Flushing & Proteolytic Enzymes, A Natural Alternative | Health Blog

Date: 06/12/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Nasal Irrigation Clears Allergies, Sinuses

Nasal Cleansing, Nasal Irrigation, Neti Pot

Most of us can recite the names of allergy and sinus medications without thinking: Allegra, Claritin, Benadryl, Neo-Synephrine, Sudafed. For the alternatively inclined, there's: Hyland's, Similasan, Sinus Busters, and so on. We recognize these products because when the discomfort of a sinus problem hits, many of us reach for a magic formula to make it go away. Given that about one out of every five Americans suffers from allergies -- there's a whole lot of magic formula being dispensed.

In the US alone, sales of sinus/allergy medications netted $1.1 billion in 2005. The entire respiratory market, including cold medications, yielded $32.4 billion that same year. And unfortunately, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the products do a lousy job. At least a third of allergy sufferers aren't satisfied with the medication they take because they aren't getting enough relief, and they aren't getting relief fast enough.

There is an alternative that in some cases works better, faster, cheaper and safer: nasal flushing. This method, also known as nasal irrigation, refers to a technique of rinsing both nostrils out with a solution -- usually water with Kosher, non-iodized salt --that loosens and removes mucous. The solution also soothes irritated membranes, creates an inhospitable environment for bacterial growth and allergens, and can reduce swelling. Although many people know about using nasal flushing for sinusitis, few regularly irrigate to keep seasonal allergies at bay.

To do a nasal wash, you take a cup of very warm (not hot) water, add a teaspoon of salt (again, non-iodized Kosher or pharmaceutical grade). Then you use either a special "Neti Pot," which looks like a mini-teapot with a long spout -- or a measuring cup or squeeze bottle with a spout -- and pour half the solution into one nostril, allowing it to exit out the other nostril. This video shows you how to masterfully flush, although I highly recommend that you don't use a sponge to clean your pot as demonstrated in the video. To prevent the water from running out your mouth, make a "K" sound. Use the other half of the solution in the other nostril, and then lightly blow your nose as needed. Note that some people have luck using a spray bottle instead of the pour method, spraying four ounces of the solution into each nostril.

Even if nasal flushing doesn't completely alleviate the discomfort of sinusitis, it should ease it. According to Dr. Melissa Pynnonen, co-director of the Michigan Sinus Center, "Nasal irrigation can be considered a first-line treatment for common nasal and sinus symptoms. It's often more effective than medications."

The thing is, not only are allergy and sinus medications often ineffective in treating symptoms -- they can have side effects ranging from simply annoying to absolutely frightening. Sure, the label may display a warning about drowsiness or dizziness, but the warning doesn't usually broadcast the fact that (depending on the formula) sinus and allergy meds can cause depression, anxiety, impaired thinking, vaginal dryness and diminished sex drive, increased appetite, insomnia, and infertility. Even the so-called benign second-generation allergy medications such as Claritin and Allegra can have potentially serious side effects, including cardiac irregularities, hypertension, loss of consciousness, jaundice, seizures, and blockage of blood flow to the heart.

Plus, remember that taking allergy or sinus medications treats only the symptoms without curing the problem. This means that your sniffles or sinus pressure can worsen until you develop a full-blown sinus infection, and if that happens, studies show that antibiotics are essentially useless. In a British study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationlast December, scientists found that antibiotics were no more effective than placebos in curing sinus infections.

Which leads back to the idea that nasal flushing is a great option. Do it early enough and you'll probably ward off infection. If you get the infection, it will provide relief and create conditions more conducive to healing. And to expedite healing, augment flushing with these preventative measures:

  • Absolutely avoid dairy, wheat, and sugar -- at least until your symptoms clear.
  • Take proteolytic enzymes daily.
  • Keep sufficient moisture in your environment, using a humidifier if necessary.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid allergens.
  • And finally, don't get punched in the nose.

