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I have a bit of an odd question, whenever I do cardio workouts that get my heart rate up and breathing hard I get phlegm buildup in my throat and my nose starts running. It's not a huge amount but it's enough that I wind up spitting and wiping my nose frequently during workouts (the snot sometimes comes out greenish but mostly clear).
This has been happening pretty consistently for as long as I can remember. I regularly run, bike, swim, and do pilates (typically 2 - 3 times a week for each though I've been falling off lately with pilates). Pilates is the only exercise that doesn't cause this because it's a slower pace more focused on core strength and flexibility so my heart rate doesn't get very high and I'm never pushed to breathing heavily. It's also not effected by workout frequency, the times in my life where I've been working out less/not at all have not decreased this when I start up again.

Does anyone know what would cause this and what I could do about it?

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Do you breath thru your nose or mouth? –  DFG4 Aug 17 '11 at 17:51
    
Swimming is always in through the mouth out through the nose. While running and biking I start out breathing in the nose and out through the mouth but inevitably switch to mostly through mouth. It's hard for me to say if that's because stuff starts coming out my nose so I feel like I'll just be sucking it in if I breath in through my nose or if the switch happens before that. I'll pay more attention this evening and see. –  Andrew Myers Aug 17 '11 at 19:15
    
Not an odd question at all. Very valid and the condition is quite common. –  Ryan Miller Aug 17 '11 at 20:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have a new enemy and its name is CHEESE

Believe it or not, this is some what common. It frustrated me for quite some time before I found the cause. DAIRY.

I used to have a cup of greek yogurt every day as well as some quantity of milk and ice cream throughout the week. Every single time I would get in the pool, I would be annoyed with phlegm.

Try cutting out or reducing dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) for a few days and see if it gets better. It certainly did with me. I still have eggs or egg substitutes almost daily and that does not seem to bother me.

Here is a supporting article from livestrong.com that supports dairy as a cause and accelerator of phlegm is some people.

Also, it may be a intolerance to lectin (which is a component of dairy). But, it may not be dairy that causes your excess mucus. Other sources of lectin are legumes, glutens, and potatoes. More on lectin intolerance can be found here.

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Would you have any sources for this or is it just based on your own experience? –  Ivo Flipse Aug 17 '11 at 21:07
    
@Ivo: I've added two sources, but yes it is also based on my own experience. –  Ryan Miller Aug 18 '11 at 0:19
    
Hmm this could be my problem, I typically have a lot of dairy intake during the day as well. –  Andrew Myers Aug 18 '11 at 11:42

This (phlegm) happens to me from allergies. Allergies can be exacerbated or become more noticeable during exercise. Examples from my case: When my allergies are less controlled overall, it will effect every form of working out, but there are also specific triggers. When jogging in the fall or after rain, there is more mold and mildew. When swimming, my already sensitive sinuses are exposed to chlorine and rapid pressure changes. Since you suspect dairy as well, consider visiting an immunologist.

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Similar things would happen to me while doing cardio in winters. For me, it happened due to sinusitis. My sinuses would burn when I inhale comparitively cold and dry air at a faster rate (as in increased rate of breathing during exercise). It causes me mild headache in addition to phlegm and runny nose.

I found that using certain specific oils (they call it 'nasya' in ayurveda, don't want to be advertising brands here) to instil in nose helped moisturize the nasal passage and my sinuses and nosy don't act up anymore. I found that doing nasya is great as expectorant and helps me 'do normal' during cardios without phlegm and stuff.

However, you would want to be sure that it is due to sinusitis before you decide on trying out nasya.

hope this helps....

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Actually, I think that phlegm production is normal in cardio workouts, the variance being: a) the individual, and b) the amount produced. My girlfriend did a lot of heavy duty cardio routines and she was tormented with tons of phlegm from it, and now that I have started doing them myself, I also have found I have the same problem, while others I know seem to have little problem this this issue. I also found that if I abstain from dairy products the amount of mucus is diminished. It may be, since we are all different physiologically, that our bodies respond in a unique way to exercise. But basically, even with the annoyance of excess mucus production, cardio is well worth the effort.

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