Coughing And Intense Chest Congestion – How Nutrition Can Help

Coughing is a natural reflex that helps to clear your throat and lungs of irritants and mucus. However, coughing for too long can lead to coughing fits which are known as coughing paroxysms. Coughing and intense chest congestion can be triggered by colds, viral infections, allergies, asthma, or even a sinus infection. 

Coughing can also cause pain in your neck muscles because it compresses your larynx (voice box) when you cough forcefully. This causes an increase in tension on the muscles surrounding this area, leading to more coughing episodes since these muscles no longer have time to relax. Other effects of coughing include feeling exhausted, headaches, sore throat, and nasal congestion.

The good news is that you can ease coughing naturally without taking medications that may cause side effects like drowsiness. The following are foods that help to alleviate coughing and chest congestion:

Peppermint tea 

Peppermint tea can soothe coughing immediately and be used as a therapy to address the underlying condition causing the coughing. Aromatic herbs like peppermint contain menthol and exhibit antiviral and antibacterial properties, making peppermint tea a potential treatment for respiratory ailments. [1]


Honey is a natural cough suppressant and is considered better than diphenhydramine in reducing cough frequency. In a study, researchers found that giving children natural honey for up to three days was more effective in relieving coughing symptoms than taking medications like salbutamol. [2]


Turmeric tea is known for relaxing coughing muscles, reducing chest congestion, reducing irritation, and boosting immunity. Turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antipyretic, and antifatigue properties. These properties can effectively manage the causes as well as the symptoms of coughing. You can take turmeric in powdered form to make tea, as a supplement, as a food that can be chewed or made into a paste with honey, or as a volatile oil. The volatile oil has been shown to remove sputum, relieve coughing and prevent asthma significantly. Turmeric is not recommended for people with anemia. [3-4]


Soup is considered comfort food and is a well-known home remedy for coughing and congestion. A clear vegetable soup with lentils is also rich in protein and the B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, all important for the immune system. To make the soup tastier and even more potent at relieving coughing, add ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic, which also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Green tea 

Green tea has many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help with coughing, plus it is caffeine-free, so it provides relief from coughing without causing drowsiness. Gargling green tea is very helpful in reducing coughing caused by endotracheal intubation during operations and infections with viruses. [5]

The catechins in green tea, especially EGCG, the most abundant catechin in green tea, have also been reported to have potential anti-influenza virus activity and viral infections that lead to coughing.

EGCG and ECG inhibit viral RNA activity, which stops virus propagation [6-9].

Gargling is the act of washing your mouth and throat with a fluid kept in motion by breathing through it with a gurgling sound.


Pineapples are rich in enzymes that help loosen congestion in the lungs, which can prevent coughing episodes. Packed full of bromelain enzymes and Vitamin C, it is also an anti-inflammatory for your throat. It has been proven to be an effective treatment for bronchitis, sinusitis, and following surgical interventions. [10]


The common symptoms of colds or nasal stuffiness include nasal discharge, sneezing, sore throat, and cough. Garlic can help ease cold symptoms, coughing, and coughing fits due to its very potent antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help with the effectiveness of treatment. [11]

Apple cider vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar made from fermentable carbohydrates in apples has potent antimicrobial activity and can help alleviate coughing and manage phlegm. In fact, research shows that apple cider vinegar has such powerful antimicrobial effects that it can treat antibiotic-resistant E. coli and MRSA. Apple cider vinegar also has a powerful smell that may help loosen congestion. Apple cider vinegar should not be taken undiluted as it may burn your throat. Add two tablespoons to a tall glass of water; you can also add honey to improve its flavor and allow soothing. You may also gargle the vinegar in your mouth and throat. I do not recommend apple cider vinegar as a treatment regularly because of the possible effect of tooth erosion. Still, as a one-off treatment when needed, it is very beneficial. [12]

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  1. Ben-Arye E, Dudai N, Eini A, Torem M, Schiff E, Rakover Y. Treatment of upper respiratory tract infections in primary care: a randomized study using aromatic herbs. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:690346. doi:10.1155/2011/690346
  2. Oduwole O, Udoh EE, Oyo-Ita A, Meremikwu MM. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;4(4):CD007094. Published 2018 Apr 10. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007094.pub5
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  7. Kuzuhara T., Iwai Y., Takahashi H., Hatakeyama D., Echigo N. Green tea catechins inhibit the endonuclease activity of influenza a virus rna polymerase. PLoS Curr. 2009;1:RRN1052. doi: 10.1371/currents.RRN1052
  8. Song J.M., Lee K.H., Seong B.L. Antiviral effect of catechins in green tea on influenza virus. Antivir. Res. 2005;68:66–74. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2005.06.010.
  9. Steinmann J., Buer J., Pietschmann T., Steinmann E. Anti-infective properties of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (egcg), a component of green tea. Br. J. Pharmacol. 2013;168:1059–1073. doi: 10.1111/bph.12009.
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  12. Yagnik D, Ward M, Shah AJ. Antibacterial apple cider vinegar eradicates methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and resistant Escherichia coli. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):1854. Published 2021 Jan 20. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-78407-x


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