Reasons for Yellow, Green, Brown and White Phlegm
Mucus is a natural secretion produced by the human body although it can become a problem when too much is produced or it changes color in ranges of black to white phlegm. Any changes in mucus could potentially mean there is a problem.
Why do we have mucus?
There are a variety of mucus membranes in the body, found mainly in the intestines, the nose, lungs, urinary tract, throat, digestive system and body tissues. These membranes produce mucus; a thick fluid that lines the interiors of these areas of the body. The purpose of the coating of mucus is to trap any foreign substance that enters the body before it is able to cause any harm. In our nose and throat, it filters the air we breathe; attempting to protect us from airborne pollutants and bacteria. This mixture of salt, water, glycoprotein and cells also prevents the delicate tissues in our nose and throat from drying out. The mucus lining in our lungs prohibit any elements that are perceived to be a threat to the respiratory system; capturing them so they are able to be forced out through the automatic response of coughing. In our digestive system, mucus enables the food we eat to be moistened to such a degree that it is more easily passed through to the intestines.
Properties of mucus
It should be easy to understand how mucus is a necessary element in our body. This clear thick fluid is essential for keeping the majority of potentially dangerous bacteria and substances from entering our systems. The color of the mucus, or phlegm as it is also known, can alert us to situations when a few of these elements invade. Mucus can change from its naturally clear state to become yellow, green, brown or white phlegm, each signaling a different message.
Yellow phlegm is an alert that you have developed a sinus infection and also that your body is doing battle with that infection. There are usually symptoms of headache, sinus pressure, congestion, fever and achiness as well.
- Green phlegm indicates that the sinus infection has advanced. Often, the amount and consistency of mucus produced has increased. The thicker phlegm will result in more pressure and congestion, and often painful headaches.
- Brown phlegm is a sign that blood has become mingled with the mucus. This condition can be caused by seriously swollen or irritated mucus membranes, nasal polyps, smoking tobacco or inflamed bronchi and throats. Consuming chocolates or red wines can also create brownish mucus.
- White phlegm is somewhat different than the other deviations in mucus coloration. It is often caused simply through drinking milk. Though milk in itself does not cause any excess production of mucus, when the thicker liquid coats the mouth and throat, the normal mucus can be tainted white and have a thicker consistency when coughed up. The condition called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) can instigate frothy, thick white mucus when the gastric acid backs up into the throat.
Anytime an individual notices a change in the consistency, amount and coloration in the mucus produced by their body, especially when combined with other symptoms, steps can be taken to relieve the symptoms. First, increase your intake of plain water. Providing your body with the fluids it needs for proper function will help to thin the mucus. The amount of water drank should especially be increased when taking any type of allergy or sinus medication that serves to dry the mucus membranes. The presence of infections should be brought to the attention of your physician, who may prescribe antibiotics.
Mucus is an essential part of normal bodily functions, but a change in color from the natural clear to yellow, green, brown or white phlegm could indicate a problem. Being cognizant of these changes can help you to identify when a problem exists.