Whether they are chronic or viral, over 35 million Americans suffer with sinusitis or sinus infections every year. From the sniffles to the face pain and pressure, those who suffer know how unpleasant symptoms can be. Unfortunately, in most cases, antibiotics do more harm than good. To avoid long-term damage, it’s important to understand sinus infections and sinusitis, the symptoms, causes, and the remedies for relief.
- Pain/pressure/tenderness in the face, sinuses, and behind your eyes
- Body pain
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sinus pressure
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
What’s the Difference?
- Sinus infections have symptoms that last longer than 10 days. If there are more than two symptoms accompanied by green or yellow nasal discharge, then it may be acute sinusitis.
- Chronic sinusitis symptoms last for 12 weeks or longer.
Any health situation that blocks off the drainage channels of the sinuses can cause an infection:
- Changes in air pressure
- Hay fever
- Exposure to allergens such as pollutants, smoke, or dry air
- Dental problems
- Respiratory infections such as the common cold
- Physical injury to the sinuses
Immune System Imbalance
Common airborne fungi lodge in the mucus lining of the sinuses in most people, but initiate an immune response in individuals prone to chronic sinusitis. The immune response causes the fungi to be attacked, which leads to inflammation of the sinus membranes and results in full-blown symptoms.
Immune System Boosters:
- Echinacea Many of echinacea’s chemical constituents are powerful immune system stimulants that can provide significant healing benefits.
- Elderberry The berries and flowers of the elder plant have been used as medicine for thousands of years. Known for its wide array of health benefits, including its ability to fight colds, the flu, allergies and inflammation, elderberry has the power to boost the immune system.
- Probiotics Leaky gut is a major cause of immune imbalance or a weakened immune system; therefore, it’s important to consume probiotic foods and supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest nutrients that boost the detoxification of your colon and support your immune system.
- Garlic Garlic is one of nature’s best antibiotics. Not only can it treat a sinus infection, it also works to prevent them. This is attributed to its biologically active component allicin, which gives garlic its signature aroma.
- Ginger Ginger root and ginger essential oil can treat a wide range of diseases with its anti-inflammatory responses. Thanks to its warming effects, ginger helps break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
- Ginseng The ginseng plant helps boost the immune system and fight infections. It improves the performance of the immune system by regulating each type of immune cell. It also has antimicrobial compounds that work as a defense mechanism against bacterial and viral infections.
- Vitamin D Individuals with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to report a recent upper respiratory tract infection. Vitamin D works to maintain tolerance and promote protective immunity. There have been multiple studies that associate lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection (Dr. Axe).
- Oregano Oregano essential oil is known for its healing and immune-boosting properties. It fights infections naturally due to its anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasite compounds.
- Neti Pot Using a neti pot with saline solution (nasal irrigation) can improve sinus issues and clear the nasal passageways.
- Avoid Foods with refined flour, grains, salt, and sugar; dairy and fruit juices.
*Remember, this is not an overnight process. Balancing the immune system, calming inflammation, and healing the gut take time.*
Viral Infections (Contagious)
Yes, a sinus infection can be contagious! If a virus is the culprit, then you can spread that virus. The person who catches that virus can get a cold that could turn into a sinus infection. About 90 percent of all sinus infections are due to viral infections, not bacteria. This means that the antibiotics prescribed are really useless and will only weaken your health more.
- Olive leaf extract has the ability to fight off
- Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm), a strong antiviral oil.
- Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
- Vitamin C, at sufficiently high doses, can prevent viral disease and greatly speed recovery from an acute viral
Bacterial Imbalance (Not Contagious)
The 4 most common bacteria that can cause sinus infections are:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Moraxella catarrhalis
- Streptococcus pneumonia
Unfortunately, when the infection is due to bacteria, the symptoms are typically more intense and last longer than a viral infection. We can’t say this enough. I think I say it in almost every blog and article I write: About 80 percent of your immune system is in your where?? YOUR GUT, and the trillions of bacteria making up your microbiome to regulate your immune system and overall health. Your sinuses, nose, and mouth are extensions of your digestive tract. What does that mean? Simply put: when your gut health is compromised, there is a lack of good bacteria in your sinuses.
Another issue is that people who struggle with chronic sinus infections have less bacterial diversity in the microbes of their nose. An unhealthy microbiome leads to chronic inflammation, which affects the mucus membrane and causes blockage of the drainage ducts and fluid in the sinuses. Candida overgrowth can also start to develop after long-term antibiotic use. This then causes even more sinus infections.
What can you do? Probiotics such as UltraFlora Acute Care by Metagenics have been shown to improve sinusitis symptoms. Plus, healing foods like fermented foods, Greek yogurt, and bone broth are also great tools to heal the gut.
When a sinus infection invades our lives, it’s normal to want to turn to the easiest way of getting it out of our systems. The bad news is that it’s not a quick fix, but possibly even a road to disaster. Because 90% of sinus infections are viral, antibiotics are 9 out of 10 times not the answer. The easiest way is prevention. Understand your systems; get to know your body. There is an answer. Once you find it, your body can and will heal itself. Forum Health can help you get to the bottom of those sinus ailments. Find a Forum Health provider near you.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Mind Body Green