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A simple, ancient remedy helps sinus problems

By Jason Earle Google+

Source: Habitat Quarterly Summer 2010

Can mold cause sinus problems? The Mayo Clinic answered that question in 1999 with a resounding “yes!” In a landmark study, the Mayo Clinic found that 96 percent of chronic sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus) cases were directly traceable to fungus, or in other words, mold.

This means mold is the primary cause of nearly all cases of chronic sinusitis, the most prevalent long-term illness in America, affecting more than 37 million Americans. That’s 12 percent of the population, or one of every eight people you know.

What exactly is chronic sinusitis? In the simplest terms, sinusitis is a condition in which the tissue lining the sinus cavities becomes inflamed and swells up. Bacteria and mold spores, amongst other things, can get trapped in the folds of the sinus tissue, causing painful sinus infections and further complications, including further swelling, trapping more bacteria, fungi, etc., compounding the problem. Breathing problems, awful headaches and difficulty sleeping are just a few of the myriad problems that sinusitis sufferers have to deal with, not to mention the treatments; pain-killing drugs, antibiotics and, worst case scenario: surgery. The “chronic” part is how long it lasts. A general rule of thumb is that episodes of chronic sinusitis last a month or more. Much less than that and they are referred to as “acute.”

Chronic sinusitis is caused and/or aggravated by a variety of different things including food allergies, environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke, VOCs (airborne chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds) and airborne allergens such as pollen, mold and the other byproducts of dampness, including the mVOCs (microbial VOCs) molds produce, dust mites, etc. The list is long.

Antibiotics certainly have their place in medicine but are wildly over-prescribed in general, with no exception in the case of sinusitis, even though they have been proven in several studies to be ineffective. Since antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and the infections are really caused by the inflammation, the antibiotics are treating a symptom rather than the cause. In fact, antibiotics seem to often complicate things, making some people susceptible to yeast overgrowth and other lovely things which we need not elaborate upon here.

Your nose is actually a filter of sorts, and we are constantly bombarded with a plethora of things which have the potential to throw our immune system into a tizzy. The little hairs and mucus and other glorious components of a well-formed sniffer are designed to trap this unwanted junk and make it easy to get rid of it. Just blow your nose.

Part of the problem is that stuff we’re allergic to can get trapped in the mucus against this relatively sensitive and reactive tissue, causing or aggravating the problems we’ve already discussed. For those of us who breathe and work and go outside and engage in other things considered normal in our world, there’s really no way to completely eliminate exposure to these nasal irritants, unless you’re inclined to don a low-profile respirator while strolling about. So it’s with the knowledge we really can’t avoid exposure to allergens and irritants using practical measures, tens of millions of people relinquish control to their allergy medications.

If something irritated your skin, the first thing you would do is wash it, right? You wouldn’t take a pill, would you? That would be silly. And we think nothing of showering once or more a day. To do anything to the contrary would drastically impinge on our social lives, and most of us need all the friends we can get.

Adherents to a 5,000-year-old Indian medical discipline known as Ayurveda practice a method of nasal irrigation, rinsing out the nose and sinuses, with a device called a neti pot.

Lots of people who don’t suffer from sinus problems, and who aren’t yogis or even aspiring to become one, do this and love it, but anyone predisposed to this kind of ailment might want to consider this as a normal part of their daily hygiene. Like most preventive measures originating out of Eastern wisdom, this method is dismissed by many physicians. Others are simply unaware of it. A few are strong advocates, such as Wellington Tichenor, M.D in New York City, who also happens to be a rarity in other ways too. His patients never stop raving about him.

There are many kinds of neti pots available. It’s recommended that you use ones that are made of ceramic. Plastic ones can leach chemicals that you don’t need swirling around inside your sinus cavities, even for a few minutes. Directions come with most neti pots, and lots of instruction is available online.

Basically, you fill the neti pot with warm, salty water, lean over a sink and pour it in one nostril so it drains out the other. Refill and repeat from the other side.

As the CEO of 1-800-GOT-MOLD?, a company which specializes in sniffing out hidden mold problems in homes, I have a unique perspective. People hire us to check houses for mold because of mysterious chronic illnesses like indoor allergies, chronic sinus problems, asthma that seems to get worse indoors along with many other potentially mold-related issues. As much as mold is our business, I hate to see the suffering that comes along with it.

I think it was the Buddha who is quoted as saying, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” While that statement runs much deeper than the context of this article, with the right tools and awareness, pain can propel us to find lasting solutions to our problems, helping to prevent the unnecessary suffering which so many people endure every day when their home isn’t as healthy as it should be. •


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A simple, ancient remedy helps sinus problems
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