Why is it important to clear your Sinuses?
Our sinuses have a critical impact on the quality of our breath, which impacts the vital functioning of our bodies. Ayurveda, yoga, and the Alexander Technique all stress the importance of the quality of breath in relation to functioning. Breathing plays a critical role in balancing our nervous system.
Why is the quality of our breath important?
- Our breath simulates our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
- Our parasympathetic nervous system is often called the “rest and digest” because it relaxes our system and lowers our stress response.
- The vagus nerve, stimulated by the parasympathetic nervous system, connects many organs including the brain, heart, liver, and gut.
- When your breathing is impaired, you may have lower stimulation of the vagus nerve, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation.
The quality of our breath is often connected to stress and anxiety. However, breathing and our sinuses also go hand in hand. Breathing can be restricted because of various underlying problems with our sinuses.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses due to allergies or an infection. Many people suffer from Chronic Sinusitis without even knowing it.
- Excess mucus
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Achy teeth
- Plugged ears
- Pressure in head/ headaches
- Fatigue or trouble sleeping
- Lingering coughs
In my practice, I find chronic sinusitis is commonly caused by an allergy to pollen, dust mites, or mold, a food sensitivity, or a fungal infection. It is important to get to the root cause of what is causing the inflammation if sinus pain, pressure or drainage don’t resolve after a couple of weeks. If you are unsure of the cause let’s work together to identify it so you can get back to breathing freely. If initiated early, most uncomplicated sinusitis will respond to the natural methods below which help alleviate symptoms, drain the sinuses, lessen the inflammation, and balance your immune response.
Easy Methods to help with Sinusitis:
- Neti Pot and nasal sprays
The Neti Pot is a ceramic or plastic device that has one spout which is used to clear the sinuses with a saline solution. The Neti Pot has proven to be an effective solution for clearing out irritants from the nasal passage. They can be purchased at the store with premixed packets.
Here are the basic steps to using a Neti pot:
- Add the premixed saline mixture or make your own with ¼-½ teaspoon of salt (preferably Kosher) and a pinch of baking soda (up to ¼ teaspoon) to 1 cup of warm water. Make sure the salt is finely ground and non-iodized. Don’t use tap water as it contains impurities. Use distilled water or boil your tap water for 5 minutes and let it cool down.
- Pour the solution into your Neti Pot.
- Humidifier and essential oilsStand over the sink or shower and tilt your head to a 45-degree angle and put the spout of the Neti Pot into the top nostril, slowly letting water go through that nasal passage and out the other nostril.
- Breathe through your mouth and if the solution starts going down your throat tuck your chin and lean forward more.
- Blow your nose gently and then repeat on the other side.
Here is a video demonstrating how to properly prepare and use your Neti Pot.
This technique offers the following benefits:
- Gently removes excess mucus as well as irritants like dirt, pollen, or dust.
- Rinses pathogens like bacteria, fungus and viruses from nasal passages.
- Removes pressure in your sinuses, which can relieve pressure headaches.
- Relieves nasal dryness.
- Promotes overall nasal and sinus health.
- Xylitol is antimicrobial
- Nasal Sprays may be more well-tolerated in cases of extreme inflammation due to an acute cold or flu.
2. Humidifier and essential oils
Another way to clear your nasal passages of pathogens, allergens, or irritants or to relieve dry sinuses is to use a humidifier. A humidifier can also help decrease your risk of getting a virus or cold and loosen congestion.
This study indicates that a 40% increase in humidity level led to decreased infectivity levels of influenza virus by 14%. This is because with higher humidity levels in the air, virus molecules are more likely to attach to water droplets which fall to the ground rather than directly infecting us.
In addition to benefits for your sinuses a humidifier may also help moisturize and relieve dry, itchy skin.
You can also use a diffuser and add essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tea, and peppermint. These oils are known for being anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and relieve congestion and headaches naturally. Essential oils are concentrated so a small amount goes a long way. Begin by adding 1 drop to your diffuser or a pot of boiled water just removed from heat. Add additional drops as tolerated.
3. Gargling salt water
Gargling with salt water is an easy at home technique to relieve a sore throat due to excess mucus or post nasal drip. The method is simple:
- Take a glass of warm water and put a pinch of salt in (about ½ a teaspoon).
- Tilt your head back and gargle the salt water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Spit out and repeat if needed.
Acupressure is a complementary treatment to acupuncture, an ancient system of medicine which stimulates “acu-points” in the body for relief. This is a simple natural method to relieve pressure from stuffed or irritated sinuses. It is based on the same principle of acupuncture, except the “acu-points” are stimulated with your fingers instead of needles, making it an accessible method you can do yourself at home.
This video shows two powerful “acu-points” you can stimulate to relieve pressure from your sinuses. By stimulating these points near your sinuses, energy flow through the area is restored and muscular tension is released which allows your sinuses to drain naturally.
Acupressure has been shown to relieve headaches, insomnia, nausea, fatigue, pain, and other conditions. For more information and studies on acupressure click here.
5. Humming/ singing method
Another easy at home method you can try for sinus relief is the gentle humming method. This study showed that humming increases Nasal Nitric Oxide (NO). This is significant because the release of NO provides ventilation in the nasal sinuses. This ventilation is essential for the health of the sinuses and healthy sinuses have very large concentrations of NO. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and tumor cells are sensitive to Nitric Oxide gas, meaning that higher concentrations of NO can fight off foreign intruders which aggravate sinusitis.
If you want to learn more about the science and biology behind this method, this video by MD Irminne Van Dyken takes a deep dive into how this method works.
6. Diet & Herbs
One thing to try eliminating from your diet is all food made from cow’s milk. This is because there is a protein in cow’s milk called casein, which stimulates mucus production and can aggravate sinusitis. Also avoid wheat, sugar, and alcohol, as all are inflammatory and can make mucus thicker.
Focus on a well balanced diet, with a lot of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. Vitamins to focus on are zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids. Hot spices such as cayenne and ginger will help loosen up mucus as well.
In cases of fungal sinusitis, herbs can be used. Raw garlic, red thyme, and oregano are all anti-fungal. Using these herbs in your food or making teas with them can be helpful. However, use of potent herbal supplements or use of teas for extended periods should be done under the consultation of a Naturopathic Doctor or Integrative Practitioner.
Clearing the nasal passages allows for better breathing, which helps balance our vital force. Treatment doesn’t have to be invasive, and these at home techniques have shown to be extremely effective in helping clear the sinuses and restore our breath.
Bergland, Christopher. “Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises and Your Vagus Nerve.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 May 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/diaphragmatic-breathing-exercises-and-your-vagus-nerve.
Levitt, Joshua. “How To Use A Neti Pot.” UpWellness.com, 9 Nov. 2017, www.upwellness.com/how-to-use-a-neti-pot/.
Pegura, Chad. “3 Essential Oils to Clear Sinuses.” Organic Aromas, 23 Apr. 2018, organicaromas.com/blogs/aromatherapy-and-essential-oils/3-essential-oils-to-clear-sinuses.
Starkey, Jamie. “Try This Easy 6-Minute Acupressure Exercise for Allergy Relief.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 10 Dec. 2019, health.clevelandclinic.org/try-this-easy-6-minute-acupressure-exercise-for-allergy-relief-video/.
“Using a Nasal Rinse Cup.” How to Use a Neti Pot | Banyan Botanicals, 2018, www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/lifestyle/using-a-nasal-rinse-cup/.
Vanvuren, Christina. “What Are the Benefits of a Humidifier for Your Home?” Molekule Blog, 18 June 2019, molekule.science/home-humidifier-benefits/.