One of the most productive steps you can take to ensure adequate sinus function and minimize the chance of infection is to address the flow of mucus. Mucus is constantly being produced by the cells that line the surface of your sinus cavities as well as the surface of your nasal passages. The mucus is a source of moisture for the inspired air, and it helps to flush out bacteria, viruses, and cellular debris that normally occur on those surfaces. The mucus is secreted and then swept like a raft along the surface through a sewer-like drainage system that allows it to be flushed into the nasal passages, just underneath the turbinate bones that protrude into the nasal passages. Then you can swallow it (think recycle) or expectorate it.
As long as the mucus raft is flowing, the system is working as it should to remove your “sewage”. When the mucus is sluggish, or thick and sticky, or tenacious, or gelatinous, it just doesn’t move very well. That’s when you are at risk for congestion, swelling, irritation, or infection. So, it is advantageous to keep these secretions wet, slippery, thin and mobile. You can support this process in several ways:
1.) Stay well hydrated. Water is the key component to wetter mucus. Drink plenty of water. Adding a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon can help get your juices flowing and thin out the mucus. Other beverages and foods can also help. Try Chinese mustard, horseradish, cayenne pepper, wasabi, other peppers, or hot herbal teas, soups, etc. Some foods I like to call slippery vegetables, (like okra, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, etc.) or alkaline ash vegetables, (like onions, garlic, yams, asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, etc.) also may contribute to more slippery mucus. Try them.
2.) Use a steam vaporizer in your bedroom. In the winter time, especially, the air we breathe is dry and baked further in our home heating systems. Adding steam to the room where you sleep for 8 hours a day, near the head of your bed, is a simple way to get a modicum of relief and moisture. It’s similar to what you feel after stepping out of the hot shower where you’ve been breathing that moist, warm, steamy air that makes your nasal passages and sinuses feel soothed and clearer. Unless you have small children at risk of burning themselves with your steam vaporizer, you don’t need to invest in an ultrasonic or cool mist impeller. Just go with inexpensive steam.
3.) Use safe homeopathic remedies to alleviate discomfort. They are inexpensive and essentially without potential for harm. So feel free to use them liberally. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- SINUS (Heel*). These are pills, containing a group of homeopathic remedies. You melt one under your tongue as often as desired to reduce the stuffiness and alleviate the pressure that often accompanies sinus problems. Many people find these effective; sometimes the effect is mild, but usually worthwhile.
- ADRISIN (Heel*). These are similar homeopathic pills containing several remedies geared toward reduction of allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, itchy mucus surfaces, etc. They are probably more useful for people whose sinus symptoms are attributable to allergies.
- SINUSIN (Heel*). This is a metered dose nasal spray containing several homeopathic remedies designed to give temporary relief from nasal congestion, sinus symptoms, even symptoms due to common cold. The metered dose pumper bottle delivers the spray to the nasal mucus membranes. If you point the sprayer into the nostril upward, backward, and toward the eyeball, then sniff while spraying, you can bathe the turbinates along the course of the nasal passages. This will be soothing to the mucus membranes, and will facilitate the flow of secretions, even from the sinuses. It feels good, and it’s much safer than decongestant nasal sprays with either steroids or vasoconstrictor drugs.
- LUFFEEL (Heel*). This is similar to Sinusin and used in the same manner, but contains a different set of homeopathic remedies, more suited to alleviating allergy symptoms like itchy watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion.
*Heel products are available from Emerson Ecologics
4.) Nettie Pot. This is a well respected and safe tool for performing a saline nasal lavage. It is inexpensive and easy to use. It allows you to soothe the nasal passages with warm saline while washing out some of the dried crusts, thicker mucus, debris, pollen, allergens, and detritus. It does not cleanse your sinuses, but it does remove some of the impediments to normal flow of mucus, thereby facilitating normal sinus drainage.
You can also get some relief from saline nasal sprays. This is a drug-free choice that can be soothing to dry irritated mucus membranes, and is far more portable than a Nettie Pot. Read the labels. Some may contain preservatives that can irritate those with more sensitive mucus membranes.
HERBAL AND BOTANICAL REMEDIES
5.) SINUPRET. This is reputed to be the best selling sinus remedy in Europe and we stock it in our dispensary. It is a combination of herbal and botanical remedies that are safe, natural and clinically studied. These are supplied in tablet form. They are non-stimulating and useful when a stronger medicinal effect on swelling and congestion is indicated.
6.) SINATROL. (Ortho Molecular Products) This is another well designed nutraceutical containing a variety of botanicals, amino acids, and well seasoned agents that can help mobilize secretions and reduce congestion, while also minimizing allergic histaminic reactions. Most patients can alleviate sinus symptoms with 3 capsules daily. In extreme situations, I’ll recommend 2 capsules taken three times a day for the first 2-3 days to jump start relief. Then a smaller amount should be sufficient to maintain improvement.
If your sinus symptoms pressure and congestion are not sufficiently resolved with the above measures, it’s likely that you have either an acute bacterial infection, an obstructive process interfering with mucus clearance, an underlying yeast or fungal infection, or some combination of these. That would require further evaluation by a medical professional for a more actionable diagnosis. A computerized Tomography (CT scan) or other imaging study may be needed to demonstrate faulty anatomy or pathology. You may have a condition that requires decongestant drugs, antihistamines, or powerful systemic antibiotics. It’s best to seek medical advice tailored to your specific condition for these.