The Science Behind Gobbling Down Your Favorite Bodily Snack: Boogers

Written by Nicole Chedraoui

DISCLAIMER: The topic at hand is not for those with a weak stomach, and some may find it disturbing. You may notice more than one odd article up on the Herald this week, because the Heritage Herald decided to try something new and assign staffers all CRAZY and, in my case, GROSS articles at random this week, hence why I’m writing about boogers. So stick around if you want to learn more about those little guys up your sinuses.
From the beginning of time, man has picked their nose. Nose picking goes back to the existence of King Tut, who wrote about having his own personal nose picking assistant. Frankly, nose picking is so common, I bet you the reader are a nose picker. Don’t deny it, I see you. So why are you and everybody else so obsessed with shoving a phalange up your nostril and consuming the fruits of your labor?
If you partake in this unpleasant pastime, you’re not alone, over 90% of adults pick their nose, and of course millions of kids do too. For some adults, nose picking is a way of relieving anxiety, for others it is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This psychiatric disorder is a subcategory of OCD called rhinotillexomania, which is categorized as constant, repetitive, and/or pathological picking of the nose. This type of obsessive compulsive disorder is not only socially unacceptable, but also is very hard on the interior of your nose. However, most nose pickers don’t suffer to that extreme. The most likely reason for nose picking is it’s a habit that originated from your childhood. Most kids start to pick their nose as a kid and continued on without realizing it. Kids often start out of curiosity of feeling something in their nose, and they aren’t aware it’s socially unacceptable to shove a tiny finger up their nose. Some kids eat boogers because they have a salty taste and yummy texture that resembles some of their favorite snacks, causing them to continue gold digging into adulthood. Regardless of the reason, nose picking and eating boogers, also known as mucophagy, is generally met with looks of disgust.

Besides being socially inappropriate, what are the health implications of eating boogers? As you may have expected, there is not a lot of research in this area, mainly because most people won’t participate in the study and eat boogers. In one of the few studies completed by Scott Napper, a biochemistry professor at the University of Saskatchewan, it was theorized that, by eating their own boogers, children may actually be building up their immune systems. Since boogers trap invading viruses and bacteria before they enter your body, the theory is by eating boogers, you’re activating your body to build resistance against these pathogens, but there’s zero scientific evidence to support this theory. An article published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology, a professional organization dedicated to studying various viruses, stated that eating boogers can prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth. The article goes on to suggest eating boogers can defend against respiratory infections, stomach ulcers and even HIV. To maximize the dental benefits of boogers, researchers are even working on a synthetic mucus toothpaste and chewing gum, nasty!

Before you get too booger-happy, there are also some known health issues that come from eating boogers. First, by picking your nose then touching other household objects or other people, the risk increases for spreading viruses and bacteria, such as the flu or the common cold. Another risk of munching on your boogies is that nose picking can cause painful and large sores inside the nose, which could, in turn, lead to further nose picking. Kids who frequently pick may damage the tissue inside their nose, ending up with nosebleeds. Additionally, scratching up the inside of your nose opens the door for a nasty bacteria that lurks under your fingernails, Staphylococcus aureus. Staph can cause serious abscesses or pus-filled pockets inside your nose and on your face. Pleasant, right? Finally, there is a thought that all those pathogens in your snot are released into your system by eating it versus blowing it out in a tissue. It’s believed releasing all these bad pathogens can increase your risk of getting ill. So think twice about the next time you are craving a mucus-y snack and consider the potential health risk.

So there you have it, ladies and gents, the science behind eating your snotty friends. Since there is really not a lot of research in this field, it is up to you to decide whether your boogs constitute as friend or foe.



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