There are four pairs of sinus cavities, through which clean air should circulate. There are the frontal sinuses, above the eyes towards the centre of the forehead; the maximillary sinuses in the cheeks either side of the nose, and the sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses, behind the nose. They, and the nose, are covered in a mucus membrane designed to ‘clean’, humidify and warm or cool the air, ready for the lungs to extract oxygen. They have tiny hairs called cilia, covered in mucus that filters and trapped particulates. The cilia sweep the mucus to the back of the nose to be swallowed and sanitised in the stomach’s acids. We make over a litre of mucus a day!
When the cilia get jammed up, and the mucus too sticky, the membrane stagnates and bacterial and fungal infection can occur. The membranes become inflamed. A sinus infection is called acute sinusitis while a chronically inflamed sinus passages is called chronic sinusitis. If it is thought to be triggered by allergies it’s called allergic rhinitis. The presence of yellow/green mucus is a classic sign of infection. The classic medical treatment is antibiotics, although it’s better to test what strain of bacteria, if any, are present before going down this route. You may also be offered an anti-inflammatory cortisone spray and perhaps anti-histamines, especially if there’s a suspected allergy component such as hay fever. Cortisone sprays are probably the best as they do help to calm down inflamed mucus membrane in the nasal passages. Short-term use of a powerful decongestant such as Otrovine, containing xylometazoline, can help acute sinusitis but there’s a kick back so don't use for more than three days. If none of this works, and if a scan shows that the passages draining the sinuses into the nose and throat are blocked, you may be offered a surgical solution.
As a consequence of years of nasal 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. If a scan shows blockages you will probably be offered one of two operations - the lesser of which involves burning away excess tissue that accumulates around the ‘turbinates’ which are like vents on the septum, the greater of which involves reconstructing the nasal passages, and maybe increasing the size of the holes for the sinuses to drain properly. These operations can make a big difference but they don’t address the underlying cause of the nasal/sinus inflammation. Too many people find they still get sinusitis, but are not so blocked up.
Alternative Sinus Solutions
But what else is on offer and what’s the ultimate cause and cure for this condition?
When you consider that the purpose of the mucus membrane in the nasal passages is to filter, clean, humidify and control the temperature of air, and that the membrane gets inflamed, gunked up and infected, then we can immediately understand why the following actions would help recover sinus function:
Clean air – ionisers pull particulates out of air, avoid smoking and smokey, polluted environments.
Warm and humid enough air – air conditioning can be bad news. Steam inhalers can really help humidify and get the cilia and mucus flowing, thus sinuses draining. Even better if you add eucalyptus and tea tree oil. So too can saline water washes. I’ll explain how you do this Natural anti-inflammatories. This includes avoiding allergens, as well as pollutants, which can trigger inflammation. Dairy is a common trigger, as is alcohol and, for some, wheat. 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.3 Oily fish, high in omega-2, as well as flax and chia seeds and oil are anti-inflammatory.
Natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents. This includes garlic, grapefruit seed extract, artemesia, vitamin C, quercetin (in red onions), MSM sulphur, bromelain.
There are other factors to consider, including emotional issues, stress and depression. Many people feel depressed when their head is all gunked up so its hard to see if the low mood is a contributor or a consequence, but, if you feel overwhelmed, or have no clear way forward in your life that makes you happy, it’s interesting that you have a condition where you ‘can’t breath’.
Having suffered for years myself, and had both kinds of operations and numerous courses of antibiotics, I’ve learnt what tends to work best. These are my top ten tips and, if you do them simultaneously for a month, you may just find that your chronic sinus problems clear up. You may not be able to do all, every day, but the more of these positive actions you take, not only until you feel relief from sinusitis, but keep going for two weeks thereafter, the more resilience you are building up.
My Top Ten Tips for Reversing Sinusitis
Sinus washing with saline (salt water) solution
Yogis do this using a plastic ‘neti-neti pot. There are various non-mechanical devices that do the same thing. You can also buy saline sprays that squirt salty water into the sinus passages up your nose. You must use these three times a day. But, much better than all of these, especially if this is a chronic problem for you, is to buy a mechanical sinus irrigator. The best way to keep your sinuses clear is to use the the SinuPulse Elite every day. It’s changed my life. Use my PH10 discount code to get £10(10%) off the price of £99.99 from https://www.sinupulse.co.uk/patrickholford .This price excludes VAT but if you have a chronic(long-term) sinus condition you don't have to pay VAT – follow the instructions on the site. For either the sinus irrigator or the neti pot, you put some boiled, filter water in a pot (I use a tea pot), add in a teaspoon of high quality sea salt, with no additives. Do this once a day, like brushing your teeth. The Sinupulse Elite comes with some saline sachets to get you started. For either method tilt your head to one side and insert the spout into the top nostril. Get the fit right so that water then comes out of the bottom nostril. Do both sides.
