Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'

Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'

Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection and nearly always need an antibiotic to clear it. Is there a natural remedy I could take?

The repeat bouts of sinus infection you describe indicate you need to get in front of this annual issue by supporting your immune system. In particular, taking at least 3g (3,000mg) of vitamin C in 500mg increments throughout the day together with zinc (30mg daily) in the month leading up to winter to ward off bacterial infection.

Ongoing issues with sinusitis will also have an effect on other aspects of your health. Other symptoms often include earache, toothache, headaches, bad breath, and tenderness in the face.

Dietary sensitivities can also play a role in sinus conditions. Dairy and wheat are two common triggers, but it is worth having allergy testing done to identify specific triggers before you go ahead and cut out foods or food groups. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is a good idea — eating whole foods, local produce, and avoiding processed foods is a good place to start.

Herbal teas and vegetable broths are great winter nourishment ideas. These will help to ensure you are getting in plenty of nutrients without too much stress on an already overburdened immune system while in the middle of an infection.

There are specific herbs that can help to support your immune system with a particular focus on the sinus and respiratory areas. Goldenseal can help to heal and tone the mucous membranes of the eyes, ear, nose, and throat, and is a fabulous remedy for treating and preventing infection.

Thyme is one of my favourite go-to herbs for any problem with the respiratory system and sinus passages, and most people have this kitchen remedy growing in their gardens. You can brew a strong infusion by using 1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme (or 1-2 teaspoons dried) in a cup of boiling water, and steep for five to eight minutes. You can add raw local honey to taste and for additional medicinal benefit if you wish.

There are a couple of ‘hot’ herbal remedies that help to dry up excess mucus production and treat infection – horseradish and cayenne. You can add a pinch (up to ½ teaspoon if you are brave) to your thyme brew to really target your sinus problem.

I grind my teeth at night and need to wear a mouthguard as a result. Recently, I’ve noticed that I’m clenching my jaw at work when under pressure. What treatment would you suggest?

Grinding and clenching of the teeth and jaw are commonly linked with stress, so it is great that you have already made this connection by noticing your tendency to clench your jaw in relation to increased pressure at work.

There is one simple trick that you can do every time that you become aware of this clenching motion throughout the day. As soon as you notice that you are gritting your teeth or clenching your jaw, gently press your tongue upwards against your hard palate and let it rest there. Take care not to push your tongue or hold it with tension, just settle it against the roof of your mouth. The tip of your tongue should not be touching your teeth, it typically sits just behind the alveolar ridge.

Not only does this prevent jaw clenching, but the act of resting your tongue in this position can also help to open the sinuses, alleviate tension headaches, prevent mouth breathing and snoring, and reduce the incidence of tooth grinding.

Many meditation and breathing exercises utilise this tongue position to open the airways and help relieve stress and tension.

To rule out a physiological cause, you could seek the advice of a specialist to check the alignment of your jaw, specifically the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Check out the excellent website www.jawpain.ie which explains TMJ disorders, bruxism (tooth grinding), and jaw clenching. It’s also a good resource for support and information.

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