Mucus is the clear viscid secretion of the mucous membranes, consisting of mucin, epithelial cells, leukocytes, and various inorganic salts dissolved in water.

Respiratory Mucus
In the respiratory system, mucus aids in the protection of the lungs by trapping foreign particles that enter it, in particular, through the nose, during normal breathing. “Phlegm” is a specialized term for mucus that is restricted to the respiratory tract, whereas the term “nasal mucus” describes secretions of the nasal passages.

Nasal mucus is produced by the nasal mucosa; and mucosal tissues lining the airways (trachea, bronchus, bronchioles) is produced by specialized airway epithelial cells (goblet cells) and submucosal glands. Small particles such as dust, particulate pollutants, and allergens, as well as infectious agents and bacteria are caught in the viscous nasal or airway mucus and prevented from entering the system. This event along with the continual movement of the respiratory mucus layer toward the oropharynx, helps prevent foreign objects from entering the lungs during breathing. This explains why coughing often occurs in those who smoke cigarettes. The body’s natural reaction is to increase mucus production. In addition, mucus aids in moisturizing the inhaled air and prevents tissues such as the nasal and airway epithelia from drying out. Nasal and airway mucus is produced continuously, with most of it swallowed subconsciously, even when it is dried.

Increased mucus production in the respiratory tract is a symptom of many common illnesses, such as the common cold and influenza. Hypersecretion of mucus can occur in inflammatory respiratory diseases such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. The presence of mucus in the nose and throat is normal, but increased quantities can impede comfortable breathing and must be cleared by blowing the nose or expectorating phlegm from the throat.

Digestive system Mucus
In the human digestive system, mucus is used as a lubricant for materials that must pass over membranes, e.g., food passing down the esophagus. Mucus is extremely important in the intestinal tract. It forms an essential layer in the colon and in the small intestine that helps reduce intestinal inflammation by decreasing bacterial interaction with intestinal epithelial cells. A layer of mucus along the inner walls of the stomach is vital to protect the cell linings of that organ from the highly acidic environment within it. Mucus is not digested in the intestinal tract. Mucus is also secreted from glands within the rectum due to stimulation of the mucous membrane within.

Reproductive system Mucus
In the human female reproductive system, cervical mucus prevents infection. The consistency of cervical mucus varies depending on the stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle. At ovulation cervical mucus is clear, runny, and conducive to sperm; post-ovulation, mucus becomes thicker and is more likely to block sperm. Several Fertility Awareness methods, such as the Creighton Model and Billings method rely on this fact to prevent or to improve the odds of pregnancy.

Mucus. (2016, September 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:55, September 26, 2016, from