, and intestines to name a few. Read all about mucous below.
Mucous membranes lines body cavities open to the exterior, that is not protected by skin. Its role is quite diverse, from providing a physical barrier to aiding in digestion and absorption.
As shown in the image below we have four major types of membranes. The mucous membrane is considered to be one of these. In the scientific literature, mucosal membranes are characterized as wet tissues of open cavities open to the exterior (Source: NCBI). Meaning, if needed a camera could be inserted into the body to view the health of the tissue. For example a colonoscopy (examination of the colon with a camera).
We have all experienced a cold or flu of some sort. The immune system ramps up mucus production to try to eliminate foreign invaders. White blood cell production is also increased. Interestingly, what most people call "pus" is actually for the large part dead white blood cells. With a cold or flu we often have a runny nose and in some cases mild infection of the lungs. We are also blowing our nose more and often coughing up phlegm. These are all signs of increased mucus production to try to eliminate infection in the body.
The best way is to keep an overall healthy lifestyle and sufficient intake of essential nutrients. Therefore, we will provide general physical activity recommendations and briefly touch on some nutrients below. In addition, follow practices of a healthy lifestyle, such as sufficient exercise, eat a balanced and varied diet, manage stress, obtain adequate sleep and live an enjoyable and meaningful life.
For nutrition, specifically, a couple of nutrients can affect the mucosal membranes in the mouth. Some important water-soluble vitamins include vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, and vitamin C (Source: NCBI). From the fat-soluble vitamins, it appears A, D and E affect mucosa quality and activity (Source: NCBI).
For physical activity, those with no underlying health conditions (confirm with your doctor) or complications, following general physical activity guidelines from the World Health Organisation are recommended (Source: BJSM):
"It is recommended that:
All adults should undertake regular physical activity;
Adults should do at least 150–300 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75–150min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits"
General principles of a healthy, balanced diet rich in omega-3, vitamins and minerals, and fibre are associated with overall health and, therefore, a well functioning system that is efficient and effective in producing mucous.
Consume plenty of fruit & vegetables. Supplementation may be beneficial to fill the gaps as discussed in "additional considerations" below.
While consumption of most nutrients through natural or fortified foods is preferred, some nutrients may occasionally need supplementation. Especially for restrictive diets or those that lack variety.
As a general rule try to consume 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Importantly, if you do not consume animal products you should consult your healthcare professional to discuss and consider a vitamin B12 supplement. The main issue with vitamin B12 is everything is fine until it's not. Meaning its a silent threat to our health, we have stores in the liver that can last 1-2 years and even longer in some instances. Hence, get ahead and check your status, the first sign of vitamin B12 deficiency can, unfortunately, have already caused irreversible damage. Vitamin D is another at risk-nutrient and should be supplemented from October-March in countries of northern latitude (north of the equator, Ireland, UK, Denmark, etc.) (Source: NCBI, MDPI).
General and targeted supplementation should be considered for restrictive or low energy-density diets, rather than a multivitamin/multimineral. Following the principles of a healthy balanced diet will cover most of your nutritional needs for the majority of the population. If concerned consult a healthcare professional who can help you with your diet and overall health.
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