When the mucous membranes lining the sinus cavities inflame and swell, this leads to a headache and stuffiness typical of a sinus infection. Depending on which sinus has become infected, the pain will focus on either side of the nose or on the forehead. In some instances, it can feel more like a toothache. The pain can either focus on one exact spot, or it can be diffuse, like a mild pressure headache. Bending over or pressing against the particular bone affected will usually exacerbate the symptoms.
Typically, the nose feels stuffed up, and blowing it brings out greenish-yellow mucus. The voice may become nasal. An acute sinus infection can be quite painful and long-lasting. Fever, fatigue and facial swelling are common in acute infections but rarely appear in chronic ones. Recurring, chronic infections produce few symptoms, sometimes with only a postnasal drip.
Sinus infection causes
- Sinusitis is most commonly caused by either a viral or bacterial infection, and often follows a head cold that refuses to heal
- Infection may also be secondary to dental infections, especially if chronic or recurring
- Allergies can also result in sinus infections
- Chronic or recurring infections are often due to a prior incompletely healed infection
Sinusitis is difficult to heal because the swelling restricts adequate airflow. Steam typically helps to open up the passages. Smoking and other irritants increase susceptibility. Swimming is a trigger for some people. Certain foods that increase mucus production, such as milk and milk products, often add to the problem.
Varying studies show that anything from 25–70% of people with sinusitis have environmental allergies. Food allergies may also contribute to the problem: common food allergens are milk, wheat, eggs, citrus fruits, corn and peanut butter. People with sinusitis may benefit by working with a practitioner to evaluate what, if any, effect the elimination of food and other allergens might have on reducing their symptoms.
Food allergy appears to play an important role in many cases of rhinitis, which is related to sinus congestion. In a study of children under one year of age with allergic rhinitis and/or asthma, 91% had a significant improvement in symptoms while following an allergy-elimination diet.
- Drink plenty of liquids to aid drainage, and avoid refined sugars
- Increase intake of yellow fruits and vegetables, since a deficiency of vitamin A can exacerbate sinusitis
- Consume foods high in vitamin C – broccoli, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and blackcurrants
- Avoid spicy foods and alcohol, as these aggravate sinusitis
- Eat radishes, which are known to clear the sinuses
- For a sinus headache, hold a clove of garlic in the mouth for 15 minutes
- Celery and turnip-green (or any other green, leafy vegetable) juice is excellent in clearing mucus. Take 1 tbsp. three times daily. Add 1 teaspoon of garlic juice for an even stronger effect.
The most common cause of nasal congestion is allergy to inhalants, such as pollen, moulds, dust mites, trees, or animal dander. Exposure to various chemicals in the home or workplace may also contribute to allergic rhinitis. Indoor and outdoor air pollution may also be a factor for some people. Smoking and second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke have been implicated in chronic nasal congestion and the prevalence of chronic rhinitis among men has been shown to increase with increasing cigarette consumption. People exposed to chlorine, such as lifeguards and swimmers, may also be at risk of developing nasal congestion.
Careful evaluation by an allergist or other healthcare professional may help identify factors contributing to nasal congestion. Sometimes strict avoidance of the triggering agents (e.g., thoroughly vacuuming house dust or using dust covers on the mattresses) may provide relief. Where complete avoidance of irritants is not possible, desensitization techniques – immunotherapy (allergy shots) – may be helpful. Nasal irrigation with warm water or saline may be helpful for reducing symptoms of sinus congestion. Steam inhalations may be useful, particularly when infused with essential oils.
Surgery may be used to unblock the sinuses and drain thick secretions if drug therapy is not effective, or if there are structural abnormalities.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Bromelain is known to relieve symptoms of acute sinusitis, supported by many double-blind trials.
Histamine is associated with increased nasal and sinus congestion. Studies indicate that vitamin C supplementation may reduce histamine levels in people with high blood histamine, as well as natural anti-histamines such as quercetin and NAC.
Vitamins A and C are essential during a sinus infection. When vitamin A is deficient, a sinus infection can take hold more easily, as this vitamin protects the mucous membranes from illness. Vitamin C is useful for any infection, since it enhances immune system function and is both antibacterial and antiviral. Bioflavonoids maximize the use and absorption of vitamin C and act similarly.
Colloidal silver also boosts immunity.
Botanical treatment options
Eucalyptus oil is often used in a steam inhalation to help clear nasal and sinus congestion. Eucalyptus oil is said to function in a fashion similar to that of menthol by acting on receptors in the nasal mucous membranes, leading to a reduction in the symptoms of nasal stuffiness.
One of the most popular supportive treatments for both acute and chronic sinusitis in Germany is a herbal combination containing gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elder flowers, and European vervain. The combination has been found to be useful in helping to promote mucus drainage (“mucolytic” action) from the sinuses. The combination is typically used together with antibiotics for treating acute sinusitis.
Horseradish is another herb used traditionally as a mucous dissolver. One half to one teaspoon (3–5 grams) of the freshly grated root can be eaten 3 x daily. Horseradish tincture is also available.
Wood betony (Stachys betonica) is used in traditional European herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory remedy for people with sinusitis.
The following cayenne formula is an excellent aid to clearing mucous and relieving pain:
- Use 1 tsp. each of cayenne fruit, garlic clove, ginger root, horseradish root, onion and parsley leaf and root. Crush or chop finely. Make an extract by adding 1/2 cup of raw, organic apple cider vinegar and let stand for twenty-four hours. Strain and use 1 tsp. in 1 cup of hot water and drink daily.
Echincea is a well-documented immune system enhancer.
Ground ivy leaf has mucous-reducing and astringent properties, drying the mucous in the sinus and bronchial area.
Goldenseal root reduces mucous.
A warm salt-water solution poured through the nose may offer some relief from both allergic and infectious sinusitis. A ceramic pot, known as a “neti lota” pot, makes this procedure easy. Alternatively, a small watering pot with a tapered spout may be used. Fill the pot with warm water and add enough salt so the solution tastes like tears. Stand over a sink, tilt your head far to one side so your ear is parallel to the floor, and pour the solution into the upper nostril, allowing it to drain through the lower nostril. Repeat on the other side. This procedure may be performed two or three times a day.
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2023. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex.
Proud Winners of Southern Enterprise Awards, Best Nationwide Hypoallergenic Nutritional Supplements Distributor 2022 and 2023. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs
If you found this post about sinus infections helpful, you may also like: