Sinus congestion a very common condition that patients report to me. Sometimes people are bothered by it along with an infection and/or a sinus headache, although sinus congestion often occurs in isolation. Interestingly though, the root of the problem is rarely located in the actual sinuses where the symptoms are nagging. I’ll explain…
Mucous is naturally secreted by certain cells in select areas of the body. Those cells are mainly located in the digestive tract (especially the small intestine), the sinuses, the lungs and the urogenital tract. Mucous provides the body with the means of carrying out necessary functions, such as the secretion and exchange of nutrients and waste products, in addition to protecting the body from exposure to chemicals and microbes.
As a result, sinus congestion can occur when an individual is exposed to a man-made environmental or household chemical (inc. beauty-care products); an infection from a microbe such as yeast, fungus, mold, parasites, bacteria, or viruses; certain foods (esp. allergens which incite an immune system response); as well as from pollens. Any of the above mentioned offenders can result in sinus congestion, and possibly lead to a headache and/or sinus infection.
The idea is to find the source of the problem, which should eventually lead you to eradicate the root cause. I know I’m stating the obvious with all of this. Now I’ll discuss the not-so-obvious. Many of my patients report that they have no environmental or food allergies they know of, along with no signs of an infection, yet they still have (chronic) sinus congestion. When there is no apparent trigger to cause sinus congestion like this, the first place I look to is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is because when one area of mucous-secreting cells in the body begins to produce excessive mucous, the other areas seem to follow. As a result, a problem leading to excessive mucous in the GI tract often results in excessive mucous in the sinuses. This winds up being the reality in about ninety-percent of the cases in my patient population.
Because of this phenomenon, the GI tract needs to be “cleaned up” in order to eliminate the sinus congestion. Typically, this is the result of an underlying yeast or fungal overgrowth in the intestines. Whether or not it is labeled “candida” or an “infection” is besides the point. The idea is that there is an overgrowth of harmful organisms in relation to helpful organisms. This can also occur from a parasite, bacteria or virus. Very often exposure to a microbe may be obvious from eating a meal that you know didn’t “agree” with you. However, you can’t always assume that you’ll get (immediate) symptoms when you eat food that contains a harmful pathogen. When the gut is exposed to pathogens like these, the mucous-secreting cells tend to become active in order to help protect the lining of the GI tract while hoping to rid the body of the invader.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the possibility that a food allergen or sensitivity is leading to your sinus congestion. The reason these can cause excessive mucous production is due to damage and inflammation inflicted on the cells of the GI tract. And, again, when the cells in the GI tract step up mucous production, the mucous-secreting cells in the sinuses often kick in as well. The most typical foods I see as offenders tend to be wheat, corn, dairy, sugar, yeast, and any aged or fermented foods, including alcohol.
The treatment is obviously to eliminate the offender, whether it’s a microbe or a food (very often it’s both). Supplements to help get the GI tract functioning optimally should also be considered. This typically includes enzymes and hydrochloric acid, anti-microbials, probiotics, and nutrients to help repair the lining of the GI tract. Keep in mind that very often, patients will be completely unaware of any GI complications despite the fact that it is the source of the problem (i.e.: sinus congestion).
Other than dietary changes and supplements, treatment should include balancing the muscles and joints of the cranium, TMJ, and neck in order to allow for proper sinus drainage. This is especially true when there is a sinus headache or known structural imbalance that leads to symptoms that are asymmetrical. This would be the case in instances when there is more of a problem on one side of the head; or when the pain or congestion is localized to a specific sinus or ear canal (whether right, left or both).
So when it comes to chronic sinus congestion, I always look to the GI tract (and liver, which really can’t be separated from the GI tract) to be the cause of the problem. Again, this tends to be the case ninety-percent of the time.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology