What it is:
One of the most common ailments in the United States, sinusitis is an infection of the lining of one or more of the sinus cavities, causing inflammation. There are two types of sinusitis: acute, which lasts for three weeks or less, and chronic, which often lasts for three to eight weeks but can continue even longer. Some 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year. Both types of sinusitis are extremely uncomfortable and symptoms can range from intense pain to a general malaise.
In sinusitis, tissues swell and cells produce thick mucus, which is unable to drain properly through the small sinus channels and openings. What results is a heavy pressure that builds up, causing a sinus headache, congestion, persistent cough, fatigue, tender cheekbones, and pain around the sinus areas. A typical sinus headache tends to be mild in the morning and gets worse during the day. It is also sometimes accompanied by fever, runny nose, congestion, irritation, and general fatigue and weakness.
What causes it:
Both acute and chronic sinusitis often develop after an upper-respiratory infection (a cold or flu) spreads to the sinus cavities. Blockage of the sinus passages caused by allergies, the flu, or the common cold may lead to the development of bacterial infections that can lead to acute sinusitis. It is thought that some forms of chronic sinusitis result from an immune system response to naturally occurring fungi in the nose. Studies suggest an association between asthma and sinusitis.
Other potential causes of sinusitis may include allergies; bacteria that cause infections of mouth, gums, or teeth; exposure to airborne or environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, smog, mold spores, or dust; and polyps inside the nasal cavities.
How food may help:
Sinusitis often follows a cold or the flu, so it is important to maintain a strong immune system to avoid these infections. Foods containing the antioxidant vitamin C can help to bolster your immune system by stimulating the activity of antibodies and immune system cells. Dietary zinc is also an important defender against invading viruses and infections, and it may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the symptoms of sinusitis is inflammation along the nasal passages caused by allergens. These allergens initiate an immune response, which releases histamines and other chemicals that are thought to cause congestion. The anti-inflammatory actions of certain flavonoids such as luteolin and quercetin may decrease congestion by reducing the body’s release of histamine.
It may also be useful to eat pineapple, which contains the enzyme bromelain. Preliminary studies indicate that this substance may have anti-inflammatory properties. Note that pineapple is also a good source of vitamin C, which may also dampen inflammation.
A hot cup of tea soothes the soul and may also help to reduce congestion. Not only does the steam help to temporarily open up the nasal passages, but tea also contains theophylline, a compound believed to ease breathing by relaxing the smooth muscles in the walls of the airways.
Eating spicy foods, such as horseradish, mustard, and ginger, can provide temporary relief by reducing congestion. Allyl isothiocyanate, a pungent substance in horseradish and mustard, helps to thin mucus. Be sure to also drink plenty of water and fluids to keep mucus thin.
Your food arsenal:
- fruits peppers
Contain Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps to maintain a strong immune system, and it works to fight off colds-a common antecedent to sinusitis. Vitamin C may also help to minimize the inflammation and swelling of mucous membranes lining the sinuses by preventing the release of .histamine.
- wheat germ
Contain Zinc – The immune-fortifying capability of zinc may help to ward off viruses that are often implicated in the onset of sinus problems.