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A Guide to Natural Ways to Alleviate Allergy and Sinusitis Symptoms

Although many suffering from seasonal allergies and sinusitis depend on decongestant and antihistamine medications to cope with their symptoms, dietary modifications (such as drinking more fluids and spicing up your meals and increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C), clearing your nasal passages with saline irrigation techniques and acupressure, and stress management can help alleviate the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies and sinusitis.

In This Article

While seasonal allergies and sinusitis are both commonly treated with decongestants and antihistamines, these drugs bring only temporary relief and may result in side effects such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and drowsiness. If you’re looking for ways to deal with your symptoms, consider the following for natural ways to help you cope with and eliminate the manifestations associated with seasonal allergies and sinusitis.

Your diet may have a more immediate impact on your health than you think. In fact, multiple studies have suggested that following a diet high in nutrients, such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, can naturally help you get through the allergy season and your sinus problems. On the other hand, stay clear of food items that thicken the mucus and stimulate the body to produce more histamines, which can trigger sneezing, stuffiness, and irritation to the eyes and nose. Below are general recommendations nutritionists and clinicians typically make to individuals suffering from symptoms of nasal allergies and sinusitis, but keep in mind that consulting a professional in the field is the best way to obtain a personalized plan specific to your needs and aliments.

Modifications to Your Daily Diet

  • Drink more fluids: Constant sneezing and the need to blow your nose can result in dehydration, leading to headaches and further aggravation of your symptoms.  As a result, getting more water into your system is an important way to help combat the symptoms associated with both allergies and sinusitis.
  • Spice up your meals:
    • Ginger: Incorporating ginger as a spice in your meals can be a safe way to gain from the possible anti-inflammatory properties of ginger. In fact, research from a 2008 study published in International Immunopharmacology suggests that ginger can modulate the immune response to inflammation associated with allergic asthma [1]. Nevertheless, keep in mind that while using ginger as a spice is typically harmless, its use as a supplement must be taken with caution because many side effects could result, especially through its interactions with other drugs, such as various blood thinners like coumadin and aspirin. 
    • Onion: Everyone who’s chopped onions has probably experienced the fact that onions can make you cry. As a result, cooking with fresh onions can naturally help with opening and draining your sinuses. Additionally, onions contain quercetin, a chemical compound that has antihistamine properties and aid in the reduction of inflammation and nasal congestion.
    • Garlic: Garlic’s naturally occurring chemical compounds (allicin, S-Ally cysteine, and ajoene) are responsible for its believed properties of improving mucus flow and the reduction of congestion through its mucus thinning and anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Cayenne pepper: Because capsaicin, the active compound in cayenne peppers, may thin the mucus and stimulate the sinuses aiding in air circulation, consumption of foods containing cayenne peppers can help decrease congestion.
  • Increase your intake of:
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: Because omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats with anti-inflammatory properties, increasing the consumption of these healthy fats can reduce immune dysfunction and help alleviate allergy-related conditions.
      • Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
        • Fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, halibut, and mackerel
        • Nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin
        • Beans such as kidney, pinto, and mung beans
        • Avocados
    • Vitamin C: Increasing your intake of vitamin C can help alleviate your symptoms because this antioxidant counteracts histamine, the substance that can contribute to inflammation, runny nose, sneezing, and other related symptoms.
      • Sources of vitamin C include:
        • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries
        • Red and green vegetables such as tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, and broccoli
    • Dietary Polyphenols[2]: A 2010 study published in American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy has demonstrated that dietary polyphenols, such as [6]-gingerol, quercetin, and EGCG, can effectively inhibit the secretion of mucus from respiratory epithelial cells while maintaining normal nasal ciliary motion.  
      • Sources of dietary polyphenols include:
        • [6]-Gingerol: the main active component of ginger
        • Quercetin: found in red wine, tea, onions, leafy green vegetables and many other fruits and vegetables
        • EGCG: green tea extract
        • Curcumin: curry extract; the active ingredient of turmeric

 

Naturally Clear Your Sinuses

  • Steam: Inhaling steam from a humidifier, hot bath, or cup of hot water can help decrease congestion.
  • Nasal irrigation: Washing the nasal passages with a hypertonic saline solution (which can be made by mixing one teaspoon of salt with two cups of warm water) is a common method to aid in the removal of mucus from the nasal passages.There are two different types of methods that are typically used to administer nasal washes.
    • One method involves pouring the solution into the palm of the hands and inhaling it through one nostril at a time.
    • The other method employs the use of a Neti pot, which is a device used for nasal irrigation that looks like a mix between a tea pot and Genie’s lamp. To rinse the sinuses using a Neti pot, tilt your head sideways, insert the spout of the pot into the upper nostril, and allow the saline solution to flow through the sinus and out the lower nostril.

    With both methods, to prevent infections and other complications, be sure to fully understand the processes for nasal irrigations before attempting them and use only sterile saline solutions to wash the sinuses [3].

  • Acupressure/Self-Massage: According to the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, a part of the UCLA Health System, acupressure is “an effective form of stimulation used to help relax the muscles. If done regularly, this method of self-massage can sustain improvement and minimize recurrence of symptoms” from conditions such as allergies and sinusitis. Some specific acupressure points recommended for individuals who suffer from seasonal allergies and sinusitis include:
    • Large Intestine 4: The point is between the thumb and index finger. Caution: Pregnant women should not massage this point because it can induce labor.
    • Gallbladder 20: The point is located at the back of the skull at the junction between the mastoid (ear) bone and the neck.

    Applying deep, firm pressure to massage and stimulate each point can help open up the sinuses and reduce your symptoms.

 

Manage Your Stress

Incorporating stress reduction activities, such as socializing with friends, listening to music, and making some quiet time for yourself, can help decrease your stress levels and also aid with the management of your allergies or sinusitis. According to Dr. Malcolm Taw, assistant clinical professor of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, stress is deleterious to the immune system and compromises the individual’s ability to cope with ailments such as allergies and sinusitis. With high levels of stress, sleep quality and quantity typically decrease, resulting in dysregulation of multiple physiological cascades and thus, augmenting the symptoms of both allergies and sinusitis.

 

References

  1. Ahui, ML, et al. Ginger prevents Th2-mediated immune responses in a mouse model of airway inflammation. International Immunopharmacology. 2008; 8(12): 1626-32.
  2. Chang, JH, et al. Dietary polyphenols affect MUC5AC expression and ciliary movement in respiratory cells and nasal mucosa. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2010; 24, 59-62.
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center. Sinusitis – Treatment. Accessed at http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/how_acute_sinusitis_treated_000062_8.htm on July 16, 2012.

By Shannon Wongvibulsin, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Center East-West Medicine, Staff Writer


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