In the modern world, with its low-quality air and ever-present dust and pollen, sinus issues have become all too common. Whether it’s allergies, asthma, or a sinus infection, these uncomfortable and often debilitating problems can disrupt daily life and prevent us from dealing with our usual tasks. Fortunately, there are a few simple and natural ways to help clear your sinus passages and “breathe easy” again. In this article, we’ll look at some of the best ways to naturally open up clogged sinuses and get relief from common respiratory ailments.
1. Introduction to Sinus Health
Sinus health is a critical component of overall health. Acute sinus inflammation and infections are quite common, with over 30 million Americans suffering from such conditions according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
The sinuses are hollow air-filled passages located behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks and eyes. They are lined with a thin layer of mucous membrane which helps to moisten and warm air entering the nose while filtering harmful bacteria and viruses. Sinus infections occur when the membranes become swollen and inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection.
Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Pain in the nose, forehead, and cheeks
- Nasal congestion
- Thick yellow or green nasal discharge
These symptoms can be treated by a variety of medications, but preventive measures such as avoiding allergens and irritants, drinking plenty of fluids, and using a humidifier can help reduce the frequency of sinus infections.
2. Causes of Sinus Pressure and Congestion
Sinus pressure, or sinus congestion, is an uncomfortable feeling caused by an excessive amount of mucus or fluid in the sinus tissues. It is often accompanied by a headache or facial pain. Common sinus pressure and congestion symptoms include:
- Nasal stuffiness and congestion
- Pain or pressure in forehead, between eyes, or in cheeks
- Reduced sense of smell
- Bad breath
The most common are colds and infections such as sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause sinusitis. Other possible causes include:
- Sinus polyps
- Environmental irritants such as perfumes, smoke, and dust
- Nasal tumor
- Changes in temperature and humidity
- Deviated septum
Chronic sinus congestion can also be caused by structural abnormalities in the sinus, such as a deviated septum. This is where the tissue that separates the left side of your nostrils from the right side is displaced or crooked. This can result in blockage of the sinuses and cause sinus pressure.
3. Natural Ways to Clear Sinuses
Congestion caused by a blocked or clogged sinus can cause a lot of discomfort. But thankfully, there are a number of natural means to clear out your sinuses and provide some much-needed relief.
Steam – Steam can be an effective way to reduce congestion in your nose and throat. To take advantage of the steam’s decongestant qualities, pour boiling water in a bowl, drape a towel over your head, and have you face about 8-12 inches away from the bowl. Inhale for about 5-10 minutes. You can also add calming aromatic oils like eucalyptus oil.
Saline Spray or Washes – This is another popular method to quickly clear sinus congestion. Due to its natural and simple composition, a saline spray is great for moisturizing the lining of your nose. You can buy the spray at any pharmacy and use it two to three times a day. The use of neti pots or similar products to irrigate your sinuses can also prove quite effective.
Herbal Remedies – A number of herbal remedies can help reduce inflammation and clear out sinuses in natural ways. You can:
- Make a tea out of eucalyptus, mint and chamomile.
- Add a few drops of oregano oil in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth and throat with it.
- Blend together equal parts of peppermint oil, lavender oil and coconut oil to create a balm to apply on your nose and neck.
- Brew an infusion by mixing honey, ginger, cardamom, and a few other ingredients.
4. Diet Suggestions to Relieve Sinus Pressure
It is important to ensure you are always drinking enough water. Staying hydrated can help thin out the mucus in your sinuses, as well as reduce inflammation, which can help with relieving sinus pressure. Additionally, do not overconsume caffeine or alcohol, as these can dehydrate you and worsen your sinus pressure and blockages.
Focus on eating unprocessed, real and whole foods. These generally have the most nutritional value, and are the least-likely to trigger inflammation. Try including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, as well as nuts, legumes and lean proteins such as chicken and fish. Minimising the amount of highly-processed or sugary foods you consume can also help reduce sinus pressure.
Avoid Common Food Allergens
Common food allergens such as wheat, dairy, eggs, soy and corn can increase sinus pressure. If possible, try to avoid these items, or at least reduce your consumption of them. Also, watch out for hidden items such as additives, MSG, food colourings, flavouring agents and preservatives. If possible, try to cook as much of your own food as you can using fresh ingredients, as this can help protect you from potential food allergens commonly found in processed foods.
5. Common Misconceptions About Sinus Health
Many people misunderstand or completely unaware of the health and functioning of their sinuses. To help people understand the importance of sinus health, we need to address five of the most common misconceptions.
1. Sinus health is not important: People tend to believe that sinuses are not important for maintaining overall health. This is not true – sinuses have a vital role in keeping our respiratory system in check, as well as other vital functions. Sinus infections can actually cause serious health issues, such as headaches, fever, persistent cough, and even difficulties in breathing.
2. Having a stuffy nose means you have a sinus infection: While a stuffed nose may be from a sinus infection, it can be caused by several other infectious viruses and allergens. Sinus infections often come with a range of other symptoms, such as headache, cough, fever, postnasal drip, and pressure around the eyes. If these symptoms show up, it is best to get checked out by a doctor.
3. Sinuses only serve a trivial purpose: One of the most common misconceptions is that sinuses are not important and only serve a trivial purpose. This is not true – sinuses play an active role in helping us fight off infections by trapping dirt and bacteria, humidifying the air we breathe, and helping to filter air while we breathe. Additionally, they are an essential part of our immune system.
4. Decongestants are the only sinus treatment: While decongestants may help to address some of the symptoms of sinus infection, they are not the only treatment. Other treatments, such as steam inhalation, nasal rinses, and using a humidifier, may help to reduce symptoms. If your symptoms persist, it is best to consult a doctor for a proper and more effective solution.
5. Antibiotics are the only way to treat sinus infections: While antibiotics may be prescribed by a doctor to treat sinus infections, they are not the only treatment option. There are many home remedies and over-the-counter medications that can help to relieve sinus infection symptoms. In addition to prescribed medications, lifestyle modifications such as getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids can also help to relieve symptoms.
If you suffer from persistent sinus problems, try some of these remedies to find relief. Whether you choose one of the home remedies or opt for over-the-counter medication, be sure to discuss your treatments with a health care professional. Remember, healthy sinuses can make all the difference in keeping your body and mind feeling good.