I spoke about the effects of antibiotics last week on the body and your gut health and something that I am really fascinated by at the moment is how misinformed & mistreated sinus infections are. What people don’t know is that sinus infections almost always stem from a viral infection (from the common cold), not a bacterial one - and antibiotics don’t work against viruses. Not only that but chronic sinus infections and sinusitis are also driven by an overgrowth of fungus (either yeast or mold) that also won’t react well to the antibiotics - so often getting a prescription is not only pointless, but actually damaging when you understand the side effects that come with antibiotics
People often think that because they have yellow or green mucus that this is a sign that the sinus infection is bacterial. Doctors explain that this can occur with viral infections too, and really it’s hard for a doctor to ascertain whether the infection is viral or bacterial based on symptoms. One good measurement to tell the difference is time - it is thought that a viral sinus infection will usually start to get better about 5 - 7 days after onset, whereas a bacterial sinus infection will often stick around for 7 - 10 days and can actually worsen after the first 7. And with chronic sinusitis? Symptoms can stick around for 12 weeks +, as well as you experiencing other symptoms like bad breath, tooth pain, discolored postnasal drip, a feeling of congestion, pressure or fullness in your face and general fatigue.
Plus, even when bacteria *are* the cause of a sinus infection (a very small percentage of the time), around 70% of sinus infections will often clear up on their own in a week or so (assuming that you are fit, healthy, getting enough sleep and taking in adequate nutrition).
I would also advise that you look into fungus in the form of yeast and mold.
First up, yeast. Research studies now suggest that yeast can contribute to sinus infections and nasal drips by causing a reaction from the body to the pathogenic fungi known as candida albicans (the big danger player when it comes to yeast and thrush). This also has been confirmed by a 1999 Mayo Clinic study which implies that the cause of most chronic sinus infections are an immune response to fungus. When looking at 210 chronic sinusitis sufferers, they collected mucus from the nasal passages and 96% of the patients had fungi in their mucus suggesting a very strong correlation between fungus and sinusitis.
Mold can be a big driver of chronic sinusitis too - another overlooked cause. Mold is another type of fungus. Some individuals are more prone to being impacted by sinusitis caused by mold and this is because of a gene in their DNA which makes their body more susceptible to stronger reactions around mold. A mold is also a fungus and when a mold fungus finds its way into the sinus cavity, the immunity in the body reacts by releasing a chemical known as eosinophils (a type of disease-fighting white blood cell) to fight the fungi.
With both yeast and mold, both thrive in dark, damp and wet places, therefore helping the situation to become chronic, recurrent and really, really hard to get rid of.
Suffering with recurrent sinusitis? We always advise looking deeper with root cause medicine tests. In the short term, getting a grip on other factors that are easier to control is a good starting point too.
Suffering from sinus infections but don’t want to go down the antibiotic route? I got you. Here are my top natural remedies for sinus infections.
1. Dietary remedies
- Hydration is so key to flushing a virus out from within your system and to keep toxins moving out and through the body too. No matter the cause of your sinus infection, try to keep up your hydration levels every 2 hours and focus on clean, filtered water, where possible;
- Teas - ginger tea (and raw honey) is a perfect combination to help. Ginger has been shown to have antibacterial properties and also to have antiviral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRS). High quality raw honey is also thought to be an ‘effective natural therapy because of its ability to attenuate acute inflammation through enhancing immune response’ s as well as fighting against a ton of viruses.
- Chicken broth or bone broth - a traditional remedy featuring bone broth is thought to sooth the respiratory system and nasal cavities and also packs important minerals into it. These micronutrients found in the bone broths can help to fight and reverse infection as well as building a healthy mucus membrane throughout the body that is more resilient to infection.
- Horseradish - whether you like it or hate it, if you eat too much you will be able to feel your nasal passages clearing.
Things to avoid:
- Dairy - dairy is known as the king of mucus producing foods. Avoid them whenever you are dealing with a mucus-based condition to stop more production of mucus. Studies have also suggested that many who suffer with sinusitis or nasal polyps have a dairy allergy so if this might be you, this is another avenue to explore.
- Sugar - sugar impacts the body’s ability to fight off infection, so cut this out while your body tries to repair and heal.
- Refined & processed foods - refined grains are also thought to produce more mucus production - as are red meat, and refined oils like soybean. Steer clear of these during your healing journey;and
- Salt - if you are dehydrated, salt can exacerbate the problem and slow healing of the inflammation of your nasal cavity and sinuses.
- Prebiotics & probiotics - addressing your gut is an important way of supporting your general immune function that will help to fight the sinus infection. This is particularly important if you may be experiencing a fungal related infection which can be connected to yeast overgrowth in the gut.
