Banishing Sinus Misery?

I have chronic sinus infections. My doctors write prescriptions for antibiotics that make me sick. Is there a dietary change or vitamin supplement that can help me get rid of this gross and painful problem?

– April 1, 2003

I do recommend a dietary change to people with sinus problems. Try eliminating milk and milk products. Casein, the protein in cow’s milk can both irritate the immune system and increase mucus production. It is often associated with sinus conditions as well as with such problems as recurrent childhood ear infections, eczema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. It may take as long as to two months before you experience the full benefits of eliminating milk from your diet.

You also may be able to limit your chronic sinus infections by boosting your immune system. I recommend that you take a good high potency multivitamin, eat one to two cloves of raw garlic daily, take astragalus herb (two capsules twice a day), as well as an immune-enhancing mushroom formula.

You may also be able to relieve your symptoms by putting hot, wet towels over your upper face frequently. Work up to as much heat as you can stand every 15 minutes three or four times a day. This promotes drainage and increases blood flow to the sinus area. Drinking plenty of fluids will help moisten and thin the mucus in your sinuses; inhaling steam with a few drops of oil of eucalyptus or oil of oregano is also a good idea.

Nasal douching can help, too. Mix a solution of salt water (¼ teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water). You can pour some of the salt water into your cupped hand and inhale it into one nostril at a time while closing the other nostril with an index finger. Or you can get a neti pot, a ceramic container shaped like a miniature Aladdin’s lamp that allows you to pour water directly into the nose. Use enough solution to fill your nasal cavity and spill into your mouth. Spit it out and then gently blow your nose. At first, this process may seem uncomfortable and messy, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll like what it does for your nose and sinuses.

Finally, don’t smoke, avoid smoky surroundings and if you live in a smoggy area, buy an air filter for your home.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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