The Nose Knows No Limits: An In-Depth Look at Sinus Survival
Okay, you have sinus problems. The sneezing. The sniffling. The blowing. Your nose looks like you can compete with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And the feeling like your head is just too heavy. You may even wonder how much stuff your sinuses can make; will it ever stop running?
Sinus problems come in all shapes and forms: allergies, sinus infections, nasal polyps, headaches, and post-nasal drip (leading to sore throats or a cough). No matter the name, one thing is certain: you don’t want to suffer another day. Perhaps you believe you’ll have to suffer with the symptoms for the rest of your life, having to take medications, having surgery, maybe both; or maybe you feel like you just have to suffer and hope things don’t get worse.
There is hope for you. You don’t have to suffer until the end of your days. Consider the story of Janet. She, in many respects, was an “average Joe,” seeking help for a sinus infection that never went away.
Janet was 12 when she got her first sinus infection. She figured the sinus congestion would disappear, as it had with all previous colds. But it didn’t go away. The doctor gave her antibiotics and did allergy tests (these showed no allergies); but the doctor was adamant and decided to start Janet taking antihistamines and getting allergy shots for mold.
The infection and swelling in the sinuses didn’t go away; at least that’s how it all started for Janet. Thus, Janet started on a roller-coaster ride of suffering and the frequent need to seek medical care. At first, Janet needed antibiotics every few months; but she suffered in between with congestion and sinus pain.
After a year, Janet developed asthma, which required hospitalization if the sinuses became too congested (which set off the asthma). Soon, Janet was taking antibiotics twice monthly just to keep the sinus condition at bay. She also was taking an antihistamine and a steroid sinus spray. About every 3 months she would receive systemic steroids (prednisone) to decrease the sinus swelling and treat an asthma attack. Nothing seemed to help her; her sinuses became more and more congested with no end in sight; and her lungs became more difficult to manage.
After graduation she went on disability.
When she was 20, Janet was told she needed sinus surgery to clear the infected material. She agreed whole-heartedly because she was assured the suffering would end, as the operation would remove the infected matter and make “windows” for the mucus to drain easier. For a little while after the operation Janet was able to breathe more freely; but within a month, she was suffering with pain and congestion again. The doctor stated she had another infection, and the roller-coaster ride began again.
Five years later, Janet was unable to control her asthma, even with taking daily prednisone. An asthma specialist stated she needed sinus surgery again because the infection was causing the difficulty breathing. Again, Janet was eager for the surgery because she was assured that the lungs would settle down after the infection was removed.
The positive effects of this operation didn’t last long but the lungs did settle down for a little while. The swelling in the sinuses never disappeared and the suffering was more extreme. Antibiotics and sinus sprays were started again. Within a year, Janet was told she needed surgery again. This time, she was reluctant. But the suffering compelled her to try it again as she knew of nothing else to try.
During this operation, the surgeon took samples of the infected matter and analyzed it to see which antibiotic would remove the bacteria. It was discovered that deep within the sinus cavities was a dangerous bacterium that only existed in a hospital setting and was unable to be killed with standardly-prescribed antibiotics—a form of Staphylococcus aureus. Janet was immediately given a special antibiotic to kill that bacterium.
It was at the follow-up visit after the surgery that Janet realized she was doomed. The operation from the previous year had introduced an organism that had caused the sinus infection for the previous year. Janet figured the same organism, or a worse one, would be introduced each time she had surgery. The doctor confirmed this and told Janet that she would need sinus surgery each year for the rest of her life if she wanted to survive, and to realize that she would someday get a bacterium from the surgery that couldn’t be killed with antibiotics, thus causing her to die at a young age.
And she would suffer for the remainder of her life.
Janet was 26.
Medical Treatment for Sinus Complaints
In a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 51.1 million visits to see the medical doctor are directly related to sinus complaints, with sinus infections (sinusitis) and allergies (allergic rhinitis) being the 2 main reasons—26.9 million adults for sinusitis, 16 million for allergies. The medical system has standard protocols for dealing with any sinus problems. There is no individualization, unless it occurs with choosing one antibiotic over another.
