Sinusitis often follows an upper respiratory infection. But exposure to allergens or pollutants can also make you vulnerable. Whatever the cause, sinusitis triggers inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, and disrupts the normal process that expels bacteria and inhaled contaminants. This can lead to a full-blown infection, complete with a green or yellow nasal discharge, postnasal drip, and headache, as well as the telltale facial pressure and tenderness. But, even though these symptoms can make you may feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, sinusitis isn’t typically a serious condition and it’s something you can often remedy yourself.
Foods high in vitamin C can make the body more resistant to infection because of its potent antioxidant properties. Fruits, especially citrus fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables are among the richest sources of vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin A, like carrots, spinach, pumpkin, and yams are also important because they work directly to strengthen the immune system. To soothe inflammation, make sure to include fatty fish, nuts, and flaxseed. These foods are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can help to counteract swelling. Reducing dairy products, gluten containing foods, and any food you suspect you are sensitive to, may also be valuable to reduce sinus inflammation.
Nasal irrigation is an excellent way to flush bacteria and allergens from your nasal passages. Research shows that a 2 percent salt solution can dramatically relieve sinus congestion. Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt with warm water in a neti pot. Stand over a sink, tilt your head down slightly and then to one side, about 45 degrees. Place the spout into the upper nostril and pour slowly until it fills and then begins to empty out the lower nostril. When the pot is empty, blow your nose repeatedly to clear out both sides, then refill and repeat through the other nostril. Irrigate several times a day for as long as needed, but discontinue the procedure once you clear up. Nasal sprays also work to flush your sinuses. Look for a spray that combines xylitol a sugar alcohol and salt. Pathogenic bacteria feed on xylitol to become less virulent, and xylitol itself helps clear excess mucus and congestion in the sinuses, nasal passages, mouth, and pharynx (the upper part of your throat, above the vocal cords). Chewing xylitol gum throughout the day can help too.
Barberry: contains berberine, an antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal compound. Studies show that berberine inhibits the growth of bacteria and may help the immune system function better. Typical dosage: Barberry can be taken in either tincture form or as capsules. As a tincture, 20 to 30 drops of barberry can be taken three times per day. If you prefer capsules, look for a standardized extract containing 5 to 10 percent alkaloids and take 500 mg daily.
Bromelain: is rich in compounds that help reduce the cough and nasal mucus associated with sinusitis. The enzyme also helps relieve the swelling and inflammation caused by hay fever. In one double-blind study of 116 children with acute sinusitis, those taking a bromelain supplement experienced a significantly faster recovery than those taking a standard drug designed to relieve symptoms. Typical dosage: 320 mg two to three times per day.
Eucalyptus oil: can provide instant relief to congested nasal passages. Typical dosage: Put a few drops of the essential oil on a tissue and hold it near your nose. Take four or five deep breaths to pull the vapors through your nasal passages and into your lungs. If the congestion returns, just replenish the oil and repeat.
Natural nasal sprays: can help relieve the pain and congestion that accompanies a bout with sinusitis. One type of nasal spray containing capsaicin effectively reduced nasal congestion and sinus pain with regular use. Another popular nasal spray relies on xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol, to prevent the adhesion of bacteria in the nasal passages. Typical dosage: Follow label directions.