- What Is Known About Sinusitis
- Health Action: Sinusitis—Quick Start
- Health Action: Sinusitis—Full Program
- Preventing Sinusitis
- From Dr. Deborah's Desk
So much pressure in the head it’s hard to know whether it’s pushing in, out or all of the above. Sniffling, snorting, headaches, head congestion, postnasal drip, and using up an entire box of tissues—all of these usually signal one thing: sinusitis. You can also expect fever, fatigue, an inability to smell or taste food, and a thick greenish-yellow nasal discharge.
With these symptoms, life is quite unpleasant. You struggle to make decisions because you feel like your head is flooded with sludge. When you have to give a presentation at work, your voice sounds nasal. You rush to grab the tissues before your nose drips all over your notes. People are afraid to hang out with you because they fear you're contagious. You have to give up any plans for swimming, flying, or scuba diving because the pressure from sinusitis would make you feel like your head's about to explode.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, sinusitis is one of the leading forms of chronic disease. In the US alone, there are about 18 million cases a year, with a staggering 30 million courses of antibiotics prescribed annually. If you make an appointment with a doctor specializing in allergy and immunology, you'll have company-one out of every five people in the waiting room has sinusitis.
Contrary to common practice, strict medical expertise actually recommends against antibiotics unless there is significant pain, fever, or protracted illness. The good news is that alternative health measures can effectively treat sinusitis. The word “sinusitis” refers to an inflammation of the sinus cavities, which may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Sometimes these infections coexist together. Environmental irritants such as dust, dander, or food allergies and sensitivities can also trigger sinus inflammation.
Alternatively, there can be a mechanical cause to sinusitis. Your sinus cavities might get clogged when the nose's mucus-producing membranes are unable to drain. When this happens, the sinus cavities become a good environment for pathogenic microorganisms to multiply. The presence of bacteria, a virus, or fungi makes your glands secrete more mucus in an attempt to remove the microbes, potentially triggering inflammation.
Even constipation can contribute to sinus inflammation due to toxicity buildup. As the body tries to flush these toxins using mechanisms other than a bowel movement, the toxins begin to circulate in the body, causing inflammation wherever they end up.
When you combine the early stages of inflammation or weakened tissues with the increased pressure that comes from swimming, scuba diving, or flying at high altitudes, you're also courting sinusitis.
Sinusitis can be acute or chronic. A cold lasting longer than seven days may turn into sinusitis. The telltale sign is the greenish yellow mucus. The longer you let a sinus infection go, the more likely it is to develop into a chronic infection or pneumonia as irritating the tiny nose hairs slows down their ability to move mucus over your nasal membranes. An untreated sinus infection can in very rare cases even lead to meningitis. The color of the mucus, by the way, tells you nothing about whether your infection is caused by a virus, an allergy, or a bacterial infection.
Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a fungal infection can lead to chronic sinusitis as well. If your doctor runs a culture to determine the cause of your sinusitis, that culture should be checked for bacteria and fungi. Both may be involved in an infection, and your condition won't improve if they treat one but not the other. Concern that an infection may be bacterial and require antibiotics arises if there is significant facial pain or fever.
Diet and nutrition are your best strategies for overcoming sinusitis permanently. With a comprehensive program, you can strengthen the tissues lining the sinuses as well as your immunity, lowering your risk of developing sinusitis again.
Conventional medical treatment involves the use of antihistamines, decongestants, and nebulizers in conjunction with antibiotics. Steroid nasal sprays are the next step before high-risk surgery, with the surgeon's knife only millimeters away from cutting anatomical structures key to normal brain function. None of these conventional treatments can cure sinusitis.
For the greatest improvement with the fewest steps, do the following:
- Liquids only: Focus on healthful, clear liquids, limiting solid foods and avoiding sweets for 48 hours.
- Hot and cold water application: The application of warm and cold compresses (forehead, cheeks, nose) is known to offer relief from pain and can help reduce sinus swelling from sinusitis.
- Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam by using a diffuser or simply breathing over a steaming bowl can help clear the sinus passages, offering some quick relief.
- Nasal lavage: Put 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm distilled, sterilized, or previously boiled water (try it with or without a pinch of baking soda for comfort). Apply this solution to your nasal passages through a neti pot or pour the water into your cupped palm, tilt your head to the same side, and use your other hand to plug your upper nostril. (Important: See warning under Full Program.) Gently inhale the water, allowing it to flow in and out of the nose or up into the nose and down behind the nose to the mouth. Repeat three times on each side, wait a minute or 2 (in a steam bath if you can), and gently blow.
A comprehensive sinus health program involves many areas where action steps can be taken, gradually or all at once. Start by following my basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle guidelines, with the following modifications:
Savor Helpful Foods
- Liquids for 48 hours (adults only): For 2 days, drink so much liquid that you barely want to eat solids. Solids aren't harmful, but consuming only liquids gives your digestive system a chance to rest and recover, directing all of its extra energy reserves toward healing. Best liquids are broths (meat, especially chicken, and vegetable), plain water, coconut water, and tasty herbal teas.
