Foods to Eat When You Have a Stuffy Nose

Looking for natural ways to stop the sniffles? Start with foods that can help you breathe easier again.

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Closeup portrait of woman sneezing or using towel to wipe snot from her nose

You’ve gone through 27 tissues in the last hour, your eyes are watering and you feel like there’s a bowling ball resting on your forehead. Whether you’re suffering from a cold, the flu or allergies, nasal congestion is no fun. When nasal membranes become irritated or inflamed, our bodies make mucus in an effort to flush out the irritant, which can sometimes lead to congestion. Thankfully, these foods can help bring some relief.

Here’s what to eat when you’re under the weather.

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hot peppers
Shutterstock / RussieseO

Spicy Food

Eating spicy food is a natural way to open nasal passages and get mucus flowing. Capsaicin, the compound found in chiles that gives them their heat, can help ease sinus pain, reduce inflammation and release blocked mucus. Capsaicin also produces mucus, so you may have a runny nose, but without the pressure of blockage and congestion. Likewise, pungent horseradish can act as a natural nasal decongestant. And if you’ve ever taken a big whiff of wasabi mustard, you know that can clear your sinuses in a jiffy.

These jalapeno recipes will do the trick.

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Ultimate chicken noodle soup
Taste of Home

Chicken Soup

Mom does know best. Studies have shown that hot chicken soup (like this incredible recipe) was better at clearing nasal mucus than any other liquid studied. Sure, the steam from hot soup helps, but chicken also contains a form of the amino acid cysteine, which helps break apart mucus. So ladle up a bowl and eat. Breathe. Eat. Breathe.

People around the world rely on these chicken soup recipes.

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Garlic press and garlic; Shutterstock ID 154261304; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home


Let’s face it, if you’re stuffed up, you’re not going to be kissing anyone anyway, so snuggling up with a little garlic shouldn’t be a problem. Garlic’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties can help alleviate congestion related to colds. If you can eat the cloves raw, go for it. Otherwise, throw a few extra cloves into your dressings, sauces or sauteed vegetables. Or, slice some cloves and place them in a cup of steaming (not boiling) water, hold the cup at arm’s length and inhale the steam.

These garlicky recipes will help you eat your sniffles away.

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Spiced Mint Tea
Taste of Home


Although mint doesn’t actually eliminate congestion, the menthol it contains can stimulate the nerve receptors in your nasal passages, making you feel like more air is passing through. Brewing up a cup of peppermint tea and breathing in its vapors may make you think you’re breathing better, and when you’re under the weather, any relief is welcome. Try these other recipes with mint, too.

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More Ways to Battle a Stuffy Nose—and Win

When suffering from nasal stuffiness, remember to keep your head elevated and your nasal passages moist. Set up a humidifier or vaporizer in the room where you’ll spend the most time. Take long, hot showers to breathe in the steam, and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Place a warm, wet towel on your face, or use a saline nasal spray to get relief. And if you’re still struggling after seven days, you may have a sinus infection that only antibiotics can resolve. Visit your doctor for a checkup—and don’t forget the tissues.

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Dana Meredith
Dana is an editor and writer who shares her passion for travel, food and the beauty of American landscapes. When she's not wielding her red pen, she can be found tending her flower gardens, remodeling her house, creating one-of-a-kind jewelry or dancing to "Uptown Funk."