TCM Versus Western Medicine: Will Eating Chicken WORSEN Your Cough?

22 March 2018

Eating chicken will cause more phlegm and coughing. True or false?

Protein foods like chicken are supposed to help the body build antibodies to fight infections, but this particular old wives’ tale claims that chicken promotes the formation of phlegm and exacerbates coughs.

According to Wong Wen Jun, a registered TCM physician at Eu Yan Sang TCM Wellness Clinics, it depends on the type of cough. Consumption of protein foods – including chicken – typically helps strengthen the respiratory system, she says.

“However, chicken is not recommended for heaty coughs, where symptoms include a chesty cough and yellow phlegm.” Such coughs may also be accompanied by fever, dry mouth, sore throat, yellow urine and/or constipation. See a TCM physician if in doubt.


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In Western societies, chicken soup is actually a home remedy for colds and flus. Dr Leslie Tay, general practitioner at Karri Family Clinic, shares that a couple of American studies show that chicken soup actually does help to reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms, although more research needs to be done.

If you’ve consulted a TCM physician and are taking prescribed herbal medication, Dr Tay recommends following through with her advice. He adds: “If Mum or Grandma tells you to avoid chicken, just do it. While it may not cure your cold, it makes for a peaceful home!”

Verdict: MAYBE.



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