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Monday, November 14, 2011

Avoiding Sinus Infections

I haven't been very active in any social media for the last week, including blogging.  I've had a sinus infection that has left me wiped out.  I could not afford to stay home sick for the last week, so I've just been working and resting.  Now I am finally starting to feel better.

I have a history of having lots of sinus infections.  Over the years, I have learned tricks to prevent illness and to shorten the duration when I do get sick.  This year I have only had 2 sinus infections (in years past, I have had one every 6 weeks or so).

I thought I would share what has worked for me, since we are coming into cold and flu season.   The basic strategy is to keep mucus thin.  When mucus is more fluid, it washes viruses and bacteria down to the stomach, where they are destroyed by stomach acids.  Thinning mucus also helps relieve the awful stuffy head caused by sinus infection.

1.  Vitamin D:  This has probably made the biggest difference for me.  I now take 4000 IU per day of vitamin D (10 times the USDA recommended level).  Several times, I have run out and stopped taking it for a week or so - each time I get sick.  There is a ton of research going on right now about all the ways vitamin D is beneficial to many different aspects of health.  Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially in my part of the world.  It is possible to take too much of this vitamin, so it is important to talk to your doctor.  When I have blood work done to check my cholesterol and so forth, I ask them to check the level of vitamin D in my blood and adjust my dose as needed.

2.  Diet:  I try to make sure I eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  They say you should eat 5 servings - I shoot for 9.  I also try to make sure I eat enough protein, which is hard for me because I am a picky eater when it comes to meat.  I really limit my carbs, especially sugar and flour - no sodas, no candy, and very little bread.

3.  Exercise:  I play soccer twice a week and try to walk every day.  Sometimes when I am getting sick exercising hard in a soccer game makes me feel better.

4.  Hydrate:  When I am dehydrated I get more stuffy.  Drinking lots of water helps keep mucus thin.

5.  Saline Nasal Irrigation:  This will sound kind of weird if you have never done it, but rinsing my sinuses with a saline wash can really help remove infections and even relieve allergy symptoms.  The rinsing action of the water helps carry away allergens and invading virus or bacteria, and the water itself helps thin mucus.  Irrigation also helps reduce inflammation, allowing a wider passage for mucus to drain to the stomach.
6.  Kelp (iodine):  I was going to an acupuncturist for help at one point, and he suggested taking an iodine supplement.  I learned that iodine helps thin mucus, and I was amazed how well it worked.   Kelp has a lot of iodine in it, so nowadays I take a kelp supplement instead of iodine drops.  I read up on iodine (I think it is always a good idea to do your own research on supplements) and found out that if you take too much it can cause thyroid problems.  I ask my doctor to check my thyroid function when I get blood work done.

7.  Hot Tea/Water:  Both green and black tea are very healthy in different ways.  I drink both. I find that hot tea or hot water is soothing when I am stuffed up; it helps to thin mucus. If I am feeling too dehydrated for tea but still want something hot and steamy, I drink hot water, sometimes with peppermint extract added.  I am careful when I decide to add peppermint - the first few seconds after I add the extract to the hot water, the peppermint is strong enough to be uncomfortable.

8.  Steam:  Inhaling steam, especially though your nose if you can, can help a stuffy head and thin mucus.  Sometimes I add a few drops of peppermint extract to the hot water.   I am careful when I decide to add peppermint - the first few seconds after I add the extract to the hot water, the peppermint is strong enough to be uncomfortable.

9.  Hot Pack:  A hot pack improves circulation, allowing more of the antibodies in the blood to reach the infection.  I recently got a hot pack with a mixture of flax seeds and peppermint leaves.  The peppermint really magnifies the effect of the hot pack.  I like it, but it might be uncomfortable for some people.

10.  Other Supplements:  Taking other supplements does not make as a clear a difference as vitamin D does, but I think they do help.  I take a good quality multivitamin every day.  When I am sick, I also take extra vitamin A, C and E, extra zinc, echinacea and goldenseal.

11.  Gargle:  When I have a sore throat I gargle with salt water.  It helps for a while.  Sometimes I have to gargle pretty frequently.  I keep a box of kosher salt in my desk at work.  I have read one should use non-iodized salt to gargle, but I am not sure why.

12.  Get Help:  I prefer to take care of my illnesses myself using more gentle, natural methods.  But I also need to know when to use pharmaceuticals or go to the doctor to get an antibiotic.

This is what works for me - I really believe everyone's body works a little different, so it is important to experiment and see what works for you.  Do you have any tips for cold and flu season?  I would love to hear about them - I might add them to my repertoire!


  1. Oh! I'm sorry to hear this :(
    Hope you're feeling a little better today.
    I've had sinus infection a lot when I was a kid. I swear by Zinc and Vitamin C!

  2. Thanks Duni - I'm feeling better now. I'm glad zinc and vitamin C are working for you!

  3. So sorry! I'm glad that you're feel better. I used to have lots of sinus problems. It's gotten better although fall can still be tough for me. All of your tips are great!

  4. These are great to know!! Thanks for sharing! And sorry you haven't been feeling well. Get better!


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