Is Eating Your Boogers Good For You?

Cindy asks: This is kind of ewww, but I read that eating your own boogers helps boost your immune system.  Is this true?

picking-noseDoes physically taking boogers out of your nose, putting them in your mouth and swallowing boost your immune system?  The short answer is probably not.  You ingest your snot all the time without needing to channel it through your mouth. So if there is a benefit here, you get it without needing to munch your nose nuggets.

That said, there are a couple medical professionals willing to comment on the benefits of mining for green candy, particularly touting benefits to one’s immune system.

One of the more credible sounding proponents of the habit is Scott Napper, a professor of biochemistry who made waves around the world’s media outlets in 2013 when he half-heartedly proposed to a group of his students that eating one’s boogers allows our bodies to safely develop anti-bodies to the weakened pathogens present in our snot and noses. He also suggested that the reason boogers have a sugary taste is to entice children to eat them, thus helping bolster their immune systems… It’s evolution.  You can’t fight it.

While he was mostly just trying to get students interested in doing science by an unconventional proposition, Napper’s hypothesis, thanks largely to the media, has since morphed into many seeming to think that he actually did some sort of study on this, and that there is evidence to support it.  The truth is that to date no such study has been done, though Napper has expressed interest in doing one, and no doubt would win an IG Nobel Prize for his work if he ever does it.

Of course, as you might expect, finding a large sample size of volunteers is something of a hurdle.

Another name that comes up whenever the subject of eating boogers is mentioned is lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger.  In 2004, he reasoned that eating boogers is healthy for a similar reason that Napper did.  The Museum of Hoaxes did a little background check on the good doctor and noted that Dr. Friedrich Bischinger has never published a medical study on the subject and his original quote about the benefits of eating boogers comes from a poorly translated  interview with a German magazine. As far as we can tell, Bischinger has never really elaborated upon his original hypothesis since then.

So without any study to date on the subject, to answer the question at hand, we’ll need to analyze the plausibility of the hypothesis.  Is he correct about the microbes and other things in your nasal mucus?  Yes, that’s one of the functions of it- to help filter out dust and pathogens.

But there is a problem from here.  As pointed out by Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, we humans ingest our nasal mucus all the time- day and night.  The wet mucus in our noses generally gets shuttled back into our throats via cilia, and sometimes via simple gravity when our heads are in the right position.

So, if you didn’t know it before reading this article, you ingest boogers every day.  You might have just swallowed some right now.  Think about it.

Needless to say, few medical professionals give credence to Napper’s or Bischinger’s  hypothesis. In order for it to be true, there would have to be something special about the relatively dried mucus that you have to pick out over the wet or dried mucus you snort up and swallow.  And there is simply no reason to think there would be any significant difference other than, potentially, moisture content.

However, not all hope is lost for you bogey fans, as Dr. Joseph Mercola notes, there’s an increasingly popular hypothesis that our obsession with cleanliness as a society is causing more of certain types of diseases because our bodies aren’t being exposed to certain pathogens regularly, and thus our immune systems are weaker as a result- the so called “Hygiene Hypothesis.”

So it is plausible enough that ingesting mucus does indeed expose our bodies to pathogens it can handle and is helping the immune system in this way.  But, as mentioned above, this happens anyway. There’s no need to manually pull it out of your nose and put it in your mouth… unless of course, you like it.  Either way, it’s going to end up in your stomach.

That said, while it may seem gross to those of us who’ve never tried (or don’t remember- nearly all children do this at one point or another), according to the sparse few studies that have been conducted on booger eaters, the vast number of people who eat their nasal mucus find it palatable, which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone as if they didn’t, they’d likely just stop. As Sidney Tarachow in a 1966 report on coprophagia (the compulsive eating bodily secretions) noted, “persons do eat nasal debris, and find it tasty, too!”

So to sum up, at least to date, there is no scientific proof that ingesting snot by passing it through your mouth is beneficial.  That said, it is plausible that the snot we do all ingest all the time is benefiting us in the way snot-eating proponents suggest.  It’s just that we don’t need to put it into our mouths to see the benefit, if such a benefit does exist as hypothesized.