:hc

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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Bob Williams on
    July 7, 2008 - 10:45am

    I use Neil Med Sinus Rinse and in my opinion it does a better job than Netty Pot. I use it everyday.

  •  
    Submitted by Brenda Tyler on
    June 18, 2008 - 2:05pm

    If you are dealing with high blood pressure, how does the salt affect it?

  •  
    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    July 7, 2008 - 1:26pm

    If the Neil Med Sinus Rinse works for you, then by all means use it. However, in reality, it's just a combination of salt and baking soda -- the same as recommended for use in a neti pot. In fact, Neil Med sells neti pots for use with their packets of sinus wash -- again, a combination of salt and baking soda. Note: their neti pots have some nice features http://www.neilmed.com

  •  
    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    June 19, 2008 - 12:49am

    You're not swallowing the salt water -- merely irrigating with it -- so it has no impact on blood pressure. That said, the issue of salt is far more complex than most doctors would hav you believe. Check out
    http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/07-31-2006.php.

  •  
    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    December 22, 2008 - 3:35am

    Mary:
    Xylitol offers two benefits in a nasal wash. First, it decreases the ability of bacteria to adhere to nasal tissue. And second, it tends to raise the pH in nasal tissue, making it less friendly to bacteria and viruses. Bottom line: although, it's benefits in a nasal wash are not necessarily major, they are definite.

  •  
    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    February 17, 2009 - 2:28am

    Shirley:
    The key is finding the proper position to hold your head. If not turned enough, the water won't come out the other nostril. Also, making the ""K"" sound helps prevent the water from coming out the throat and mouth.

  •  
    Submitted by Mary on
    March 27, 2009 - 4:08am

    I also have hypertension, and have been using saline nasal irrigation with a syringe for 8 years. Six months after I began, my bp became elevated. I do not want to give up the saline irrigation as it is so beneficial for my allergies. Even though in theory it is all supposed to immediately drain out of the nose/mouth, I know that some of it is retained (it may leak out in a gush unexpectedly from my nose as much as eight hours later.) I tried blowing it out of my nose right after irrigating, but that has led to severe nosebleeds. Is there any other substance that I can use in lieu of salt to achieve the same relief in my nasal irrigation?

  •  
    Submitted by Mary Rowan on
    December 22, 2008 - 3:05am

    Is Xylitol any good in the nasal wash? I've been using (on a daily basis) XClear to clean out my sinuses. I haven't been sick in a year, not even a head cold and was wondering if the Xylitol had anything to do with it.
    Thanks,

  •  
    Submitted by Rosiest on
    June 23, 2008 - 4:35am

    Make a mixture of 1 tablespoon salt to 1 teaspoon baking soda, then use about 1/2 taspoon of this mixture to a cup of warm water. Baking soda prevents the stinging sensation you might otherwise encounter.

  •  
    Submitted by shirley on
    February 17, 2009 - 12:14am

    I have tried to do the nasal flush and the water does not come out the other nostril. ??

  •  
    Submitted by Linda on
    January 8, 2013 - 12:47pm

    I had been having continued head pain and pressure behind my eyes for a couple of weeks and bouncing around my head and down the side of my face, saw Dr. who sent me to an eye Dr. who found nothing wrong and recommended Sudafed pe; which upon asking my pharmacist about it, recommended that I not take it. So I started using my Netti Pot with included solution packets and all was ok and started to feel better. I then went to a health food store and asked if there was something else that I could use and they recommended that I use XLear in my netti pot, also recommended Sovereign Silver nasal spray and said that taking the two during the day would not be harmful. I used the Sovereign Silver spray in the afternoon and then at night used the netti pot with the Xlear solution and shortly after my blood pressure spiked up to 179/110 and I was anxious, felt some pricklies in my legs, also my right kidney area in my back felt pain. I had just had all of my blood work done, and all was fine. I am scared to try this again and am asking what you think could have caused this very scary spike.

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