- Garlic - known as one of the best and most powerful holistic antibiotics, they not only can help to kill the bacteria causing the sinus infection (or recurrent infection) but also taken regularly can help to avoid you contracting a cold or infection in the first place. Studies have also looked into their ability to prevent the common cold virus thanks to allicin - a defense molecule found in the garlic (Allium sativum L.) You can also incorporate this into your diet in dried, fresh or ground form, as well as taking allicin as a supplement.
- Oregano oil for the win! Powered by carvacrol and thymol, oregano oil is insanely antibacterial and antifungal which means it can help if you have a root-cause driven sinus infection. It’s a hard one to learn how to take but Dr Axe recommends ‘500 mg of oregano oil four times per day’ ideally adding a ‘few drops of oregano oil to a large bowl of recently boiled water’ and breathing in with a towel over your head. Be careful not to burn yourself as you start to clear these nasal passages.
- Grapefruit seed extract - this is also very powerful in terms of antiviral properties thanks to the polyphenols known as naringenin and limonoids. You can get this as part of a nasal spray to help destroy the virus in the nasal passage.
First up, nebulize! This is basically the concept of inhalation. I always advise doing this with colloidal silver (a mineral build up of tiny silver particles) that is thought to be a low cost, natural, germ-killing antibiotic. High grade hydrogen peroxide is another option for nebulizing too. The reason for this is because it can help to clear the matter from the sinus cavity (reducing congestion) and also the oxygen released from the hydrogen peroxide can help
Nose Rinse & Nasal Irrigation
Nasal Irrigation is next. This is different to nebulizing as it involves liquid and not gas - it’s more of a nasal rinse. My favorite is https://navage.com. It is a super-effective, all-natural way to clean your nose and is the world’s only nose cleaner with powered suction to flush out mucus and germs. I’d also advise looking into Neti Pots (a container designed to rinse debris or mucus from your nasal cavity). You should use bottled water that has been distilled or sterilized, and you can also consider making your own saltwater solution.
Essential Oil Therapy
I also like to tell people to clear their sinuses with essential oils once they have cleaned the nasal passage. Some research indicates that essential oils can reduce inflammation, fight and kill bacteria and relieve pain. I’d advise peppermint and eucalyptus as my go to oils of choice. Lab studies show that peppermint oil may fight bacteria, one of the triggers of sinus congestion. Eucalyptus oil has a compound in it called cineole which has been found to be a safe treatment for sinus issues. Going one step further, a small-scale 2009 study looked into this further and confirmed that eucalyptus oil contains a compound called cineole and the study found cineole to be a safe and effective treatment for sinus issues.
The best four ways to inhale these essential oils are:
- Breathing them in directly on a tissue (don’t touch your skin);
- Inhaling with steam (add to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam with a towel over your head);
- Using a diffuser and dispersing it around your room; and
- Adding to a hot bath. Gently inhale while soaking (and add some holi (bath) for good measure!)
Nasal sprays can also help and recent studies have looked into how propolis nasal spray can help with recovery from infectious rhinitis and the common cold. Propolis is a material made by bees that is thought to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, as well as potentially being anti-inflammatory too. When used in the nasal tract, it can really help with anything lurking around.
My favorite is linked here and is the propolis nasal spray. There are only 3 ingredients: propolis, deionized water and sea salt. It is super clean and it is drug and alcohol free, medical grade and beautifully moisturizing to the passage.
Ozone therapy is also ABSOLUTELY amazing and so overlooked unless you’re into the holistic health world - and even then, it’s often spoken about most in terms of holistic dentistry or intravenous application.
Ozone is a gas that has natural antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-mold and anti-parasitic properties and for sinus problems specifically, the gas can be blown directly into the sinuses. This is known as nasal ozone. You can do it up to four times a week and it helps to clear the sinuses, as well as promoting glutathione production in the body when it meets the blood.
You can read more on Ozone therapy and why I love it for you and your pet, here.
Facial massage can be particularly helpful as well because this can get the lymph flowing and help with drainage. Unlike facial drainage, or gua sha, sinus drainage focuses on the upper half of your head.
If you need to, or feel comfortable doing so, you can place your index and middle fingers above your eyebrows and then gently rub in circles to start your facial drainage. Then slowly move your fingers diagonally into the middle of your forehead and then move around toward your temple while still rubbing in small circles. Repeat this up to three times to help get your sinuses moving.
- Consider food allergy and intolerance testing to see what foods might be aggravating your body’s response. You might be surprised.
- Looking into root cause testing (yeast, mold and gut) is a good starting point too.
So, my Agent Army, the main thing that I hope you can take from this article is that you have options and the first option should not be antibiotics. If you are suffering - please stop turning to antibiotics straight away - they really are often doing more harm than good and honestly, so much of the time these are just not necessary.
Hoping that this helps you on your journey to health.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS; THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST****