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Mucophagy: It ‘Snot’ What You Think

About the author:

Manya Oswal, 17, is a passionate science student, environmentalist and an ardent animal lover. She is a grade 12 student at the International School Bangalore (TISB) pursuing Science. Her interest towards sustainability, awareness and public engagement made her start her own foundation There For U (TFU). It has many firsts to its name: City’s first animal taxi-ambulance, city’s first remote-adoption drive, city’s first foundation for children as members; and the first student led research program, SCYI. She has received Letter of Recognition from the Municipal Commissioner of Ludhiana, Civil Hospital Ludhiana, prominent schools and FICCI Ladies Organization, Ludhiana for the work undertaken in TFU.

Science writing is another hobby that Manya dwells in. She has researched and written an article for Curious Science Writers on fire ant venom as a potential cure for psoriasis, to be published in August ‘21. Another article of hers on Rewilding is due to be published in Down To Earth digital and print platform. Her research and writing on Brahmagupta, the legendary Indian mathematician, has won her an award at the Hertford College, Oxford: Unsung Heroes of Science Competition in June 2020. Her documentary on the plight of Indian strays stood first in The Humane Education Network, California’s Voice for Animals contest 2021. She is also beginning her independent research work on Biochar in Autumn 2021 under Dr. Puja Khare, Principal Scientist CIMAP.

Mucophagy

This infamous slime, otherwise known as nasal mucus, has been rummaged throughout history. Some ancient Indian scriptures even indicate the benefits of mucophagy-the act of ingesting mucus- believing that it enhances the sense of smell, and complexion.

It goes by many names: snot, booger, gunk, slime, glop. Disreputable, detested but secretly desired, martyred on tissues and in basins when actually this gooey gold inside our nose has the power to combat cavities, the capacity to enhance our senses, and even the ability to prevent diseases! All we need to do is…eat it.

Thankfully, today we have a more factual explanation to the benefits of this phenomenon. While almost 2 litres of mucus drains in our guts daily, it is eating the dried snot from our nose that can act as a potential vaccine. The dried mucus, like a vaccine, contains many pathogens. When eaten, it enters the alimentary canal and the concentrated hydrochloric acid present there, kills most pathogens and weakens the remaining. These residual pathogens then enter the blood stream where lymphocytes start producing antibodies, breaking them down further. The extra antibodies are stored for a future attack, helping our immune system respond faster. Contrary to this, however, inhaling pathogens can be extremely harmful as they don’t go through our stomach where the acid can neutralize these microbes.

Dr. Joseph Mercola has an interesting take on why we should eat our snot. The “Hygiene Hypothesis” states that the number of diseases has tripled in the past few decades because our habitat has become cleaner by each passing year. One of the ways to build up our defense system is to eat boogers to increase our supplies on antibodies. Other scientists like Scott Napper and Dr. Fredrick Bissinger tread on similar beliefs stating that eating boogers can actually shield us from certain respiratory diseases and prove to be power-packed immunity shots.

Studies claim that eating boogers can be especially beneficial to children as it shields teeth from cavities. It contains salivary mucins which help in the breakdown of carbohydrates, reducing nutrients required for bacteria to survive, as well as sweet glycoproteins, making it a treat for children. C. Claiborne Ray of New York Times supports this claim by stating, “mucin includes a surface element that is essentially sugar.” No wonder, many researchers are trying to produce artificial mucus and induce it into chewing gums and toothpastes!

Unfortunately, most of the studies on the hidden potential of boogers remain a hypothesis. There is not enough evidence to which types of maladies can be prevented by eating them as researchers have not been able to test these theories in human body environment. Perhaps there aren’t any volunteers yet to take the ‘drill’. What the future beholds for booger-binging is tough to say, for any research on it would mean literally binging on it. Would mucophagy remain an ‘idler’s penchant’ or would it become the next greatest scientific discovery? Only time and guts would tell.

Citations:

Hufflepost ” Never Mind ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose’ — Boogers May Be Good for You” – Joseph Mercola (June 14, 2013) CBC Canada “Picking your nose and eating it may be good for you” – Scott Napper (April 26, 2013) New York Times “Q n A with C. Claiborne Ray” – (Sept 27, 2005)

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