Sinus Congestion and Sinusitis
The sinuses are interconnected hollow cavities within the bones that make up the face. The largest ones are located under the cheekbones and in the centre of the forehead. The inside of the sinuses is lined with a soft, pink tissue called mucosa. Normally, the sinuses are empty except for a thin layer of mucus. These cavities help to lighten the skull, give resonance to the voice, and moisten the air we breathe.
Sinus congestion occurs when the mucosa in the sinuses becomes inflamed – this is called sinusitis. The inflammation causes the mucosa layer to swell up and excessive amounts of mucus to be generated. This creates a build-up of pressure inside the sinuses causing discomfort and pain.
Often sinusitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection but it can also be triggered by breathing in toxins or by a chronic allergy.
The symptoms of sinusitis include:
· Pain in the face, sinuses, and behind your eyes
· Nasal congestion
· Runny nose
· A throbbing pressure in your head
If the cause is an infection is also common to experience a headache, sore throat, fever, fatigue and body aches.
Mainstream medicine treats sinusitis with decongestants, steroids and antibiotics. While there are a time and place for these medications, they also have potential negative side effects and they don’t address the reason for your symptoms. Unless you’re able to resolve the root cause of your sinus congestion it’s common for symptoms to reoccurred or for medication to be needed on an ongoing basis.
So, if you’re tired of these uncomfortable symptoms and you’re looking for a comprehensive plan to naturally deal with sinusitis functional medicine can help.
The first step is to take a thorough case history and identify what it is that’s causing your sinus congestion. Is there an infection at work? Are you breathing in toxins at home or work that are irritating your sinuses? Are you reacting to something in your environment or diet? In some cases, further tests such as a nasal culture, allergen testing or an elimination diet will be needed. The aim is always to identify what’s triggering your symptoms. Where a food or airborne allergen is the culprit your functional medicine practitioner will be able to help you make changes in your diet and lifestyle to avoid the trigger, assist with toxin elimination and resolve the sinusitis.
Next, we consider the health of the digestive system. This might sound like an odd approach but about 70% of the immune system is located in the gut; and the sinuses, nose and mouth are all connected to the digestive tract. Studies have shown that people who struggle with chronic sinus infections have less bacterial diversity in the microbes of their nose. This bacterial imbalance leads to chronic inflammation. Since the gut and sinuses are connected – when your gut health is compromised this can lead to a lack of good bacteria in the sinuses making you more prone to infections. Unfortunately regularly taking antibiotics is often to blame when it comes to gut flora imbalances. While trying to fix a sinus infection, the antibiotics negatively impact on the gut flora. Gut flora imbalances can also contribute to the immune system misbehaving and may be one reason why it’s overreacting to something in your diet or environment. A functional stool analysis can look at the balance of bacteria in the digestive system and look at markers of immune function. Any imbalances can then be tackled with a personalised, diet, lifestyle and probiotic protocol.
It’s also worth noting that 80-90% of sinus infections are actually caused by viruses rather than bacteria. So taking antibiotics won’t kill the infection and in fact further weakens the microflora, making the inflammation worse! When viruses are at work, the health of the immune system is vital. The good news is there are many natural supplements that can target both viral infections and plenty of steps you can take to better support your immune defences.
Rebalancing the gut microflora, calming inflammation, and supporting the immune system takes a little more time to work than using a medication, but by addressing the root cause it’s possible your sinusitis will be a thing of the past.