Snot. There. Said it. Read on if you dare. Sinus congestion comes in many forms, and most of them produce some kind of snot. There is the runny, watery kind that streams out with sudden bouts of hay-fever, then there is the stickier, gluggier, goopier kind that comes in an array of colours and can have a variety of causes. Our bodies produce mucus to help deal with any unwanted threats; this can include viruses, bacteria, fungi or substances we are reactive to (pollens, foods, etc).
So let’s start with a few notes on terminology. Rhinitis simply means inflammation of the nose, while sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. Allergic rhinitis is a medical term for hay-fever. Nasal or sinus congestion can be short term (acute) or long-term (chronic), and in some people this can lead to a post-nasal drip, as the the mucus trickles down the back of the throat. Sometimes the cause is infection, sometimes reactivity, and sometimes, frustratingly, both.
The effects of congestion in the sinuses range from breathing issues and snoring right through to headaches, tiredness, or a persistent feeling of unwellness.
Many people know all too well what is causing their congestion, especially those who suffer from seasonal allergies. For others however, the triggers can present a complex puzzle which sometimes feels unsolvable.
Environmental substances are a common source of irritation for the obvious reason that the reactive substance is inhaled and sets up a reaction in the nasal cavities or sinuses. Dust, dust mites, animal hair and pollens are all common triggers.
Many sufferers of congestion know that when their body is in balance, they are less reactive and can breathe more easily. Eating foods that are wrong for our systems can indeed make us more disposed towards ill-health, and sinus congestion is one aspect of this. Changing our diets to foods that suit our individual systems can have significant impact on our sinus health and help us to breathe easy again. Many people, for example, report that when they are eating the right foods, they sail through pollen season without their usual issues.
The right balance of nutrients is also important for reducing our susceptibility to sinus congestion. Vitamin C and bioflavanoids are especially important in mediating the histamine response, while essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 oils are important for reducing inflammation.
Because sinus health is impacted upon by both internal factors (diet, nutrition) and external factors (environmental irritants), it is important to understand how both of these interact in any individual in order to support clear airways.