Here are the standard means of medical treatment for sinus complaints, along with their uses, positives and negatives:
Antibiotics: usually a “broad spectrum” antibiotic, so called because it is designed to kill a wide variety of bacteria. They are given for infections or suspected infections. When they enter the body, they seek out and destroy bacteria in their spectrum. It is helpful to clear bacterial infections; but with the sinuses, the majority of the time most of the infection remains because the antibiotic cannot reach deep into the sinuses. Another draw-back of antibiotics is that they kill the bacteria that is in the gut that need to exist to help with food digestion and make certain vitamins like vitamin K. Plus there is a lot of discussion about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Hospitals are filled with these “super-bugs.” Janet had become infected with one of these super bugs during her second surgery. And, finally, antibiotics only kill bacteria. So, if the infection is being caused by a virus or fungus, the antibiotics will only make it worse.
In 1999, the Mayo Clinic released findings that stated 99% of all recurrent sinus infections are caused by mold and fungus, and to not give patients antibiotics as antibiotics do not treat fungal infections (Science Daily, 1999). Despite their findings, antibiotics are still prescribed abundantly.
Antihistamines: given for allergic reactions. They are sometimes also given for sinus infections to “dry” the mucous. However, drying the mucous only keeps the bacteria stuck, to re-infect again.
Decongestants: usually given for infections or inflammation. These are designed to shrink sinus membranes to allow drainage. Oddly enough, they are often combined with antihistamines. Two common draw-backs to decongestants are that once they stop being used, the swelling comes back two-fold; and that they can increase the heart rate and cause excitability.
Steroids: in spray or oral form. In sprays, they are intended to shrink the membranes in the sinuses and to decrease allergic reactions. In oral form, they are intended to decrease inflammation. Two common draw-backs of sinus sprays are that they increase the risk of infection and can erode facial bones. There are many serious complications of using oral steroids including bone loss, adrenal gland suppression, immune system suppression and weight gain. Consequently, the main oral steroid drug, prednisone, is used as a chemotherapeutic agent for cancer.
Allergy Shots: these are intended to make the person less sensitive to allergens. Unfortunately, most of the solutions for the shots contain substances that are hazardous to health, including mercury and antibiotics. Plus, they are a pain in the arm.
Surgery: in 2013 (NCBI, 2013), over 250,000 people get sinus surgery each year; 10% of people are told they have to have the surgery repeated. Sinus surgery has several intentions: to clean out infected matter; to make more or larger openings for mucous to drain; and to remove any growths (called polyps) and inflamed matter. The main draw-backs are that a “super-bug” usually gets introduced and the septum (the thing that separates the right side of the nose from the left) gets damaged, thus leading to a very increased risk of sinus infections because a damaged or deviated septum interferes with normal sinus drainage. Other high risks of sinus surgery are blindness or visual loss, decreased sense of smell, and numbness in the front teeth.
Even though the medical community has these options for treating sinus infections and allergies, the CDC estimated that 11% of adults in the Unites States suffer daily from these ailments, requiring over 51 million doctor visits annually, with 53 million prescriptions for antibiotics needing to be written. It was estimated by the CDC that 4 out of 5 Americans get a prescription for antibiotics each year for a respiratory infection—most notably sinus infections. Out of these, they say that 1 out of 3 are not needed (CDC, 2016).
But as Janet discovered, nature had to be part of the healing process.
How Nature Helps Sinus Sufferers
Sinus complaints are the 5th leading reason people seek out natural supplements (in the U.S.). Unlike medical care, natural care is more individualized, with the most-individualized being homeopathy. Plus, most natural practitioners look at the whole person, not just the physical symptoms.
Here are the main categories of natural helpers:
Herbs: herbs are plants or parts of a plant. They have special properties to assist the body with healing. In the case of herbs for sinuses, some herbs are classified as immune stimulators, antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal. A positive about herbs is that they don’t just work on one part of the body—they also help other body systems, such as detoxifying the liver. A draw-back of herbs is that they take a while to work, and sometimes you need to take them for a long time to see results. They can also interact with medical drugs and other supplements.
Vitamins and Minerals: most of the vitamins and minerals we need come from the foods we eat. When a person has allergies or an infection, more vitamins and minerals are needed to help the body heal; unfortunately, this increased need usually cannot be remedied from the general diet. This is when a supplement is needed. A draw-back to supplements is that a person tends to take a multiple which often contains more than a person needs and can lead to toxicity. For example, vitamin B6, although being a water-soluble vitamin, can cause irreversible nerve damage if more than 50mg is taken daily for more than 4-5 months.
Other Dietary Supplements: some supplements cannot be classified as an herb, vitamin or mineral. These are then thrown into this category. The only other supplement that comes to mind to be wary of with sinus issues is Bee Pollen, which has been known to make allergic reactions worse, especially if you have an allergy to bees.
Homeopathy: this is a very specialized, individualized division of natural healing. It is intended to find the 1 homeopathic remedy that is right for the person to heal the allergies and/or sinus issues. There are approximately 100 homeopathic medicines that are used to treat sinus infections and allergies. But with the homeopathic philosophy, the practitioner must find the 1 that is right for each person. It’s a very intricate process but well worth the effort. It was homeopathy that started the healing process for Janet. One thing that people love about homeopathy is the quick results. It is possible for symptoms to disappear and never come back after 5 minutes of taking the right remedy. Bear in mind that this does not occur with everyone or in every case, but homeopathic remedies are designed to work quickly and produce permanent healing. The only draw-back is that because homeopathy is so individualized, a person needs a Classical Homeopath to find the right remedy. There are surprisingly few in the United States so many now do phone and Skype evaluations.
If you are taking any medication, you need to discuss natural options with someone knowledgeable in both natural supplement and medicines because many supplements will interact with drugs. For example, never take a supplement that boosts the immune system if you are taking prednisone or an antibiotic. If you take a supplement to boost the immune system while taking one of these drugs they will either interact with the functioning of the drug or it can harm the immune system, or both. Be wary of anyone who recommends a supplement and does not ask if you are taking a medical drug. Be aware that not everyone who dispenses supplements is trained in their use and drug interaction.
Homeopathy is the only natural medicine that never interacts with any medical drug. You can continue to take your medicines while the homeopathic medicine works with your body to heal. Plus, homeopathic remedies are free of side effects and quite inexpensive.
For Janet, she began her healing journey with supplements. When she didn’t improve, she sought the care of a Classical Homeopath. She was able to stop all medication except for an occasional rescue inhaler for shortness of breath, and antibiotics are now only used 1-2 times a year, prednisone once every 2 years; hospitalizations about once every 10 years.
And no sinus surgeries since Janet was 26.
Sinus symptoms impact the lives of millions of people daily. Whether the problem is caused by allergens, pollution, food sensitivities or a weakened immune system, natural means of healing need to be part of a person’s healing regimen.
As a Classical Homeopath, I have both heard of and seen wonderful results with healing sinus issues with homeopathy. I have also recommended the homeopathic remedy Histaminum for allergies (worked well with animals and humans alike). I truly believe sinus infections and allergies can become a thing of the past; and I believe homeopathy is a step along that healing path.
As Janet learned, you don’t need sinus surgery every year nor do you need to take antibiotics every month. All it takes is the right person at the right time with the right recommendations. If you want to heal, keep looking and always remember that nature is there, and it also knows no limits.
CBS News (2013). “CDC: 4 Out of 5 Americans Prescribed Antibiotics Each Year.” At https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-4-out-of-5-americans-prescribed-antibiotics-each-year/.
Centers for Disease Control, CDC (2016). 1 in 3 Antibiotic Prescriptions Unnecessary. At https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0503-unnecessary-prescriptions.html.
Centers for Disease Control, CDC (2016). “Chronic Sinusitis.” At https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/sinuses.htm.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI (2013). “Trends in Sinus Surgery.” At ncbi.mlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc4131235.
Science Daily (1999). “Mayo Clinic Study Implicates Fungus as Cause of Chronic Sinusitis.” At https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990910080344.htm.