Chronic Sinus Congestion

Most of us dread the sinus drainage and congestion that comes with the annual cold. Imagine what a nuisance these symptoms become when they occur on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, patients can have regular sinus issues that interfere with their day-to-day activities. Treatments can be daily medications to ease symptoms, and possibly sinus surgery. For those with structural problems, the inability of the sinuses to drain can cause a build up of pressure. In these cases, surgery can be very successful. For many, surgery is not an option, or not enough to alleviate symptoms. These patients need to evaluate specific factors in their diet, and consider nutrients to improve their sinus symptoms.

Most patients with chronic sinus difficulties will experience periods throughout the year when their symptoms are worse than others. These typically occur from exacerbations from spring and fall allergens. An individual’s allergies build up until they reach a threshold, at which time symptoms, like nasal congestion, begin. Environmental allergens like pollen and pet dander are not the only contributors. Food triggers, poor digestive health, inadequate sleep and lack of good nutrition can all aggravate sinus problems. By improving each of these factors, the overall allergen load can move below the sensitivity threshold.

Nutrition can be the most important, but underutilized factor. Two main strategies exist: Decreasing refined sugar intake and exploring potential food triggers. Refined sugar (white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup) aggravates the balance of many hormones in the body and promotes the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Consumption should be reduced or eliminated to dramatically improve sinus problems.

Secondly, one should investigate the possibility of the body reacting to foods consumed on a regular basis. Common culprits include dairy and gluten-containing grains (wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt). Those suffering from chronic sinus problems should consider an elimination diet. A common form of this diet focuses on proteins, fruits and vegetables, while avoiding dairy and gluten-containing grains for a 2-3 week period. Discussions on elimination dieting and food intolerance are covered in the nutrition section of this Web site.

On the next page, find guidelines for sinus care.