- Homemade Chicken Rice Soup and Cream of Vegetable Soup.
- Dr. Bronners Coconut Oil: Add 2 tablespoons to water or soup for an excellent energy source, complete with healthful fats for enhanced vitamin absorption.
- Beet kvass: One daily glass of beet kvass will help relieve sinusitis.
- Cooked veggies with plenty of butter: Vegetables are cell builders. As a saturated fat, butter is used in the body to strengthen cell walls, which can keep bacteria and viruses out.
- Raw garlic: Just one clove a day, crushed in your mouth, can be effective. Use fresh garlic only. Eat the garlic with an olive for better flavor.
- Herbs and herb teas: Ginger stimulates circulation in the body, and if you add a dab of raw cream, you'll get some natural immune factors that can help you recover quickly. A small amount of honey adds a soothing effect.
- Spices: Mix cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, and curcumin into foods for an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Coconut water: Refreshing and electrolyte rich, choose unsweetened coconut juice if you want a cold drink.
Avoid Problematic Foods
- Limit or avoid meat and eggs for 48 hours: Protein sources can be a drain on the body's resources when you are trying to overcome a sinus infection. Giving your digestive system a rest is thought to speed recovery.
- All types of sweets and fruit juices: Sugar causes an immune system reaction in the body, slowing down white blood cells almost immediately. It also causes inflammation in the body, which will interfere with your healing.
- Dairy products are a “maybe:” For some people, dairy products add to congestion; this is a question to be answered individually.
- Wheat and grain products: Wheat, rye, barley, and oats are common food allergens. If you are sensitive to them, they also can produce inflammation in the body.
- Stimulants such as coffee and tea or stimulant drugs: When you have a sinus infection, your white blood cells release chemicals that slow you down and force you to rest. Using stimulants defeats the body's natural responses.
Supplements can Help
- Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte Vitamin D3. Studies have found vitamin D3 to be one our strongest allies against acute respiratory illness. Take vitamin D3 2000-4000 i.u. daily or as needed to keep blood levels at 40-65 ng/ml.
- Zinc lozenges: Taken frequently (break into smaller pieces or take whole), these lozenges provide sustained zinc exposure to your mouth and throat. Nausea is a sign that your body has had enough. When supplementing with zinc, take 1 mg of copper for every 30 mg of zinc to avoid creating imbalances.
- Thorne Research OPC's or M.F. Bromelain: OPC's are broad spectrum anti-oidants and bromelain is an extract derived from pineapple. Bromelain has been found to be anti-inflammatory, especially for the sinuses. Take 1-2 capsules daily to reduce symptoms in mucus-related illnesses. Take bromelain between meals.
- Bio-Immersion Original Synbiotics Formula: Take 1/4 teaspoon to start and build up to 1/2 tablespoon daily. Healthy gut flora makes for healthy nose flora.
Daily Life Activities
- Nasal lavage: Put 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water (try it with or without a pinch of baking soda for comfort). Apply this solution to your nasal passages through a neti pot or pour the water into one cupped palm, tilt your head to the same side, and use your other hand to plug your upper nostril. Gently inhale the water, allowing it to flow in and out of the nose or up into the nose and down behind the nose to the mouth. Repeat three times on each side, wait a minute or two (in a steam bath if you can), and gently blow.
Warning: A caution about using sinus-flushing neti pots. When irrigating or rinsing your sinuses using a neti pot or other methods, always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. You must thoroughly rinse the neti pot after each use and leave it in the open to air dry to avoid infection.
- Steam inhalation bath: Boil a large pot of water. Sit with your face about a foot over the bowl, using a towel to create a tent over your head and around the bowl. Breathe in the soothing steam for as long as you can.
- Avoid smoke. Don't smoke anything and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Avoid perfumes and scented hair oil. You should avoid the use of perfumes and strongly scented hair oil as they may cause inflammation and swelling in the nasal sinuses.
- Know how to blow your nose. Many sinus infections are caused by blowing the nose forcefully, causing back pressure into the sinuses. Always blow your nose gently. Steam or nasal lavage will facilitate loosening sticky mucus.
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to keep your body thoroughly hydrated.
- Oil-Pulling Technique: Although there are no clinical studies regarding sinusitis, there is some anecdotal and historical validation for this certainly safe technique. The oil-pulling technique helps increase circulation in the tissues of the oral cavity.
- To start the oil-pulling technique, you'll need a pure organic oil - extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil, or unrefined sesame oil. Take 1 tablespoon and slowly swish it around in the mouth gently, mixing it with your own saliva. Keep your chin tilted up. Pull the toxins from your oral tissues with a slow sucking action. It's called oil pulling because you pull the oil through your teeth, too.
