Do you suffer from a runny or stuffy nose often? Does it seem like you have sinus pressure and a headache almost every day? If so, you may have chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis occurs when one or more of the sinus cavities become inflamed and irritated for several weeks. This medical condition can be caused by nasal polyps, a deviated septum or by a sinus infection. It usually affects adults; however, children can also get chronic sinusitis.
In order to better understand chronic sinusitis, you must first understand the location and the role of the sinuses. The sinus cavity contains air-filled spaces that are located in the forehead area (frontal sinus), the nasal cavity (ethmoid sinus) and the cheekbones (maxillary sinus). The sinuses make mucus that drains into the nose.
Sinusitis is simply inflammation of these sinus areas. Sinusitis is commonly caused by an infection. Many times chronic sinusitis develops after a patient suffers from a sinus infection. If the infection does not clear up, it can progress into chronic (long-term) sinusitis.
If you suffer from nasal allergies, you may be more susceptible to developing chronic sinusitis. Allergies can cause the tissues inside the nose to swell and block the sinuses, which put them at a greater risk of infection and inflammation. A facial injury or abnormality can also increase your risk. Those with a poor immune system or those who suffer from inflammatory diseases are at an increased risk. Finally, smoking, diabetes, pregnancy and irritating substances can cause swelling in the sinuses.
What are the Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis?
The primary symptom of chronic sinusitis is nasal inflammation. In addition to this, you may suffer from any of the following symptoms.
- Reduced sense of smell or taste
- Pain or inflammation in the eyes, forehead, nose or cheeks
- Thick, discolored nasal discharge
- Post nasal drip
- Nasal congestion that makes it difficult to breathe through the nose
- A dull ache in the upper jaw or teeth
- Ear pain
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Cough that is worse at night
How Can Foods Improve Chronic Sinusitis?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that the lifestyle you live and the foods you consume can either improve your health or cause it to decline. To better understand how food can improve your chronic sinusitis, you must learn which foods you should eat and those you should avoid if you are suffering from chronic sinusitis.
One of the primary causes of chronic sinus issues is inflammation. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet may help decrease inflammation and boost your body’s ability to fight infection. There are a number of foods that will also help unclog your nasal passages and help you breathe easier.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help to decrease inflammation throughout the body, including the nasal cavity. These healthy fats can be found in a variety of fish including whole sardines, cod, wild salmon. In addition to fatty fish, the following foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids :
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
Turmeric is a spice that is often used in Indian and Thai foods. This spice contains curcumin, which is known reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the body. If you do not enjoy this delicious spice, you can purchase a turmeric supplement. In addition to turmeric, there are many other spices that may help relieve the symptoms of chronic sinusitis, including ginger and Cayenne pepper. These two spices open the nasal cavities and reduce swelling.
Tart cherries are another food that can help reduce inflammation. In fact, studies have shown that tart cherries work 10 times better than an aspirin at reducing inflammation. In addition to tart cherries, there are a number of fruits that can help relieve sinus pressure and inflammation, including apples, pears and berries. All of these fruits contain antioxidants that help heal your body from the inside out.
Garlic and Onions
Onions contain chemical compounds and sulfur that offer antifungal and anti-bacterial protection. To help you better understand how onions can relieve sinus pressure, you must simply pick up an onion and cut it. Most of the time, your eyes and nose will begin to water. This watering will help clear the sinus passages and relieve pressure.
Garlic is another bulb that can help relieve chronic sinusitis. It contains the chemical compound, allicin, which offers broad spectrum anti-bacterial protection. Many people complain that consuming garlic can cause you to emit a garlicky body odor. Fortunately, there are odor-free garlic supplements that offer the same benefits of garlic without the smell.
Other Fruits and Vegetables
Finally, there are a variety of fruits and vegetables that can improve the symptoms associated with chronic sinusitis. These include:
- Avocados, which are rich in potassium and promote healing
- Pineapples, which contain bromelain and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
- Tomatoes, which are rich in vitamin C to improve the immune system
- Broccoli, bean sprouts and asparagus, which are rich in vitamin C and calcium
- Dark leafy green vegetables, which are known to clear toxins from the body
All of the aforementioned foods contain antioxidants that increase immunity and omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation. Consuming these foods will drastically improve your sinuses, improve your body’s defense mechanism and provide healing of your chronic sinusitis.
Foods to Avoid
Just as certain foods can improve your health, there are certain foods that can negatively impact your health. The wrong foods can increase mucus production and cause inflammation throughout the body. The following list of foods can exacerbate the symptoms of chronic sinusitis:
- Dairy products such as milk, ice cream and cheese
- Food additives, flavorings and colorings
- Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, beer and wine
- Sugary foods including soft drinks and desserts
- Refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread and rice
If you are looking to heal your body naturally, improve your immunity and relieve your sinusitis, why not follow the recommendations of Traditional Chinese Medicine and eat your way to health? By following the food recommendations listed above, you can improve your body’s defense mechanisms so it can better fight off infections and relieve inflammation throughout the body.
About Elizabeth McMillan
Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS is a board certified nutritionist at Rose Wellness Center in Northern Virginia. She specializes in science-based nutrition therapy that focuses on preventative health and optimizing one’s wellness. Elizabeth places a strong emphasis on the relationship between our food choices, lifestyle, and integrative wellness.