Three Effective Treatment Principles for Sinus SufferersAre you among the 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, acid reflux or asthma? Did you know that by effectively treating the nose, you might be able to treat or prevent other problems as well? Did you know that many of the strategies for treating the nose and sinuses also apply to other conditions, such as even acid reflux and asthma? Yes, they do! And it is so important to treat the nose effectively because these are all interconnected.
Before reading further, please note I am a school psychologist and nasal sufferer with the above conditions as well as empty nose syndrome (ENS), but not a healthcare professional. While these treatments have generally been effective for me, everyone responds differently to them so what helped me might not benefit someone else. I strongly recommend you discuss treatment ideas in this article with your doctor before attempting them. The best course of action with any health-related problem is consultation with a medical professional, and I take no responsibility for decisions made by people who read this article.
Now, one recommendation that all sinus sufferers would do well to heed: a key concept to remember in treating your nose is that you are in charge of taking control of your health. No one else will do that for you. In fact, I learned that even though my nasal problems seem rather severe, as I suffer from empty nose syndrome, I actually came down with fewer sinus infections than others around me because I learned more about my nose and followed treatment strategies that worked well for me. Many of the treatment principles are universal.
Three guiding principles that can bolster your nasal health are:
Principle 1: Keep the nose moist while keeping mucus moving.
Principle 2: Maintain good blood supply to the nose.
Principle 3: Relax.
A key strategy for Principle 1, keep the nose moist while keeping mucus moving, is nasal irrigation. This is a natural remedy I believe every sinus sufferer must understand and should do. In brief, it consists of rinsing out your nose and sinuses with salt and water. I feel so strongly about nasal irrigation that I believe it must be tried first before considering nasal or sinus surgery (unless your situation demands it).
Nasal irrigation has become popularized in 2007 by Oprah Winfrey, as she had Dr. Mehmet Oz introduce the neti pot to viewers. Dr. Oz suggests water used for irrigation should be warm and it must include salt; without salt in the mixture that mimics the natural concentration of salt in the body, the water would irritate delicate nasal membranes. He also points out how many ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists recognize the value in doing irrigation, which can be more effective than drugs for treating nasal congestion, stuffiness, or allergies, for example, as it involves directly cleaning out the nose and sinuses. Have you noticed the proliferation of irrigation products in your local drugstore compared to even just 10 years ago? The number of products has increased significantly, because there is much value in cleaning out your nose with salt water. I wish nasal irrigation would be tantamount to and as well understood as washing dirty hands!
The doctor who pioneered the concept of nasal irrigation in the United States is Dr. Murray Grossan, of Los Angeles, an innovative ENT specialist who created the Grossan Hydro Pulse Nasal-Sinus Irrigation System, which has reportedly sold 400,000 to date. Interestingly, based on feedback, Dr. Grossan estimates 10%, or 40,000, of these purchases are from empty nose sufferers. Dr. Grossan created the Hydro Pulse out of a quest to find an effective remedy for treating his patients, many of whom did not have much money, without using drugs. I use the Hydro Pulse twice a day, in the morning and evening. It is important to point out the Hydro Pulse has distinct advantages over other irrigation products, such as a neti pot or a bulb syringe (the latter of which can house bacteria):
1) The Hydro Pulse pulsates at a rate to stimulate your nasal cilia to their best rhythm, restoring the functioning of the cilia.
2) The Hydro Pulse allows you to irrigate both your nose and throat. It is important to irrigate both, particularly since what is in the nose travels down to the throat. Irrigating the throat can bring circulation to the throat, thereby thinning mucus and reducing postnasal drip.
Another key strategy as part of Principle 1 and that I believe everyone should keep in mind before considering nasal or sinus surgery, except in emergency situations, is to get proper treatment for your allergies. Allergies can lead to enlarged turbinate tissue that can block nasal breathing, so effective treatment for allergies can actually reduce the size of the turbinates, an effect that can be very beneficial. (You can visit http://emptynosesyndrome.org/turbinate.html for a tutorial on the turbinates.) This treatment might consist of allergy medicine and injections. Allergy injections, for example, have been demonstrated in medical literature to improve the immune system and mucociliary clearance functioning. These are generally administered for 3-5 years for optimal benefit.
A third key strategy of Principle 1 is proper diet. This strategy might seem self-explanatory, but it cannot be emphasized enough. A number of tips to consider in terms of diet including drinking 8, 8-ounce glasses of water per day; drinking hot tea with lemon and honey, particularly during a time of a cold or sinus infection; eating chicken soup; and eating foods that might be beneficial for sinus health such as vegetables, fresh fruits, spicy foods, wheat products, and foods high in protein. Conversely, foods to avoid include caffeinated products and alcohol, which increase nasal dryness, and tobacco smoke, which worsens the lungs and consequently leads to more breathing difficulties.
Principle 2 is maintain good blood supply to the nose. Exercise is a strategy that most people are familiar with and can help improve nasal functioning. Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, while increasing serotonin reuptake inhibitors that will physically decrease the likelihood someone will develop depression. When I run outside (or walk or do any physical activity), I notice that I can breathe better through my nose. Empty nose sufferers tend to particularly benefit from good blood supply to their nose, sometimes finding inversion techniques to be helpful. An inversion technique consists of having the head lower than the rest of the body to increase blood supply to the head and remaining nose tissue (the turbinates). You can purchase an inversion table to do this technique.
Principle 3 is relax, be it a good night of sleep or reducing stress in everyday life. It is important to get adequate sleep per night, which is the body''s natural way of healing. People who are not getting enough sleep are more apt to come down with sinus infections. I recall reading Walt Ballenberger, founder of the postnasal drip website, informing his readers that after 2.5 years, he came down with a sinus infection. The reason? He had 3 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period. However, sufferers of empty nose syndrome might need to undergo a sleep study and might even need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine because their breathing difficulties make breathing (and consequently sleeping) that much more difficult. Some of the more severely affected empty nose patients report only being able to breathe for a few hours at a time each night. Finally, reducing stress is also important for sinus sufferers as that alone can reduce the risk of sinus infections.
If you are among the 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, acid reflux, asthma, and/or if you have empty nose syndrome, then I encourage you to consider using the treatment strategies discussed in this article, which might just be a starting point for you to take control of your nasal health. Remember, it is you, no one else, who will take control of your health.
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Chris Martin is a nationally certified school psychologist in Upstate New York and author of Having Nasal Surgery? Don''t You Become An Empty Nose Victim! You can learn more about this book at http://www.emptynosesyndrome.net, or at the ENS Association website at http://www.emptynosesyndrome.org