March is usually a time when we feel that we are in the clear from the winter sniffles. However, a wave of recent antibiotic-resistant infections has many of us wondering if relief will ever come.
According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, sinusitis, i.e. sinus inflammation, post-nasal drip, nasal congestion, mucous cough, headache and facial pain, is one of the most, if not the most, common medical complaints in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S. alone there are an estimated 12.5 million doctor and hospital visits from the nearly 30 million Americans that suffer from sinusitis. This amounts to over $6 billion a year in doctor's visits alone.
A couple months ago I got the all-too-common flu that was going around. Although these things usually only affect me for a couple of days, this one stretched out for over a week. When I finally recovered, I noticed that I had intermittent sinus pressure and post-nasal drip. What was even worse were a nearly debilitating pressure and headache that just wouldn't go away.
After a month of this I had enough. I decided to visit my doctor who took one look and immediately prescribed two different nasal spray medications. The first medication was a powerful steroidal and anti-inflammatory. The second was a semi-toxic antihistamine.
My doctor assured me that there would be no side effects from either. I asked him what the result would be if I didn't do anything. To my surprise, he paused and very carefully whispered, "You know, your body will probably heal itself anyway. It just may take a little longer."
I then did what any self-respecting, pharma-phobic herbalist would do. I researched the side effects online. Needless to say, the potential side effects from either of these drugs were by far more disconcerting than my present condition. The side effects were confirmed by online reviews. I quickly tossed the sprays into the bin and began the process of a natural sinus healing regime.
Within seven days my sinus infection was completely gone, and I was 99.9 percent better. What's more is that I did it without any drugs or side effects.
Here is what I did:
1. Nasal Irrigation -- I gently washed my nasal passages three times a day with a saline solution. In several medical studies nasal irrigation has proved to be as effective as many drugs but without the side effects. Although the traditional neti pot is not a bad option, it often is too high pressure. Instead I used a nasal irrigation tip and pump device from Waterpik. Other brands are available and are equally effective. I used warm, distilled water to prevent impurities. Common table salt is too harsh as a solution. Instead, I purchased a pharmaceutical-grade, individually-packed saline and baking soda solution from the local drugstore.
3. Grapefruit seed extract and xylitol nasal spray -- I used both grapefruit seed extract nasal spray and xylitol nasal spray up to four times a day. Since these are drug-free, there is no risk of dependence. Grapefruit seed extract has recently been studied for its antibiotic-like effects. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol often used as a low-glycemic sugar alternative in sugar-free foods and chewing gums. Although manufacturers of these products cannot state it on the product packaging due to FDA regulations on function claims, these two ingredients together or alone may be anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.
4. Bromelin -- I also used bromelin, which is an enzyme found in the stems of pineapple and in pineapple juice. Bromelin is so effective it was approved by the very rigid German Commission E for the treatment of inflammation and swelling of the sinuses even after surgery and injury.
5. Green tea extract in pills and tea -- I increased my intake of green tea to two cups of high-grade Japanese matcha tea each morning. Green tea is a clinically proven anti-bacterial. Many supplements like my formulation for Excelerol also contain extracts of green, black and white tea, all of which have been shown to be anti-inflamatory.
6. Diet -- I removed from my diet all dairy and fried foods, which for me often are either inflammatory or cause an increase in mucous production.
7. Bi-weekly Maintenance -- Like any other part of the body that is exposed to dirt, bacteria and allergens, I believe the nasal passages should be cleaned regularly. I continue to use the saline nasal spray and perform a nasal irrigation every other week as a precaution.
Notes: Everyone is different and each person reacts differently to different treatments. The key for me was to be persistent and patient. Unlike their chemical counterparts, natural systems do take longer to work. Patience, tenacity and sticktoitiveness are called for here. The upside, however, is that you will not have to worry about the long list of potential side effects that can arise from harsh pharmaceutical drugs.
This article only highlights my personal experience with a natural healing system that worked for me. Nothing herein is intended as medical advice nor is it intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. Please consult your doctor prior to engaging in any new treatment.
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