In the end, though, as long as you’re careful, picking and eating is not generally going to hurt you, and many find it tasty… so, if that’s your thing, bon appétit!

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Bonus Facts:

  • The correct term for eating one’s own mucus is the decidedly less off-putting sounding term: mucophagy, and according to the BBC, at least 10% of people who regularly pick their nose “occasionally practise mucophagy“.  Further, about 90% of the adult human population in the same survey admitted to picking their nose (a figure that climbs to 99% in younger people).  So the habit is oddly common considering the extreme taboo that surrounds it.
  • As mentioned, for the most part, the act of picking one’s nose is entirely harmless and as long as you’re careful or don’t try to cram a fork up there or go knuckle deep or something, in the vast majority of the cases, you’re not going to do yourself any lasting harm.  That said, picking one’s nose is still listed as one of the leading possible causes of nosebleeds. For instance, in a 2001 study on rhinotillexomania (compulsive nose picking), it was discovered that 25% of teenage subjects who mined their nose 4 times per day or more suffered from nosebleeds as a result of their activities.
  • In a study published in 2006 on the link between nose picking and staphylococcus aureus (a bacterium commonly linked with skin and sinus infections), they found that habitual nose pickers were about 20% more likely than non-habitual pickers to have the bacterium present in their nose, suggesting a “causal link” between the two.
  • Because blowing out dried snot from your nose can sometimes require a great deal of pressure, which can cause damage to your nasal septum, it is generally recommended that you simply use a clean finger to gently remove the offending nose crusties instead-  in the process joining the 90% of adults who stood up and proudly proclaimed in the above study that they are nose pickers.
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  • David

    Interesting article. No where in the article was the possibility of transference of viruses or germs from one’s finger might be ingested as well, thus introducing them to the digestive system and helping to build an immunity to those illnesses.

    • Daven Hiskey

      Good point. If they Hygiene Hypothesis is correct, regularly putting your fingers in your mouth may well be where any potential benefit here is coming from rather than the boogers themselves. 🙂

    • Evan

      Really good point! Also has anyone ever taken homeopathic medicine? You put a little bit of the sickness in a little sugar ball and leave it under your tongue and that’s how your body creates antibodies the most efficiently!

      Btw the comments below are hilarious but it sounds like there’s something to this hypothesis!

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  • Jack

    Never refer to Joseph Mercola as a credible subject matter expert. He’s a quack.

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  • Jaeger

    Does the body get any nutrition from eating boogers? If I was lost in the desert and had a bunch of boogers to eat, would it be beneficial to my survival to eat them?

    • lea perrins

      Old comment I know. I have often wondered this too?!

      What you should do in this situation, though, is drink your own urine. It is full of nutrition and obviously well needed water. Those who dring their own urine in survival situations actually live longer than those who dont. Also, don’t believe the rubbish spouted by mainstream ‘science’ that it gets more toxic every time you consume it. The opposite is actually true because the kidneys filter it. There are millions (probably hundreds of millions) of people who have fasted upon urine alone. I cannot find one single case of any disease or death caused by this. Not only that, but people in the modern world today who record their fasts say they feel great!!

  • Joshua

    sounds tasty. 🙂

  • Nick

    Here’s a fact that most won’t mentions. You can get extremely sick from eating body waste (excrement). That’s really was this is.

    • Johnny Beane

      False. I have been eating snot, mucus, and boogers since I was a kid. I am 35 now. I rarely get sick but maybe once a year.

    • hahahahah idiot

      Your mucus is not excrement, which is what boogers are made of. It lines your esophagus you nasal cavity there are tubes that run from your ears to your throat to drain ear wax. excrement or human wast refers to; poop, shit, doodie, the brown stuff that i imagine comes out of your mouth.
      Lol I cant even.

    • Boogers aren’t excrement like pee or poop. It is a protective film of mostly water and other proteins that can actually boost your immune system. Peepee and poopoo doesn’t do that. It leaves your body. Boogers don’t leave the body in that way unless you have an infection. Boogers protect our nasal cavity from outside inhabitants that may harm us.

    • lea perrins

      Here is another fact – you are wrong!!!

      In fact, urine therapy has been studied for years and been found to be highly beneficial even though nowhere mainstream will admit it. It’s a huge injustice and if anyone bothers to look into the subject they will see I am right. Just don’t look on mainstream sites, although you will find some of (not all) the peer reviewed studies if you search through google scholar.

      Also, fecal transplants are saving thousands of people every year. Fecal transplants are necessary nine times out of ten, because we are too clean and use antibiotics unecessarily. Antibiotics should be banned except in emergency or a few exceptional cases. Herbs and nutrition are perfectly adequate for most minor, moderate and even some serious infections. It’s a mentality shift that we need to make more than anything.

      So in FACT, your comment is SO far from the truth!

  • john

    I admit that ive eatin my boogers my whole life and I havent been sick in almost 10 years.

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  • Manu

    I eat buggers regularly. I started 5 years ago as I was diagnosed with Kennel Cough. Since eating buggers, every day before my main lunch meal and before dinner, I’ve been healthy and surpassed my sickness.
    Can not stress it enough, but buggers healed my condition.


    I wonder how many people in the world use boogers or snot for sexual purposes?

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  • Pejman

    hey. I’m 37 years old, i ate my boogers as long as I remember. about the sickness, well i really don’t remember last time i have cold, none nosebleed, etc.

    I’m married to my beautiful wife, she always is disgust from it (I hardly try not to do it in front of her).

    got 3 children, 2 girls & a son. my son of my eldest daughter eat their boogers too, but not as many times as I do.

    everything is Normal, Not a single illness for them. we are all truly healthy.


  • Patrick

    Tastes great on a burger too!
    Snot burgers are more flavorful and juicy (unless you get the crispy ones, tasting like bacon)!

  • Vivian

    I’m honestly happy that I did some research on this particular subject. I’ve always thought that I was different, that no one in their right mind would pick their boogies and munch on them as if it were candy. I, honestly, began to think that I was gross and it was just…horrible. I wanted to see if it was a health defect, if I was “abnormal”.

    I can’t tell you how much this really means to me, and to see all of the comments below this article just helps me understand that really, I’m not the only one. I can’t possibly tell you the amount of disgust I held for myself until I came across this article and all of the commentors below it. It just felt… I felt like things were right for once.

    I so rarely get sick, but when I do, man it’s horrible. I’ve eaten my boogies ever since I could remember. I’m 22 years old now, but I never stopped to think about the consequences of my actions or the health issues that my entail with eating boogies.

    I guess….I guess now I have some peace of mind. ^_^

    • Jesse

      lol…also 22 …. quite relieved that there’s no serious harm with eating boogies…..weirdly i get excited when i pick a big one to eat….and i get a satisfying feeling

  • Joe

    I’ve been eating boogers for the past several years now and have found them to be a terrific snack between meals. I’ll usually indulge on a few when waiting at a restaurant for my entree to arrive.

    Stopped at a red light is also a good time for a quick bite. However, I don’t recommend picking and eating while driving on the freeway as it can become distracting and take away from focus on the road.

    • Boogieman

      You made me laugh so hard!

  • Mark

    I have always eaten my boogers occasionally on a daily basis. I am 30, and I rarely get a cold or fever (maybe once per year). I am a healthy person. More peer reviewed studies on this topic would be a good thing.

  • Robert

    The practice of having a hankercheif with you today is become far less freaqent. Dare I sugest that not knowing what to do with boogy after picking it is the problem, so people tend to eat it.

    • Benjamin

      This is exactly correct imo…that’s why I always did it anyway…then it becomes habit…I don’t think it tastes particularly good but I do enjoy it but when I think of it it disgusts me as well…it’s so weird haha

  • Jim

    I enjoy eating boogers on occasion. However, i’ve discovered when i start to feel a fever coming on i’ll eat a lot more and within a day or two I’ll feel great. I’ve saved a lot of money with this mothod not having to make doctor’s appointments.

  • Noctu

    I assume eating your own boogers boosts your immune system not because of the mucus but because the act of regularly putting your fingers in your mouth. Your body produces anti bodies if it comes in contact with bacteria or viruses in a small or weak amount/form. It works the same way as vaccines do. Vaccines are actually shots of weakened viruses. You get multiple of them while going through childhood to give your body a chance to develop anti bodies before you encounter any strong or large amount of viruses. At least that is what I was told. I’m not a specialist or scientist in any way but this seems really logical to me. please react to my comment if you have more knowledge on this matter.

    • lea perrins

      I think your thinking here is perfectly logical. As is the vaccines theory. However I believe there is a lot more going on with vaccines than we are told but thats a whole other subject!

      This is also exactly the same thinking behind urine therapy. Mainstream science will not (and probabaly never will) acknowledge UT as a therapy. Any official perosn or website will tell you that it has not been found to be beneficial, is completely unstudied and potentially dangerous. I am sorry to say these are complete and utter LIES. Urine therapy has been extensively studied, with MIRACULOUS results let me tell you! It has been found to cure everything from allergies to cancer. When you think about it, it makes complete sense, working just like your theory with the fingers going into the mouth. At least thats the understanding for now. it may be that our understanding changes with more studying. Belive it or not there are people studying the subject as we ‘speak’ (not that anyone official will ever admit that!)

      I think it is disgusting that people are ridiculed and called quacks for using alternative means (like UT but there are also many others) that have been, or are currenlty, being proven to work. No one wants to listen Big pharma does not want a cure for cancer. It would be devastating for business if people could cure cancer with their own pee! Cancer is a multi BILLION pound industry. Thats just cancer. They will, however, make medications from urine and sell it for millions, but as soon as someone says ‘why not just drink the urine?’ they are told its dangerous and not beneficial. So, why do make medications from it then if it isn’t beneficial? Seems to me that big pharma have just proven that UT works!!!

  • Bob

    You may be right. I usually wash my hands and tell my kids to wash their hands before eating boogers and we still get sick at least once or twice a year. On the hand, my wife rarely washes her hands when she eats her boogers and she never gets sick.

  • Lars Dilfurr

    I eat my boogers all the time too. I have forever. I rarely get sick… the last time was probably 5 years ago now, and I live in a cold winter climate.

    They sure are tasty! I eat them on the way home from work in my car after a nice buildup.

    • Makayla kay

      Lol they taste very salty and good

  • Snot slut

    I have no idea how i ended up here but I always pick my nose and eat it because if i rub it places it will mount up then il want to eat a snot burger! lol joke Snot funny

  • Stephen Dowdy

    I think that is so nasty and dustsking I’ve never did such a nasty habit and never will….I can’t even wipe a child’s nose without getting a not in my throat and almost puking..its a nasty gross site to see someone doing it….I can’t see how it could be good for you your body is getting rid of it and your nose works as a filter to keep dirt and other things out of your body

    • lea perrins

      Oh for goodensss sake grow a pair! You can’t see how it might benefit us? Well, didn’t you read the article? The author went to the trouble of just explaining it all for gooness sake! We need dirt the same as we need parasites. Being sterile clean isn’t actually healthy AT ALL, as we are now starting to realise. The balance is somewhere in the between good sanitation, clean living conditions, clean water/food and being allowed to play in mud, not getting hysterical about ‘germs’ and banning antibacterial anything.

      I suppose there is no point trying to talk to you about urine therapy then is there??!!

  • john carter

    Oh…so living in a plastic bubble, and being totally sterile is good for you…until the bubble explodes, and you are bombarded by all the diseases that you never allowed your body to build it’s own natural defenses This said: is it not a defensive reflex of the young to do what instincts dictates to them in natures way to build such immunity. In Japan’s Old Tradition of having wise testing the Emperor’s feces…through smell, and taste to insure a healthy bodily processes. This also is gross in our present time…yet, these were the methods available, and quite accurate…then.