- Use this technique in the morning before brushing your teeth, eating, or drinking. Always do oil pulling on a completely empty stomach. Swish for 15 minutes. The oil will become a thin, white foam when you spit it out. If it's yellow, keep swishing and sucking. Never swallow the oil. You can use another tablespoon and repeat the process. Follow the oil pulling with a saltwater rinse, then brush your teeth with baking soda and drink 2 glasses of water.
Professional homeopaths use a wide variety of remedies for sinusitis, but these few may prove helpful if you can match your symptoms to one of the descriptions below. If one fits well, select the appropriate remedy and perhaps a backup. Take the remedy (30C strength) 2-3 pellets hourly for the first 3 doses, then two to three times a day. Taper as your conditions improve.
- Sinus infections tend to be chronic, with pain at the bridge of the nose and the inner angle of the eyes, worse on the right side.
- The pains are worse at night.
- The mucus is thick, may be bloody and dries into crusts.
- Acute sinus infections that start suddenly with fever and pain, and little if any watery discharge.
- The pains are worse on the right side, and worse with bending, stooping, and particularly from any impact or jar.
- Cold applications to the head may relieve, although the hands and feet can be quite cold.
- The mucus is watery or sometimes provokes a nosebleed.
Hepar Sulphuris Calcareum
- The sinuses are not only painful, they are tender to the touch.
- The discharge is thick, may be smelly, and blocks up the nose especially at night.
- The person is chilly and worse from any cold air or draft.
- The most common remedy for sinusitis in adults -- both acute and chronic cases.
- There is pain and pressure at the top of the nose and over the eyes.
- The mucus is thick and sticky, and comes out in stringy, sticky globs.
- The sinuses are the worst in cold, damp weather.
- Sinus infections associated with hay fever
- The pain is a burning pain, and the person is warm and worse from the heat.
- The mucus is yellow and irritates the skin, feels burning. The skin of the nose may be red and irritated.
- Every cold tends to go to the sinuses.
- The mucus flows easily, is thick and green and may be bloody or smelly.
- Pain and pressure about the eyes in the forehead.
- The mouth is affected with drooling or dryness, bad tastes and odors. The tongue's edge bears the imprint of the teet.
- Everything is worth at night; all temperatures are bad: everything is either too cold or too hot.
- There may be sweating, especially at night.
- Sinus infections associated with hay fever and/or lots of sneezing.
- The nose and mucus are runny during the day and plugged up at night.
- The congestion and irritation are better from warm compresses or warmth in general.
Any acute illness is best resisted by a healthy immune system. If you are prone to sinus infections, or surrounded by others who are, take daily doses of Vitamin D3, anti-oxidants as OPC's and Resveratrol, zinc (as lozenge or capsule) and probiotics, in food or supplements, all through the indoor or winter season. Taking probiotics at night might offer extra sinus protection.
Keeping the air clean in your home and nose is one of the best ways to prevent irritants and pollution from causing sinusitis. Don't smoke or share closed spaces with smokers.
You can also use a negative ion generator to change the molecular quality of the air. Increasing the negative ions simulates the atmosphere near a waterfall. Negative ions enter the cells of the lungs and breathing passageways via ion channels, bringing rapid health benefits to those suffering sinusitis and other respiratory illnesses.
Breathe clean, fresh air. If you live in a city with pollution levels greater than normal, and moving is not an option, plan regular trips to the forests in your area and breathe air well-cleaned by the trees. Japanese researchers report that a few hours of breathing forest air has been found to stimulate the immune system.
Use gentle nasal irrigation regularly. The number-one way to prevent sinusitis, nasal irrigation helps heal the cilia by flushing out the congestion.
Oil pulling can also be used on a regular basis and contributes to oral health.
Use probiotics regularly. Maintaining healthy gut flora improves the health of flora in other parts of your body, including your nose.
Sinus infections are as tough and tenacious as the mucus that is their hallmark, and they are very tempting to physicians. Green mucus! What does it mean? Absolutely nothing except that the mucus has been in there long enough to dry out and turn green. I learned that in the very first continuing education lecture I attended after medical training in 1982, and the message has not changed. Most sinus infections are not bacterial in origin, and antibiotics only jeopardize your overall health when they are not needed. (If there is significant pain, fever, or persistence beyond ten days, then they are more likely to be needed.)
Absolutely the best prevention technique I've seen is to optimize vitamin D3 levels, and stay current with anti-oxidants and probiotics. Just last week in the office, Kim called from California to report that “Here I am again. Every year before I started seeing you I would get a sinus infection, try to fight it off, end up on antibiotics, and then I was still sick for another month or two. I can't remember. What did you do for me last year that worked so quickly? I want that again!”. So she received my standard advice (OPC's, zinc, D3 and sinus lavage) and then we spoke a bit about her sinus symptoms, and once again, for the second year in a row, we sent her off some Kali Bichromicum with a word to call if she wasn't better in three days. No word since is good news.
This information is provided for educational purposes only, and any individual diagnosis or treatment should be determined by you and your doctor. See Additional Information.