Breathe Easy – How to Relieve Sinus Problems

Antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed for three in four sinus infections despite the fact that viruses are by far the most frequent cause of this condition, according to a study in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. (1)

The report also states that “physicians may believe that antibiotics are effective because patients improved while taking them, while in fact the symptoms may have cleared up without treatment”.

Having been a sinus sufferer myself, I agree with the report’s concern that the overuse of antibiotics may promote increasingly drug-resistant bacteria, particularly in children, where there is even less evidence that antimicrobial therapy is of significant benefit.  Addressing the underlying cause of chronic sinusitis such as food allergens, together with immune-enhancing herbs and natural decongestants is my preferred approach.

What is the best ‘treatment’ for sinus problems?
I recommend high doses of vitamin C at the immediate onset of an infection.  It is profoundly anti-viral and anti-bacterial at bowel tolerance levels (the level below that which causes loose bowels), usually around 1 gram an hour during an infection. It is also anti-inflammatory and immediately calms down allergic reactions, which are a common contributor to chronic sinus problems.

Is there a link with the food you eat?
In chronic sinusitis an allergic background is commonly present, and the report’s findings that anti-histamines are the second most prescribed drug for sinus sufferers, would bear out this claim.  Among children with chronic rhinitis or frequent ear infections, as many as one in three have been shown to react allergically to either milk or wheat, the most common food allergens.(2)

My book “Hidden Food Allergies”, recommends allergy testing for anyone with persistent nasal congestion or long-term sinusitis.  A simple home-test for food intolerances, available from www.yorktest.com, revealed that I was allergic to milk.  That discovery ended 20 years of frequent sinus infections. Other common food allergens include wheat, eggs, citrus, corn, and peanuts.
I also advise increasing your intake of vitamin C, omega-3 fish oils and a combination of natural anti-inflammatory nutrients including quercetin, an anti-inflammatory substance found in red onions, and bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples that also has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as daily use of a saline nasal spray. Some chemists sell Sterimar. This is a good one.

A more advanced method of sinus irrigation involves buying a device called SinuPulse which you can find on the internet. It does help considerably if you irrigate your sinuses every day, much like brushing your teeth. There is also a yogic technique called ‘neti neti’ which involved an interestingly shaped container into which you add warm salt water. Hardcore yogis can show you how to do this.

Local applications of heat have been shown to be effective in alleviating both short- and long-term symptoms of allergic rhinitis. (3) Inhalations using Olbas oil, drinking ginger tea, carrot juice, and avoiding dairy products can also help.

Apart from food allergies I think a majority of chronic sinus sufferers are probably sensitive to pollution and other airborne insults. Often these relate to moulds and also housedust mite. If this is the case then expect relief in a hot, dry, unpolluted environment.

The net consequence of years of nasal irritation is that the tissue within the nose and sinuses becomes permanently inflamed and hardened. This narrows breathing passages and makes inflammation more likely to lead to a blockage, which increases chances of infection. (A sinus infection can be bacterial, viral or fungal.) All this is more likely in those with either a deviated septum or poor drainage (small holes) from the sinus cavities.  By this stage you’ll probably be offered one of two operations – the lesser of which involves burning away excess tissue that accumulates around the ‘turbinates’ which are like...

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