Q: I feel like I have chronic phlegm in the back of my throat. It isn't too bad but can be irritating. Are there certain foods that cause this or how can I get rid of it?
There are a couple of reasons people get chronic phlegm—acid reflux, post-nasal drip, and allergies can all contribute to the problem. Your physician can conduct an exam of your nose and throat area to help determine the cause. Reflux can often be addressed through lifestyle changes, like avoiding eating within three hours of going to bed, elevating your head when you sleep, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods, spicy foods, mint, and other triggers. If that doesn't help, an acid reflux medication like Zantac or a proton pump inhibitor could be the next step. If post-nasal drip seems to be the cause, flushing the sinuses with a Neti Pot or saline mist could be one treatment, often in combination with a nasal steroid and antihistamine.
While this problem can be solved, it's not an overnight fix. It can take several months from the start of treatment before you see improvement.
David S. Crow, MD
71 Kanoa St., Suite 101
Wailuku, HI 96793