This is also something I do every day. The simplest way is the old-fashioned bowl of boiling water, with four drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil, or two drops of each, and a towel to put over your head as you inhale the steam deeply into your sinuses. You can also buy a steam inhaler for around £25. Keep your eyes closed and keep going as long as you can. This been shown to be effective in alleviating both short- and long-term symptoms. 4 One of the best health investments I ever made was getting a steam generator fitted into my shower. You have to have an enclosed shower area to do this. It'll set you back about £2,000, but it’s amazing. I got, and like, https://www.helo.co.uk ‘s HNS M2. It’s not only the best shower you’ve ever had, with the steam generator on, but breathing in that steam every day really helps. It’s best to make a seat so you can sit and inhale when you’re suffering.
Sinus infections can be viral (usually the case if you’ve got a cold, but can then switch to bacterial), bacterial or fungal. It's hard to know. Black streaks in mucus indicates it’s fungal. High dose vitamin C is especially good for viral infections, taking 2 grams every two hours. It does help bacterial infections too. Zinc is also anti-viral. My vitamin C includes zinc so that you get a therapeutic dose (30 to 50mg a day) if you take a high dose of vitamin C. Once you're out of the woods drop down to 2-3,000mg if vitamin C and 15 to 20mg of zinc. Garlic is both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. While a couple of cloves of garlic is good I much prefer the effects of 10 grams of aged garlic a day – and you don’t end of stinking of it. Quest sell 1,000mg kyolic garlic. A pot of 60 gives you a six day course, taking 10 a day.
My favourite anti-inflammatories are vitamin C, MSM (a highly absorbable form of sulphur, bromelain from pineapples, quercetin and omega3. A red onion gives you 20mg of quercetin but I want you to have 500 to 1,000mg a day (50 red onions worth!) until you’re better. Allex contains all these, except omega-3, plus glutamine which helps maintain and keep mucus membranes strong. Three tablets a day is 765mg of quercetin, which is a good dose until your sinuses recover Oily fish, high in omega-3, as well as flax and chia seeds and oil are anti-inflammatory. You want to be supplementing omega-3 fish oils (500mg a day of EPA+DHA) and eating oily fish three times a week, plus having some flax or chia seeds, or walnuts most days.
Avoid alcohol and food allergens
Alcohol inflames mucus membranes and makes you more food intolerant. I recommend everyone avoid all dairy products during a sinus infection but, ideally, you want to check which foods your immune system is attacking with a proper IgG food intolerance test, offered by yorktest.com. Use this code, PH50, to get £50 off. 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
There are other environmental allergens such as cat and dog hair and housedust mite, as well as pollen. These will not show up on an IgG antibody test vbut will on an IgE antibody test. This is often checked out medically with pinprick testing.
You’ve seen the photos of the inside of smoker’s lungs. Well, the same thing happens to the mucus membranes in the sinuses. Smoking is a massive insult to the sinuses and it’s hard to fully recover if you smoke.
Drink 2 litres of filtered or bottled natural mineral water.
This can be in hot or colds drinks. Keeping yourself hydrated is very important. During a sinus infection I like to drink strong ginger and turmeric teas.
Exercise, but not too much.
The sinuses clear better when you’re standing up, and struggle to clear when you’re sitting down. Actually, they are designed to clear best on all fours. It’s one adaptation that hasn’t happened since our ancestors became upright, which is one of the reasons sinus problems are so common. Do something aerobic for 20 to 30 minutes that gets you breathing, such as a brisk walk, including a hill, or a jog or a cycle. But, if you’ve got sinusitis, don’t overdo it. Just get yourself breathing deeply for a few minutes, hopefully in fresh, clean air. For example, don't jog along a busy road.
Get a good night’s sleep and reduce stress
This is the topic of my book, co-authored with Suzannah Lawson, The Stress Cure. If you don't sleep well read this book or read my report https://www.patrickholford.com/advice/power-of-sleep. The nutrients 5-HTP, theanine and magnesium can help you to sleep as does listening to Silence of peace, available on CD or on download.
Get an ioniser for your bedroom. If you live in a city it’s hard to get truly clean air. Even in the country there’s pollens and spores in the air. If you find your sinus problems are seasonal it may be that you react to grass or tree pollens or spores. Ionisers pull particulates out of the air and increase the level of negative ions, which are the good guys. The price of ionisers has really come down. The top three in a review of the ten best ionisers are all under £40.
(2) Sami AS1, et al., ‘A UK community-based survey on the prevalence of rhinosinusitis’, Clin Otolaryngol. 2018 Feb;43(1):76-89. doi: 10.1111/coa.12902. 13.
(3) Nsouli et al. ‘Role of Food Allergy in serous otitis media’, Annals of Allergy 1994; volume 73: pages 215-219
(4) 15. Yerushalmi A, Karman S, Lwoff A. Treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis by local hyperthermia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1982;79:4766-4769