Myth that milk’s bad for asthma ‘is not true’


Photo: Stock
Photo: Stock

The widely held belief that milk boosts phlegm production and worsens respiratory conditions from asthma to the common cold has been dubbed a myth, according to a children’s health expert.

A new study in the ‘Archives of Disease in Childhood’ states the notion milk might generate excess phlegm started in 1204 by Moses Maimonides, a Jewish spiritual leader and physician.

According to children’s respiratory consultant Dr Ian Balfour-Lynn, there isn’t any evidence to back this up.

He said there is no need to avoid giving milk to children with asthma, cystic fibrosis or respiratory infections.

“While certainly the texture of milk can make some people feel their mucus and saliva is thicker and harder to swallow, there is no evidence that milk leads to excessive mucus secretion,” he said.

“This could well affect the sensory perception of milk mixed with saliva, both in terms of its thickness coating the mouth and the after feel – when small amounts of emulsion remain in the mouth after swallowing.”

The respiratory consultant said a possible explanation for the myth is due to a protein produced by the breakdown of certain types of milk, which is known to boost the activity of a gene that stimulates mucus production.

“But this all happens in the bowel and could only affect the respiratory tract if the integrity of the bowel was weakened by infection, so allowing the milk protein to travel elsewhere in the body.”

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Dr Balfour-Lynn said that calcium is critical for good bone health and warding off osteoporosis in later life.

“The milk-mucus myth needs to be rebutted firmly by healthcare workers. This is particularly important in conditions like cystic fibrosis or asthma when sometimes repeated large doses of steroids, which sap bone strength, are part of the treatment.”

Irish Independent

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