Why Does Your Body Produce Mucus?

We can all agree that there's nothing pleasant about the sight of snotty, slimy, icky mucus after you cough or blow your nose. Not only does mucus show up on sick days, but it's not uncommon for you to cough up a little when you feel perfectly fine. Just what is this thick, unwanted bodily fluid?

According to Verywell Health, mucus is a slick, natural bodily fluid made from mucin and about 90% water. We tend to think of mucus coming from our noses and throats, but those are not the only body parts that produce mucus. According to Medical News Today, mucus lines our eyes, stomach, intestines, reproductive organs, and mouths. On average, your body usually produces about 1.5 liters of mucus every day without you even noticing (via Medicine Net). Although mucus production is a normal and healthy bodily function, the production of too much mucus can be a sign of illness. Even the color of your mucus can give you clues about your health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, healthy mucus is clear, while yellow or green mucus could be a sign of infection.

Why and how your body makes mucus

No matter how unsightly your mucus may be, your body makes it to keep you healthy. According to NIH News in Health, mucus serves as a line of defense while keeping the moist areas of your body lubricated. Jason Papin, a professor in the University of Virginia Department of Biomedical Engineering, says, "Mucosal layers are such an important barrier between us and the outside world, and we know that any kind of disruption to that is a big source of problems."

Research has shown that negative changes in your mucus could be a warning sign for diseases and disorders that you may not expect. A 2019 study published in Gut Journal concluded that weakening of the mucus barrier of the colon is an early sign for the development of ulcerative colitis. Your body uses mucus as a defensive tool against foreign invaders. According to Medical News Today, when there is an infection in your body, inflammation will trigger special cells called goblet cells to make more mucus than it would normally. The mucus thickens to entrap viruses and bacteria and move them out of your body. The same process occurs when your body reacts to irritants in the environment like dust and smoke.

So, even if the sight of your mucus makes you squeamish, it's a natural process to help keep you safe and healthy.