Here's an interesting bit of information: Your nose and throat naturally produce up to two quarts of mucus every day. (Crazy, right?) The purpose is to moisten your nose and throat while also cleansing these cavities of foreign matter. You'll generally swallow it throughout the day without noticing, but when the mucus secretions (is there a worse pairing of words?) become thick or you're experiencing issues swallowing, you'll feel that leaky-faucet dripping sensation.
While postnasal drip is often associated with head colds, there are myriad other possible causes: allergies, cold temperatures, bright lights, certain foods/spices, pregnancy, and other hormonal changes, to name a few. Certain medications can also bring about postnasal drip, as well as anatomical issues, like a deviated septum. It's a terribly uncomfortable sensation, especially if you have a sore throat to boot, so we turned to immunologist Ebru Karpuzoglu, MS, Ph.D., CEO of immune-conscious beauty brand AveSeena, and Dr. Michelle Yagoda, attending physician and clinical instructor of otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, to find out how to naturally return to a normal state of mucus production.
Meet the Expert
- Ebru Karpuzoglu, MS, Ph.D., is the CEO of immune-conscious beauty brand AveSeena. Focused on the idea of certain ingredients being endocrine disruptors, Karpuzoglu created a brand that would combine scientific research and natural ingredients.
- Dr. Michelle Yagoda, MD, PC is a cosmetic plastic surgeon, ENT, and voice care doctor based at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital. She is trained in both cosmetic facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat medicine, and surgery).
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol at All Costs
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which may cause further dehydration and inflammation to add to your discomfort.
That being said, don't go crazy eliminating things to get to the root of the problem. "The cause of post nasal drip can be different for everyone," says Dr. Yagoda. "Typically, it is because the roughly one liter of mucus made daily, can not flow freely from your nose and sinuses, into your throat. When that one liter of mucous is partially blocked, (from a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, nasal polyps, adenoidal hypertrophy, etc.) the mucus becomes thick and sticky and is noticeable as post-nasal drip. When there is unobstructed flow, the watery drainage runs like normal saliva down the back of your throat almost imperceptibly. Sometimes, food allergies can cause similar symptoms. A simple blood test can detect most food allergies and is much more effective than guessing by way of eliminating certain foods."
Load Up on Vitamin C
"Lemon is one of the most common home remedies you can use against the drip," says Karpuzoglu. "Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, can boost up the immune system to help the body resist various types of infections." She suggests squeezing half a lemon in warm water and adding honey to taste, which is known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
When the winter temps hit, the air in your home or apartment is super dry, especially with the heater turned on. This can exacerbate mucus levels, so Karpuzoglu suggests using a vaporizer or humidifier to "increase the moisture level in your house, which helps decrease mucus formation, allowing you to breathe easier."
Eucalyptus and peppermint oil are two common essential oils that are used to help clear the nasal passages and breathe easier. Karpuzoglu suggests adding a couple of drops of these oils in your humidifier's fragrance diffuser to break up the congestion and soothe the nasal passages.
Go old school.
"The powerhouse remedy against postnasal drip is the old-fashioned homemade warm chicken soup," suggests Karpuzoglu. "Scientific studies showed that chicken soup can ease the discomforting symptoms of upper-respiratory-tract infections and soreness in your throat, and it may reduce the risk of inflammation. Give your grandma’s chicken soup a try to boost up your energy and immune system to get faster relief from the symptoms of cold or flu."